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Bertram Charles (B.C.) Binning was born on February 10, 1909 in Medicine Hat, Alberta. Due to an illness at a young age, he spent much of his time drawing in seclusion. His passion for art and architecture resulted in his enrolment in 1927 at the-then Vancouver School of Decorative and Applied Arts. After spending time in the United States, in 1933 Binning was appointed to a staff position with the Vancouver School of Art. Later in 1938, B.C. Married Jessie Wyllie, the daughter of a Vancouver businessman. In 1949, he was transferred to the University Of British Columbia School Of Architecture. Soon after, he founded the Department of Fine Arts at UBC, which he headed for over twenty-five years.
With his appointment to the department of Fine Arts came a shift in his artistic direction. Whereas pre-1948 he had established himself as an internationally recognized architect, post-1948 he felt himself drawn towards expressing his creativity in oil painting. Building upon his architectural background, Binning often painted large complementary mosaic murals for various buildings and was particularly inspired by ships, marinas and seascapes in general; these were recurring themes for most of his artistic life.
The Binnings took the first of many visits to Japan in 1958. It was there that B.C. felt particularly inspired by the Japanese art and architecture he witnessed; these were a vehicle for a new and lengthy direction for his future work. While in Japan, B.C. and Jessie forged a deep relationship with Bishop Kojo Sakamoto (1875-1969), the 37th Superintendent Priest of the Kiyoshi Kojin Seicho-ji temple. A skilled calligrapher, Sakamoto’s work was influenced by colleague and friend Tomioka Tessai (1836-1924), a talented painter and calligrapher in his own right. The Binnings’ relationship with Sakamoto resulted in over a decade of frequent correspondence between Sakamoto, his family, and other Japanese friends with both B.C. and Jessie. After Sakamoto opened a successful Tessai exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 1961, B.C. convinced him to contribute his own calligraphy for an exclusive exhibit that was eventually opened in September 1966 at the Fine Arts Gallery at the University of British Columbia.
Health problems prevented Binning from actively contributing to the art community in the early 1970’s, but by this time had built up a solid repertoire of pieces that have made their mark on the Canadian art scene. After his death on March 16th 1976, Jessie continued her role as a voice and representative for her husband’s work until her own death on May 25th, 2007. Her last public presence was as a consultant for an exhibit of B.C.’s work at the Vancouver Art Gallery that ran from January through April 2007.