Home > Artist Database > Bio-bibliographic Database > THORNTON, Mildred Valley Stinson

Artist Database

THORNTON, Mildred Valley Stinson

Dresden, Ontario, 1896
Vancouver, British Columbia, 1967
Biography synopsis
Born in Dresden, Ontario in 1896, Mildred Valley Stinson Thornton began studying art at the age of twenty in Michigan at Olivet College. She continued her studies at the Ontario College of Art and at the Art Institute of Chicago. Known mainly for her portraits of First Nations elders, and though painted in the context of a 'disappearing culture' Thornton was eventually welcomed into many aboriginal communities in order to paint. Her publications include 'Indian Lives and Legends' (1966) and 'Buffalo People: Portraits of a Vanishing Nation' (2000). Thornton taught art in Regina but later lived in both London, England, where she had two solo shows, and in Vancouver where she worked as an art critic for the Vancouver Sun for fifteen years (1944-1959). While living in Regina, Thornton met and married John Henry Thornton, who supported her artistic endeavors. Thornton refused to sell her portrait work individually, hoping the Canadian government would purchase the collection in total. No offer came and while Thornton's will ordered her work destroyed at her death, a loophole was found and the collection has since been broken up and sold. Pieces can be found in the collection of the National Gallery of Canada, the McMichael Gallery, the Glenbow-Alberta Institute, and the Vancouver Art Gallery, and others, including private collections.
Media used
Oil painting
Ontario College of Art & Design (formerly Ontario School of Art) (under J.W. Beatty, G.A. Reid)
Art Institute of Chicago
Royal Society of Arts, 1954
Women's Art Association of Saskatchewan
File & Archive locations
Canadian Women Artists History Initiative Documentation Centre, QC
Canadian Museum of Civilization Archives, QC
British Columbia Archives
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts / Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal, QC
Winnipeg Art Gallery, MA - Clara Lander Library
University of Calgary Library, AB
University of British Columbia - Fine Arts Library
Vancouver Art Gallery, BC - Library
London Public Library, ON
Vancouver Public Library, BC - Fine Arts and History Department
National Gallery of Canada, ON - Library and Archives
Art Gallery of Ontario - Edward P. Taylor Research Library and Archives
Library and Archives Canada / Bibliothèque et Archives Canada, ON

