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The Life and Art of Mildred Valley Thornton

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by Sheryl Salloum

A prodigious artist, Mildred Valley Thornton devoted much of her life to painting portraits of the indigenous peoples of Western Canada — approximately three hundred of them — as well as their icons and the region’s landscape.

At a time when a women’s profession was to stay at home and look after her husband and children, Thornton noted that she was driven to paint “as if someone were standing over me with a whip.” She did marry — a husband who was supportive of her career and who took care of their twin sons and domestic chores while Thornton went on painting trips.

The Life and Art of Mildred Valley Thornton is the fourth book in The Unheralded Artists of BC series. Thornton never accomplished her desire of having her collection of First Nations portraits purchased by a Canadian gallery or museum, but it is nice now to see much of her work brought together in book form.

The images in this book are as vibrant and fascinating as author Sheryl Salloum’s descriptions of the artist’s personality. It gives us a record not only of Thornton’s life but also of the legacy she left regarding the history of Canada and its people — she recorded aspects that would otherwise be largely forgotten today.

— Beverley Tallon (Read bio)

Beverley Tallon is a freelance writer and the former Assistant Editor for Canada's History.


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