I like the trees that have had a struggle, and that’s why I like to paint the trees along the seashore and up on the mountains. They’re like people who have had to fight to live; they’ve developed character.
William Percy Weston was born in 1879 in London, England, where he was taught to paint traditional academic romantic landscapes at the Putney School of Art. In 1909, he immigrated to Vancouver, BC, where he taught at the Vancouver Normal School. He also became involved in the local art scene by joining the newly formed BC Society of Fine Arts. This society continued to serve as his primary exhibiting venue throughout his lifetime. In the 1930s, Weston became known for his landscapes, which broke from his traditional schooling and expressed the power of the British Columbian environment. After 1930 his work was regularly exhibited alongside other important artists like former members of the Group of Seven. In 1933, Weston helped found the Canadian Group of Painters. He was the first artist from BC to be elected as an Associate of the Royal Canadian Academy. By the 1940s, Weston had gained international recognition.
In 1946 he retired as Art Master for the Normal School and the Vancouver Art Gallery honoured him with a major retrospective exhibition. He was able to paint full-time for the first time in his life and the following year painted Arbutus Shedding Bark—an excellent example of how Weston’s paintings seem to illustrate the tree’s anatomy; his twisting trunks represent the physical struggle of surviving on a coastal cliff.