Black History Month kicks off with talk on life and art of Grafton Tyler Brown

Nearly 140 years ago, Grafton Tyler Brown was acclaimed as one of the first professional landscape artists in BC. He has since become famous as the first Black artist of the American West but in BC he was considered by many to be Caucasian. On Feb. 4, UVic historian and history department chair John Lutz will be joined by visiting writer and art historian Robert Chandler for a free afternoon presentation on Brown’s life and art and also on the story of how Brown’s racial identity shifted throughout his career.

Brown’s few regional paintings which survive today offer vivid windows into the world of 1880s Victoria and BC. Yet how did he succeed during such a tumultuous time of racial inequality? A new exhibition, The Mystery of Grafton Tyler Brown: Race, Art and Landscape in 19th Century British Columbia, opens at Legacy Downtown (from Jan. 21 to April 1) and was guest curated by Lutz, with Emerald Johnstone-Bedell and Caroline Riedel of Legacy Art Galleries.

As co-founder of the UVic-based Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History project, Lutz is always alert for hints of history ‘cold cases.’ With many of Brown’s American pieces well-known and showcased in major collections, Lutz continues to wonder why images from BC are much rarer with many unaccounted for. If anyone suspects they’ve got a Brown original, please contact to help in the hunt.

What: Kick off Black History Month with a curator’s talk and guest, ahead of the new exhibition opening on Jan. 21

When: Saturday, Feb. 4 from 3 to 4:30 p.m.

Where: Legacy Art Gallery Downtown, 630 Yates Street, Victoria

Admission is always free at UVic’s downtown art gallery and everyone is welcome. Community members can contact Gallery Services for specific event info on this and future exhibits. Please call 250-721-6562, email or visit

Twitter @UVICGalleries

Follow on Facebook

Virtual art tour

Media contacts:

John Lutz (Dept. of History) at 250-721-7381 or

Caroline Riedel (Legacy Art Galleries) at 250-472-5619 or

Tara Sharpe (University Communications + Marketing) at 250-721-6248 or