Other Names: Barbara Gladys Landstreet
Barbara Landstreet (née Keenan) was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, during the period after the Second World War. She was the third of four children. She attended the local Finiston Primary School, and then the Belfast Model School for Girls. After finishing school, she spent a year learning secretarial and office skills, including Pitman shorthand.
Landstreet worked several office jobs in Northern Ireland, including a period in a large office pool at James Mackie and Sons, the famous Belfast textile machinery manufacturer, and a year as the secretary for the Belfast office of the A. Reyrolle & Company electrical manufacturer. In 1969, feeling that opportunities in Northern Ireland were severely limited, Landstreet emigrated to London, Ontario, where she lived for a time with her aunt and uncle who had emigrated to Ontario a decade earlier.
With her office skills, Landstreet quickly found work in London, first with General Coach Works of Canada, and then the Engineering Department of London City Hall. After a day working at City Hall, it was easy to make the short trip to the Central Branch of the London Public Library (then located on Queens Avenue in the Elsie Perrin Williams Memorial Building), which at that time housed London’s municipal art collection on its second floor. Landstreet found herself fascinated by the art exhibits, and by library books and magazines about art. She soon registered for a credit extension course on the History of Western Art offered through Western University at the Library.
This expanding interest led her to decide to become a skilled painter. After working with oils, Landstreet shifted to watercolours. She developed her skills by experimentation, by taking workshops whenever they were available, and by joining other local painters in art groups such as the Gallery Painting Group in London. She also attended workshops in Southampton, Ontario, one of which (“Painting the Ontario Landscape”) was run by Jane Champagne, who left a significant mark on Landstreet’s developing style. She also took painting and drawing classes at Fanshawe College, and spent a year taking courses in the Visual Arts program at Western University.
Along the way, Barbara married John Landstreet, a physics and astronomy professor at Western University. The couple have one daughter, currently the owner of a very successful packaging brokerage business in Kitchener, Ontario.
Through the years, the couple have lived abroad several times, including two one-year stays in Toulouse, France. In Toulouse, Landstreet joined a neighbourhood painting group, and participated for the first time in a significant regional art exhibition in 1992 at the Musée des Beaux Arts de Toulouse. Each of these periods in Europe were good opportunities to visit some of the world’s great art museums and collections, expanding Landstreet’s opportunities to study the work of many outstanding artists up-close, and to develop her own artistic range. She also had the opportunity to meet and get to know other contemporary artists such as Maria Wallenstal-Schoenberg, a Swedish-German artist who was her upstairs neighbour during a stay in Heidelberg, Germany.
During Landstreet’s early years as a painter, when she painted primarily in watercolour, many of her paintings featured flowers or landscapes, often in bright, cheerful colours of stronger intensity than is usual in aquarelles. Over the years, her work became more impressionistic and relaxed. About twenty years ago, Landstreet began to migrate from aquarelles on paper to acrylics on canvas. During the same period, her painting vocabulary expanded to include more impressionistic and abstract styles, and now much of her painting is done in acrylic in one of several modern idioms, particularly in the varied styles of abstract expressionism. In these works, Landstreet has retained her love of strong, bright colour and interesting, spontaneous, shapes and patterns. These modern idioms have informed her more recent aquarelles as well.
During her stays abroad, Landstreet will sometimes simply supply herself with a block of good Arches paper and do a series of very loosely composed and sketched aquarelle landscapes, particularly of water scenes like those offered by her beloved Belfast Lough. At other times, especially at home in London, Ontario, she will set to work on the biggest canvas she thinks will fit on the largest wall in her house. She has about fifty of her paintings hanging on the walls of her home at any one time and rotates them regularly from among different pieces she has in storage.
Since she began to paint seriously, Landstreet has participated in a large number of shows, both group and individual, and sold a number of paintings. Her watercolour Flowers from my Neighbour was chosen by a jury to be included in the 47th Annual Western Ontario Exhibit at the London Regional Art and Historical Museums. Another watercolour, Bruce County, was “Juror’s Choice” at the annual Gallery Painting Group show in London, Ontario. For some years she was a regular exhibitor at the annual St. Paul’s Cathedral spring art show and sale. She has joined exhibitions mounted by various groups with which she has been affiliated at such venues as the London Arts Project. She has also had several solo shows, including one exhibition at the Masonville Branch of the London Public Library, another at the D.B. Weldon Library, Western University, and a show and sale at the home of a prominent London collector. A number of her paintings are in private Canadian collections.
