This portrait is a detail from one of several murals painted by E.J. Hughes, Paul Goranson and Orville Fisher, known collectively as the Western Canada Brotherhood, on the wall of the dining room of the Malaspina Hotel on Front Street in Nanaimo, a small city on the east coast of Vancouver Island and the home of the Alexandro Malaspina Research Centre at Vancouver Island University. It depicts a mythical event - Malaspina sketching what are now known as the "Malaspina Galleries," a water-sculpted sandstone overhang on nearby Gabriola Island.  Such a sketch was in fact made by Ferdinando Brambilla (Museo Naval, Madrid) during the expedition of Dionisio Alcalá Galiano and Cayetano Valdés to the Georgia Strait.  Malaspina himself did not visit the area, the closest he came being Yuquot on Nootka Island, off the west coast of Vancouver Island.
    The mural is a youthful work of E.J. Hughes, and was for many years covered up after renovation work on the hotel.  Remodelling of the building brought the works back to light, but also led to the destruction of most of them.  This one, however, has been restored as a joint project of the Nanaimo Community Archives and the City of Nanaimo, for installation in the Vancouver Island Conference Centre.


Image courtesy of the Centro di Studi Malaspiniani, Mulazzo, Italy.  Notes by John Black, based in part upon Patrick Dunae: "Malaspina: The Hotel, the Murals & the Madness of Modernity" in Alexandro Malaspina: Enlightenment Thinker?, Proceedings of the Inaugural Symposium of the Alexandro Malaspina Research Centre, Nanaimo, Malaspina University College, 2000.

Updated: June 14, 2018