• Bert Markgraf

Hudson artists’ work shown around the world


'Prairie Sky' is just one of the many works of art hanging in the Canadian Foreign Aff airs Departmentin Ottawa and international embassies, all created by former Hudsonites, the late Peterand Traudl Markgraf.

When the Canadian High Commission in Abuja, Nigeria wanted to publish a brochure about the art works displayed on its walls, it included the print ‘Skyline’ by Hudson artists, the late Peter and Traudl Markgraf. The Canadian Foreign Affairs Department bought the print in 1969, just as Peter and Traudl became well known for the silk screen prints they produced in their studio in Hudson Acres.

As they started to create the Canadian landscapes for which they are famous, the government acquired many other prints and sent them to Canadian embassies, ambassadors’ residences and Canadian chanceries around the world for display. Peter and Traudl moved to Hudson in 1962 and became very active in the community, printing wildly original posters to advertise local performances for groups like the Hudson Players Club. They gave art classes, held pottery workshops and helped with local theatre. A tour de force was the design of outrageous costumes for a local production of Cabaret, and they sometimes caused much controversy with their abstract set designs.

At the same time, they were experimenting with refining their silk screen techniques to produce the soft shadings that characterize their most popular works. They often drew inspiration from their life and their friends in Hudson to create prints on a wide variety of subjects. As Peter and Traudl’s reputation spread, the Foreign Affairs Department bought more of their prints.

Two prints inspired by sailing on the Lake of Two Mountains, ‘Harbour at Sunset’ and ‘Regatta,’ hang in the foreign aff airs headquarters in Ottawa. ‘Early Spring,’ showing trees against the melting ice of the lake, is displayed in Accra, Ghana and in Washington DC. Orange and black prints “Prairie Sky” hang in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and in Bogota, Colombia. The embassy in New Delhi and the offi cial residences in Beirut and Damascus display prints with a figure on a beach called ‘Solitude.’

Athens and London have two abstract works with softly shaded stripes and squares, and London also has ‘Westward’ showing islands in a vast river. In all, 27 works are on display. Although the prints Peter and Traudl created after they left Hudson in 1977 were the most popular, they always felt that they did their best work in the town. The soft British Columbia landscapes were commercial successes, but Peter and Traudl thought their earlier works had greater artistic merit.

They loved the interplay of colours in their abstract prints and enjoyed extending the abstract to suggest a landscape. They eventually came back to live in Hudson in their retirement as two of the most successful Canadian artists ever, but they were unique in one other way. They always worked as a couple. In the legacy of a time when women artists were uncommon, their work is still sometimes credited to Peter Markgraf, but in most cases, including the worldwide displays of the Canadian Foreign Affairs Department, their work is now properly attributed to Peter and Traudl Markgraf.