Writings about
"Art Has Place in War World." Victoria Colonist 17 Nov. 1942
"Artist Paints Chief, Records Indian Songs." Vancouver Sun 4 Jun. 1952
"C. Schaefer Lecturer at Art Exhibit." Niagara Falls Review 14 Jun. 1948
"Canadian Artist's Work Exhibited in Britain." Kelowna Courier (British Columbia) 26 Apr. 1961
"City Artist Acclaimed in London." Vancouver Sun 5 Mar. 1960
"City Artist's Exhibition on May 24." Daily Province (Vancouver, British Columbia) 17 May 1949
"City Artist's Work Praised in Toronto." Vancouver Province 9 Oct. 1941
"Club Members to Hear Indian Portrait Painter." Evening Guide (Port Hope, Ontario) 12 Apr. 1947
"Coast Artist to be Speaker." Edmonton Bulletin 28 Feb. 1947
"Coast Artist Visits Regina." Regina Leader Post 18 Sept. 1945
"Exhibition of Indian Portraiture Opens." Victoria Times 17 Nov. 1942
"Exhibition of Mildred Thornton B.C. Paintings at Art Gallery." Vancouver News Herald 18 Nov. 1941
"Famous Artist to Show Paintings to Valley Art Group." Twin Cities Times (Port Alberni, British Columbia) 26 May 1950.
"Fellowship Awarded to Art Critic." Vancouver Sun 6 Apr. 1954
"Fine Paintings by Local Artist Here." Leader (Regina) 10 Dec. 1921
"Funeral for Artist of Indians." Vancouver Province 28 Jul. 1967
"Illustrated Talk for Canadian Club." Moose Jaw Times-Herald 8 Mar. 1947
"Indian Culture Now Recorded on Canvas." Victoria Inverness Bulletin 3 Aug. 1949
"Indian Paintings Become Important." Hamilton Spectator 21 Mar. 1947
"Indian Paintings Displayed." Calgary Herald 20 Mar. 1961
"Mildred Thornton, City Artist, Dies." Vancouver Sun 27 Jul. 1967
"Mildred Valley Thornton ..." Vancouver News Herald 6 Jan. 1947
"Noted Artist Visits Here." Daily News (Prince Rupert, British Columbia) 6 Sept. 1946
"Oil Paintings Will be Shown." Victoria Colonist 14 Nov. 1942
"Painting Exhibit by Mrs. Thornton." Twin Cities Times (Port Alberni, British Columbia) 9 Jun. 1950
"Paintings at Coste House." Albertan 4 Mar. 1947
"Paintings by Regina Artist on Display." Saskatoon Star Phoenix 24 Nov. 1933
"Paintings of Cowichan Indians Are Exhibited." Cowichan Leader (British Columbia) 26 Nov. 1942
"Paints Portraits of Indian Chiefs." Vancouver Sun 12 Jul. 1946
"Portrait Painter Has Models from Reserves." Leader Post (Regina) 13 Oct. 1944
"Present Painting to Noted Author." Victoria Colonist 27 Aug. 1941
"Queue." Vancouver Sun 26 Aug. 1999: C29
"Regina Artist's Work Receives Recognition." Regina Star 18 Mar. 1933
"Review: Buffalo People." Canadian Book Review Annual (2000): 350
"Rich Colors." Albertan (Calgary) 4 Mar. 1947
"Shortlist." Vancouver Sun 21 Jan. 1999: C27
"Sun Art Critic Exhibits Work." Vancouver Sun 8 Jul. 1958
"Urges Artists Not to Imitate Masters." Brantford Expositor 26 Dec. 1947
"Vancouver Artist Paints Indians in Original Setting." Kitchener Waterloo Record 8 Jul. 1949
"Vancouver Artist Shows Slides of Indian Portraits." Cowichan Leader 28 Feb. 1946
"Vancouver Artist's Paintings of Indian Life to be on View." Vancouver News Herald 17 May 1949
"Well Known Coast Artist Speaks in Oliver." Penticton Herald (British Columbia) 5 Oct. 1944
A. M. T. "Picture Display at H.B.C. Draws Crowd." Vancouver Sun 13 May 1935
Alberta History. "Review: Buffalo People: Portraits of a Vanishing Nation." Alberta History 49.2 (Spring 2001): 28
Appleton, Marion Brymner, ed. Who's Who in Northwest Art: A Directory of Persons in the Pacific Northwest Working in the Media of Painting, Sculpture, Graphic Arts, and Handicrafts. Seattle: Frank McCaffrey, 1941
Armytage-Moore, M. "'Tzinquaw' Great Success." Native Voice Nov. 1950: 2
Ashwell, Reg. "Mildred Valley Thornton." Arts West 4.3 (May-Jun. 1979)
Ashwell, Reg. "Tribute to a Lady Who Painted Indians." Vancouver Sun 8 Apr. 1971
British Columbia Archives. "Sound Recordings: Recorded Music." http://www.bcarchives.gov.bc.ca/sound/general/sound.htm Royal British Columbia Museum, 2007
British Columbia Historical News. "Review: Buffalo People: Portraits of a Vanishing People." British Columbia Historical News 35.2 (Spring 2002): 31
British Columbian. "Represents Press Group." British Columbian 8 Jul. 1958
Burkette, Pat. "Unrecognized Art Gets Belated Credit: Mother Tongue Press Looks into BC's Past for Excellent But Under-Appreciated Artists." Times-Colonist (Victoria) 23 Mar. 2008: D9
Burns, Flora Hamilton. "Letter to the Editor: Secret World." Daily Colonist (Victoria) 26 Aug. 1958
Burr, Carolyne. "Heritage Lost." Vancouver Sun 21 Apr. 1971
Butler Galleries. Mildred Valley Thornton, FRSA (1890-1967) - An Exhibition of Painting and Watercolours. Vancouver: Butler Galleries, 1985
Canadian Library Association. Canadian Biographies: Artists and Authors. Ottawa: Canadian Library Association, 1951
Colgate, William. Canadian Art 1820-1940. Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1943
Colman, Mary Elizabeth. "Thornton's Indian: This BC Artist Captures on Canvas the Color and Lore of the Coast." Saturday Night (19 Sept. 1950)
