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ALMA SAWBRIDGE (1915-1998)


Alma C. Sawbridge (nee. DePodesta) was born in Hamilton 1915 to a second-generation immigrant family originally from Italy, but had prior settled in Ireland before coming to Canada. She was the daughter of Ruben DePodesta, who worked at the Tuckett Tobacco Company (1857-1930) in Hamilton, and Rachel May Buchanan. Sawbridge grew up amongst a large family which included her ten siblings. She was the first born girl and third oldest. It is believed by her niece Audrey Price that because Sawbridge was a caregiver of her siblings, she chose to marry and not have children. Alma, then DePodesta, married Lloyd Sawbridge-a photo technician- took on his name and began living life her way. As a mature student, Alma Sawbridge sought further art training, even though artistic practice had been engrained in her daily life. From 1951-1952 Sawbridge completed an evening certificate class at Delta Secondary School, Hamilton, in Intermediate Fine Arts. The following year in 1953, she completed an additional certificate in Advance Fine Arts. Sawbridge’s artistic nature was continually nurtured by her participation as an active member with the Woman’s Arts Association of Hamilton (WAAH). It was here she would have met artists like Juanita Lebarre Symington (1904-1980) who Sawbridge’s style is often compared with. Furthermore, it is evident that she was influenced by the past president and notable abstract artist Hortense Gordon (1886-1961). On several occasions, Sawbridge explored abstraction and geometrics through pen and ink and oil paints. Oil paint was Sawbridge’s choice medium. Sawbridge’s paintings range from scenes of Ontario to Western Canada to images of Cape Cod. She painted portraits, urban, rural and seas-scapes. For many years, Sawbridge and her husband travelled to Cape Cod and Gloucester where her husband would fish from the pier, while she painted the boats in the harbour area. Sawbridge paintings demonstrate an impressionistic aethetic. Her landscapes often showcase evident brush strokes that tend to invoke movement in a forest, or the gentle flow of a river. Through her use of colour, Sawbridge has the ability to make oil paint have a luminous quality. Having a strong foundation in technical drawing enhances Sawbridge’s ability to know where and how light hits the subject she is capturing in paint. As a skilled technical drawer, Alma Sawbridge's practiced in pen, ink, graphite, pastel, and conte. Lloyd Sawbridge became a prominent subject matter in many of Alma’s daily drawings. Lloyd was often depicted reading or sleeping in the interior of their primary residence at 168 Kenilworth Street South. Her husband was not the only subject matter captured in pen and ink. Sawbridge took to looking with great care at her interior surroundings, such as her kitchen, and the people around her. In a particular drawing, Sawbridge notes that the dancer she illustrates was done at the Nancy Campbell Studio. Nancy Campbell (1906-1980), who was also part of the WAAH, was an accomplished dancer, artist, pianist and actress. As a dancer, Campbell became well known and respected as a teacher of ballet, and clearly welcomed members of the WAAH to practice drawing in her studio. Alma Sawbridge is recognized in her local art community for her distinctively bright colored landscapes and still life paintings. Alma Sawbridge often exhibited with the Women’s Arts Association of Hamilton. She gave art lessons out of her house on Kenilworth South. Fondly remembered as a glamourous lady who drove around Hamilton in a red Studebaker with nails to match, she now rests in the notable Woodland Cemetery, Hamilton.

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