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Chilliwack artist celebrates flag's 50th

Max Newhouse poses in front of his series of paintings “Four Seasons of the Canadian Flag” which will be on display for the 50th birthday of the maple leaf design. - Greg Laychak/TIMES
Max Newhouse poses in front of his series of paintings “Four Seasons of the Canadian Flag” which will be on display for the 50th birthday of the maple leaf design.
— image credit: Greg Laychak/TIMES

It took Max Newhouse about two hours to set up his Canadian flag series last week on Cultus Lake’s Main Beach, but it took him 40 years to dig the paintings out of storage.

On Feb. 15 Newhouse will have the four-by-eight-foot display of his work out for all to see in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the official inauguration of the country’s flag.

The four individual pieces of “Four Seasons of the Canadian Flag” represent the flag from spring to winter, and were originally created in 1975 for its 10th birthday when Newhouse was 27.

“I was quite excited about the Canadian flag being 10 years old,” Newhouse said. “I remember when it was raised I was 17 years old and it had an impact on me.”

That was in 1965 at exactly noon, Feb. 15 on Parliament Hill in Ottawa when the Canadian Red Ensign, the current flag’s predecessor was lowered and replaced by the bright red and white maple leaf used by Canada today.

The Canadian Red Ensign removed that day (1957-1965) was a remake of the original (1921-1957), both of which displayed the Union Jack and the shield of the royal arms of Canada.

Newhouse said the previous flag “was kind of boring” and that its replacement is “one of the prettiest [flags] in the world.”

He had the honour of meeting Jacques St-Cyr, the artist who established the final design of the new Maple Leaf.

During the original exhibition of Newhouse’s flag series at Vancouver’s Equinox Gallery in 1975, St-Cyr was impressed that someone else was excited about his design.

A January Maclean’s article this year details St-Cyr’s role in the creation of the flag, recognition Newhouse believes is a long time coming.

Because of his admiration of the graphic artist, Newhouse will dedicate his upcoming show on the beach to St-Cyr.

As for his own representations of the flag, the 67-year-old Chilliwack artist said it’s very straightforward.

“Someone had an opinion that I was predicting the end of Canada because the referendum was coming up, and if you look at the four seasons you could interpret it that way,” Newhouse said. “But purely this is just a poem, and that is the four seasons.”

Reclaimed from their long storage, the paintings will be mounted for the day of Feb. 15 on the small Gazebo near the walking bridge on Main Beach.

There will be cake and coffee, and ten-year-old Hannah Litchfield will sing the Canadian national anthem.

And 50 years after its birth, there is sure to be discussion about the Canadian flag with Jacques St-Cyr’s stylized maple leaf.

 

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