Commonwealth Institute. Mildred Valley Thornton: The Canadian Indian and Other Paintings. London, England: Commonwealth Institute, 1961
Duker, Harry. "Letter to the Editor: Buy Indian Art." Vancouver Province 14 Dec. 1954
Duker, Harry. "Letter to the Editor: Indian Paintings." Victoria Daily Times 22 Dec. 1954
Evoy, Lara T. Cross-Cultural Relationships: The Work of Canadian Artist Mildred Valley Thornton. Montreal: Concordia University, 1999
Forbes, Elizabeth. "Artist Believes 25-Year-Old dream Could Come True." Victoria Daily Times 26 Aug. 1958
Francis, Margaret and Robert Francis. "Keeper of a Culture." Vancouver Sun Magazine Supplement 6 Jan. 1951
Gellatly, Clare. "Indian Faces Draw Crowds at Gallery." Vancouver Sun 25 May 1949
Hancock House Publishers. "Buffalo People: Portraits of a Vanishing Nation." http://www.hancockhouse.com/products/bufpeo.htm Hancock House Publishers, 2008
Hughes, Margaret E. A Guide to Canadian Painters. Toronto: King's Printer, 1940
Johnson, Eve. "Art with a Story to Tell." Vancouver Sun 21 Nov. 1985
Kennedy, Carol. "Artist Records Culture of Indians." Ottawa Journal 25 Mar. 1961
Kennedy, Carol. "Former Sun Art Critic Has Show in London." Vancouver Sun 16 Mar. 1961
Laurence, Robin. "Thematic Adherence No Excuse for Mediocrity." Vancouver Sun 24 Jun. 1995: D5
Lerner, Loren R. and Mary F. Williamson. Art and Architecture in Canada: A Bibliography and Guide to the Literature to 1981 Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1991
Luce, P.W. "This Artist Makes Indian Portraits Her Field." Saturday Night (4 May 1946): 5
MacDonald, Colin S. The Dictionary of Canadian Artists. (Volumes 1-8 by Colin S. MacDonald, and volume 9 by Anne Newlands and Judith Parker) Ottawa: National Gallery of Canada, 2009.
Mackie, John. "Totem Poles Are Just Part of this Eclectic Collector's Treasure Trove." Vancouver Sun 19 Mar. 2003: B1
McMann, Evelyn de Rostaing. Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Formerly Art Association of Montreal: Spring Exhibitions, 1880-1970. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1988
McMann, Evelyn de Rostaing. Royal Canadian Academy of Arts/Académie royale des arts du Canada: Exhibitions and Members 1880-1979 Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1981
McMaster, Gerald R. "Tenuous Lines of Descent: Indian Arts and Crafts of the Reservation Period." Canadian Journal of Native Studies 9.2. (1989): 205-235
Michie, Norman. "Painter Records Culture of Fast-Disappearing Indians." Windsor Daily Star 10 Jun. 1949
Morris, J. A. "Letter to the Editor: She Hates It." Vancouver Sun 11 Jun. 1952
Newman, Marketa. The Biographical Dictionary of Saskatchewan Artists, Women Artists. Saskatoon: Fifth House, 1990
Norman Mackenzie Art Gallery. Saskatchewan: Art and Artists. Regina: Regina Public Library Art Gallery, 1971
Pagurian Gallery. Mildred Valley Thornton: A Retrospective. Toronto: Pagurian Gallery, 1986
Pazdro, Roberta J. "Mildred Valley Thornton (1890-1967): Painter of the Native People." Canadian Woman Studies 1.3 (1979): 103-104
Pegasus Gallery of Canadian Art. "Available Artwork by Mildred Valley Thornton." http://www.pegasusgallery.ca/artist/Mildred_ValleyThornton.html Salt Spring Island, BC: Pegasus Gallery of Canadian Art, ?
Petteys, Chris, et al. Dictionary of Women Artists: An International Dictionary of Women Artists Born Before 1900. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1985
Piland, Sherry. Women Artists: An Historical, Contemporary, and Feminist Bibliography. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1994
Robertson, Sheila. "Unfilled Vision Adds Poignancy to Paintings." Saskatoon Star-Phoenix 18 Mar. 1989
Robinson, Mabel E. "Tonight's Exhibit Full of Interest." Nanaimo Free Press (British Columbia) 6 Feb. 1959
Royal Society of Arts. "Obituary." Journal of the Royal Society of Arts (27 Jul. 1967).
Salloum, Sheryl. The Life And Art of Mildred Valley Thornton Salt Spring Island, B.C.: Mother Tongue Publishing, 2011
Salloum, Sheryl. The Life and Art of Mildred Valley Thornton Salt Spring Island, B.C.: Mother Tongue Pub., 2011
Samuels, Peggy and Harold. Illustrated Biographical Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West. Garden City: Doubleday, 1976
Scott, Michael. "1949 - Rear Window." Vancouver Sun 5 Aug. 1999: C31
Tippett, Maria. Contemporaries of Emily Carr Burnaby: Simon Fraser Art Gallery, 1974
Tuele, Nicholas, and Christina Johnson-Dean. British Columbia Women Artists, 1885-1985 Victoria: Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, 1985
Watson, Scott. "Art in the Fifties: Design, Leisure, and Painting in the Age of Anxiety." Vancouver Art and Artists: 1931-1983. Vancouver: Vancouver Art Gallery, 1983
Westbridge, Anthony. "Profit You Can Hang on a Wall." Globe and Mail (Toronto) 22 Feb. 2006: E2
Westbridge, Anthony R. The Collector's Dictionary of Canadian Artists at Auction. Vancouver: Westbridge Publications, 2001