Landstreet continues to paint at her home in London, Ontario, both on paper and on canvas. She likes to paint outdoors, in her garden house, or if necessary, in her basement.
Barbara Landstreet, 2020 (the year of the pandemic)
Biography Courtesy of Barbara Landstreet
I was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland. I emigrated to Canada to work and lived with my uncle and his family in London, Ontario.
My first experience of trying art was in primary school, when we were asked by the teacher to consider something to produce for an exam. I remember taking this very seriously and giving it a lot of thought as I walked around my neighbourhood. I settled on doing a picket fence, and I also thought about not having a point of the picket fence, just painted posts scattered over a page. I commenced my exam with a pencil and a ruler, drawing out these shapes over the page and planning to paint them. My teacher came around and asked what I was doing, my explanation was not accepted, and my paper was replaced with another. She said, “do a nice landscape!” I was completely thrown off course in my endeavour and floundered about.
I worked at City Hall in London, Ontario for many years. After work each day, I would walk over to the Central Library (then located on Queens Avenue in the Elsie Perrin Williams Memorial Building), where I had the opportunity of seeing many art exhibits on the building’s second floor. It was a pleasure to see a lot of local paintings. I usually had the whole gallery to myself. Also, there was an art rental space and I would be quite excited about renting large pieces of art for my apartment.
The Central Library also offered a room to take a credit course in Art History taught by a Western University professor. I enrolled in this course and went to the class twice a week after working hours. The class was extremely informative and created the foundation for me to study and understand the art that I looked at in museums and galleries.
I decided to try to become a skilled painter. My first serious effort was to make a full-size copy of an oil painting by Frederick Varley (Summer in the Arctic) that I saw at Sotheby’s Art Auction House in Toronto in the early 1980s. I knew that I could not afford the $70,000 price, so I decided to create my own copy (but I signed my own name to it).
I then started doing my own compositions in watercolours. I developed my skills by experimentation, and by taking painting workshops whenever I had the opportunity, often in Southampton, Ontario. I took an excellent such course with the outstanding watercolourist Jane Champagne.
I took paintings classes from Fanshawe College, and a year of courses in the Visual Arts program at Western University. I was also able to take drawing classes at Museum London, with Craig Marucci among my instructors.
Since then, I have attended many workshops and classes and met many interesting artists along the way. I have joined local art groups and volunteered at the Art Rental in Museum London, and the St. Paul’s Cathedral art sale.
My painting style has been greatly influenced by several 20th century painters. Emil Nolde’s paintings of flowers have greatly inspired my ideas on how to paint that subject; I enjoy his free flowing, vivid colours and impressionistic forms. I also admire Helen Frankenthaler and Joan Mitchell, whose paintings are abstract, watercolour, spontaneous, and yet complex. Pierre Bonnard, who is part of the Fauve Movement, which enjoyed introducing vivid, unnatural colour to the landscape, has encouraged me to feel free with colour.
My watercolour works are often of flowers or landscapes. In many trips abroad I have had the opportunity to capture a great variety of scenes. In recent years, my interests have centred on acrylic works on canvas, and most recently on quite large works. My work in acrylics has included some of my earlier interest in flowers and landscapes but has mostly focussed on various styles of abstract painting. My current style is often quite free, cheerful, and spontaneous, and frequently very colourful. (One student art critic described some of my work in a solo show I had at the D.B. Weldon Library, Western University as verging on kindergarten finger painting!)
I have participated in a number of group shows. My first such experience was participating in a group show at the Musée des Beaux Arts in Toulouse, France, where we were living in the 1990s. More recent group shows have included the (juried) 47th Annual Western Ontario Exhibit (which of course is not at all “annual”). I exhibited in the annual St Paul’s Cathedral spring art show and sale, and at the London Arts Project. I have also had solo exhibits at the Masonville Branch of the London Public Library, the D.B. Weldon Library at Western University, and at the home of a prominent local art collector. A number of my paintings are in private Canadian collections.
I tutor others in art from time to time. I enjoy encouraging people to enjoy art, and also to try to paint and find the right medium and style that is best for them.
I continue to experiment with different subjects and textures in my painting. It is a lifelong interest.
Artist’s Statement Courtesy of Barbara Landstreet
CV Courtesy of Barbara Landstreet
Biography Profile Photo: Sarah Landstreet
Courtesy of Barbara Landstreet