“Georgie Read Barton: The Winter of Her Art,” Ensign, Jan. 1989, 64
Georgie Read Barton loves to paint snow. Winter is her time, and she doesn’t fly south with the geese. “I love island winters,” she says, of her native Summerside on Prince Edward Island, a setting familiar to readers of Anne of Green Gables.
The tiny island is nestled in the Gulf of St. Lawrence beside New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Cape Breton, far enough north to provide the wintry scenes that make up at least half of the landscapes for which Sister Barton has become known.
Her award-winning work, which hangs in more than five hundred public and private art collections throughout the world, has been exhibited at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D. C.; the National Academy in New York City; the Royal Canadian Academy in Toronto; and at art shows in New York’s Hudson Valley.
Wearing insulated boots, cashmere gloves, and layers of warm clothing, Georgie works at her easel in all kinds of weather, but winter is her favorite. The snow in her paintings hangs soft and heavy on branches, and exquisite lights play over it. When you look at a Barton painting, you feel you can put your arms around the trunks of her trees, lose yourself in the serenity of the valleys, hike into the snowy woods.
“Georgie Read Barton has done with her paints and canvas what Lucy Maud Montgomery did with her pen and typewriter,” says Prince Edward Island historian Frances Bolger, comparing Barton’s visual portrayal of the island with Montgomery’s famous written portrayal in novels about her heroine, Anne Shirley.
While studying portrait, figure, and landscape painting in New York, Georgie met her husband, George Barton, an American businessman and sometime painter. They married in 1942 and lived in Westchester County, where she helped build up the Hudson Valley Art Association. Shortly after their son, George, turned sixteen, her husband died suddenly. “I immediately got to work painting and started to build a career of my own,” she recalls. “It was the hardest thing I had to do, starting painting again, because we had been so close and had done it together.”
In 1971, at age seventy, Georgie returned to Summerside, where she now lives by herself in a cedar-brown chalet with a small, friendly studio upstairs. When Britain’s Prince Charles and Princess Diana arrived on Prince Edward Island in July 1983, the town of Summerside presented the royal visitors with “A Blush of Spring,” one of Georgie’s paintings. In response to the gift, Prince Charles—himself a water colorist—told her, “You must give me some lessons.”
Three years later, on September 13, following her eighty-fourth birthday, Sister Barton was baptized in the Summerside LDS chapel. After hearing the missionary lessons, she explained simply, “I’ve found a church that teaches what I believe in.”
Sister Barton continues to paint and teach painting classes, which revive her love of art each time she gets her students “back to the basics, helping them become more interested in such things as the effects of light, rather than just making pictures.” In her art and her life, Georgie Read Barton does more than just make pictures—she captures and conveys life’s serene moments.