Writings by
Thornton, Mildred Valley. Buffalo People: Portraits of a Vanishing Nation. Surrey, British Columbia: Hancock House Publishers Ltd, 2000
Thornton, Mildred Valley. Indian Lives and Legends. Vancouver, British Columbia: Mitchell Press Ltd, 1966
Thornton, Mildred Valley Stinson. Potlatch People: Indian Lives and Legends of British Columbia. Surrey, British Columbia: Hancock House, 2003
Thornton, Mildred Valley Stinson. "Artist Tells Story of Indian Braves." Leader Post (Regina) 29 Jul. 1942
Thornton, Mildred Valley Stinson. "Australian Aboriginal Art at Gallery." Vancouver Sun 23 Sept. 1949
Thornton, Mildred Valley Stinson. "Chief George of Sechelt." Calgary Herald 7 Nov. 1942
Thornton, Mildred Valley Stinson. "Democratic Conduct of Gallery Favored." Vancouver Sun 11 Jan. 1952
Thornton, Mildred Valley Stinson. "Hunting with a Paint Brush." Sunday Sun (Vancouver) 5 Apr. 1952
Thornton, Mildred Valley Stinson. "Painting Chuchoweleth." Victoria Times 25 Nov. 1950
Thornton, Mildred Valley Stinson. "Talented Husband and Wife Have Display at Art Gallery." Vancouver Sun 11 Feb. 1942

Full text pdfs of exhibition reviews
Art Association of Montreal Annual Spring Exhibition: (Montreal, ) "Spring Exhibition of Art Association Was Opened on Thursday."  Montreal Star  .  p.19.   Full-text pdf
Art Association of Montreal Annual Spring Exhibition: (Montreal, ) "50th Spring Show Opened to Public. Jury Shows Open Mind. From Over 1,000 Entries, 543 Works Representative of Various Schools Have Been Selected."  Gazette (Montreal)  .  p.6.   Full-text pdf

Search by: