Brian Croft
Painting the History of Vancouver and British Columbia

307. Theatre Row, Granville Street - 1948

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From an original painting by Brian Croft

“Theatre Row, Granville Street – 1948” is one of the original paintings in my “Streetcars of Vancouver” collection. The collection is intended to bring to life the colourful and exciting story of the British Columbia Electric Railway Company (BCER) and its electrified streetcar and tram service.

The first six brand new streetcars began operations on June 27, 1890. The first streetcar lines were installed and operated by fledgling companies, which were formed in rapid succession during the difficult early start-up years. First the Vancouver Street Railway Co, then the Vancouver Electric Railway and Light Co, New Westminster service was started by the Westminster & Vancouver Tramway Company and eventually Consolidated Railway and Light Company took over the combined financially troubled operations. New capital was eventually organized with the formation of the BCER Co. in 1897. Under the able leadership of Robert Horne-Payne the newly formed BCER began to flourish marking the beginning of what was to be a new and long era of success.

My painting, “Theatre Row, Granville Street – 1948”, originates from a daytime photograph of theatre row. The reference photo was labeled 1939 however I was bothered by the more modern look of the automobiles; for instance it seemed to me that a 1942 Plymouth was parked across street. To resolve the matter I researched the movie “Hazard”, showing at the Capitol, and found that the movie was actually released in 1948 starring Paulette Goddard and MacDonald Carey. I have titled the painting accordingly and added a number of other movie titles from 1948 to the various marquees.

I painted the scene as an early evening at just about the start time for the early movie sitting. This allowed me to light up the theatre marquees and play them against a brooding night sky. A recent shower has just passed leaving the Granville Street pavement shimmering with mirrored reflections. Two Streetcars work in opposing directions down Granville Street bringing more people to the heart of Vancouver’s entertainment district.

A painting like this can be a daunting undertaking. So many big and little decisions such as choosing colours, filling in the gaps with details which the camera missed and adding lots of people to the sidewalks at the ticket booths. I applied pigment and artistic license in equal proportion to achieve the look that I wanted. A simple question tells me whether the painting works… Can you smell the popcorn?

Brian Croft