Phillip Jerome Collins

P. J. Collins – Survival in the Southern Alberta Foothills (1964)

Dorking, like many other towns its size has produced some brilliant artists. It is always exciting to hear that our artists have travelled and influenced other artists in far flung places.

The Collins family lived and worked in and around Dorking from 1876, when Alfred Charles Jerome Collins (known as Charles Collins) moved to Arundel Road. He and his wife, Georgiana, had nine children, two of his sons later becoming artists.

In 2014, the Museum held a special exhibition celebrating their third son, George Edward Collins a prolific artist who became well known for his natural history subjects.

P. J. Collins – Buffeted Lundbreck (1953)

Phillip was also an artist. He emigrated to Canada in 1911, living in Lethbridge, Alberta, where he started “The Lethbridge Sketch Club” in 1936. This club spent time in southern Alberta painting the beautiful mountain peaks and valleys. In the 1940s and 1950s, the Lethbridge Sketch Club was joined by a member of the famous Canadian group of artists, the “Group of Seven” also known as the Algonquin School, A. Y. Jackson. A. Y. Jackson tutored members of the Lethbridge Sketch Club, and his influence can be seen in their paintings.

P. J. Collins – River Scene

Although Phillip’s paintings reflected these very different landscapes they were sometimes signed with a monogram similar to that used by his Surrey based brother and one can identify a certain similarity with his brother’s work.

P. J. Collins – Untitled 2

The Club started by Phillip continues actively to this day, now called the Lethbridge Artists Club, and Phillip’s work is represented in several Canadian museums.

P. J. Collins – Untitled 1

The Bowman Arts Centre in Lethbridge named one of its galleries “The P. J Collins Gallery” and exhibited several works by him. Phillip signed his paintings in a very similar style to his Dorking based brother George (PJ inside a C).

Dorking Museum’s Facebook page received a message from Valerie Graham from Calgary, Alberta asking if we could send her information on the exhibition. She was putting together a family album for Henry Neal Collins, who is the son of George’s brother Phillip.

Valerie also sent us a newspaper cutting she’d found in the Surrey Advertiser from 2007. Elsbeth Pears had bought a painting for 10p at a local jumble sale in North Wales. It had hung in an old church school house in North Wales for years. The painting was cleaned and reframed – and Elsbeth was able to make out the artists name; Clara Perrin; daughter of Alfred Perrin, an artist known for his Welsh landscape paintings. Clara married George Edward Collins in 1916 and moved to 15 Arundel Road, Dorking.

Elsbeth had written to the Surrey Advertiser asking if any of its readers knew anything about Clara and George. The Museum contacted Elsbeth, and she told us she still had the picture and had researched Clara Perrin and also her husband George Collins. She also told us about an exhibition held in Llandudno at the Mostyn Gallery featuring George and Clara including family images.

P. J. Collins – The Fence

Back in Calgary, Nancy told us that her elderly father’s wish was that P.J. Collins’ work should be remembered in Dorking and that he offered to donate one of his paintings to the museum to complement its Collins collection.

P. J. Collins – The Golden West

The Museum selected “The Golden West”, which Nancy described as a “perfect representation of the prairies.” It was, however, left to the museum to arrange the transport. Using a firm which specialises in the carriage of works of art proved prohibitively expensive and posting such an object thought too risky, and so Sandra Wedgwood decided to try to find an individual who was coming to the UK and could bring the painting with them.

But Lethbridge is not on many people’s route and it proved difficult to find such a person. Then one day she met a university friend and asked her in an off-hand manner “Do you know anyone who lives in Lethbridge?” Astonishingly, she did.

This old colleague of her friend no longer travelled, but his son did and was willing to bring the painting to Dorking. So… Richard and Ruth Williams flew into Gatwick, hired a car and drove to Dorking to pass the painting to Sandra Wedgwood at the Museum.

Sandra Wegwood said: “The museum is immensely grateful to the generosity and co-operation of the Collins’ and the Williams’ families in giving and bringing this special painting to us where it will hold a key position in our collection. This gave us a good opportunity to represent the work of another member of a family that is so important to Dorking’s artistic heritage.

George Edward Collins’ paintings are on display at Dorking Museum, and can also be seen on the Museum website. We also hold a collection of many of his metalcut plates which were used to produce his prints. We think of G.E Collins’ paintings as being quintessentially English, very much of the school of the turn of the century arts and crafts painters. Seeing Phillip’s paintings of Alberta, one can identify a certain similarity with his brother’s work. The Museum likes to think that Phillip always carried a piece of Surrey with him.

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