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Paintings of West Vancouver return home to community that inspired them 20 years ago

Wife of well-known landscape artist has made it her mission to return her late husband’s works
For decades, artist Vojislav Morosan captured a specific moment in time in the towns and cities he painted across Canada and abroad.

Preferring to work on location using oil or watercolours and employing a bright colour palette, Vojislav, who emigrated from Serbia in 1967, painted thousands of pieces which focused on historical buildings and lush landscapes, ultimately capturing the essence of whatever community he was in.

For more than 40 years, with his wife Norma Morosan by his side, the pair travelled across the country and parts of the U.S. in an effort to paint these bedroom communities with pinpoint accuracy and lots of life.

When Vojislav passed away in 2008, he left Norma behind with countless joyous memories – and more than 1,000 completed paintings.

“He left me in a bit of mess, to be quite honest with you,” jokes Norma. “Artists never want to catalogue – they just want to paint.”

Over the last decade, Norma has taken up the mantle of preserving her husband’s legacy by returning the paintings to the specific communities that inspired his pieces in the first place.

Just recently, she has ensured that 26 paintings that Vojislav painted of the Ambleside and Dundarave areas between 2000 and 2006 found their rightful place in West Vancouver.

“I have to connect these paintings to the places they belong, either by donation or by selling them,” says Norma. “He loved his work and he was so floored that people appreciated his work.”

Painting the Scene

Bauer’s Framing & Art in West Vancouver is now in possession of and selling Vojislav’s works on Norma’s behalf.

Amid gorgeous painted scenes of Dundarave Beach and the Centennial Seawalk, with the Pink Palace in the foreground, owner Ron Bauer says he was awestruck when Norma brought the pieces in recently.

“They really touched my heart because I grew up here,” says Bauer, adding that he was particularly moved by Vojislav’s portrait of Tiddlycove, a stone’s throw away from where Bauer was raised. “They’re really well done.”

For that six-year period, like many of the communities that Norma and Vojislav frequented over the years, the painter was a mainstay in West Vancouver while he created his pieces. He was often encountered somewhere along the municipality’s ample seafront, interacting with people in the community as he painted.

Bauer says that since he’s started displaying Vojislav’s long-lost paintings, one customer came into his store who said she had bought one of his pieces ages ago. She started to cry when he told her the story of how this latest batch of work ended up in his store and that Vojislav had died more than a decade ago, according to Bauer.

“She said he was such a nice man,” says Bauer. “[They’re] almost like a photograph, in an artistic way. You can tell exactly where they are.”

Brush with Greatness

Wherever that place is, it took a long time for Norma to get there. When her husband first moved to Canada the ’60s, he took a job as a graphic artist in Toronto. But when he discovered he didn’t like the tight deadlines, he gradually transitioned into painting full time, she says.

“One day he just took his easel outside and started to paint someone’s home,” says Norma, who took it upon herself back in the day to scout out some of the most historical or scenic places in Ontario for Vojislav to paint.

Earlier this fall, Norma successfully reunited 35 paintings to the community of Ancaster, Ont. that Vojislav had painted in the ’90s.

That same decade, Norma and Vojislav moved to White Rock, B.C., where the couple was very active for years and where she’s had no trouble selling or donating her late husband’s pieces.

“I’m surrounded by these beautiful paintings. I had 500 of White Rock and I’m down to 23 now,” she says.

The dozens of West Vancouver works had been in storage for ages when, seemingly on a whim, Norma drove to the municipality with a friend recently and starting making inquiries, hoping to compel some official or gallery owner with the majesty her husband saw in the community’s stunning seascapes, or the elegance he gleamed in the sign welcoming people to Dundarave and the surrounding neighbourhood.

“He said he’d never seen anything more beautiful. I remember him saying that Dundarave and Ambleside reminded him of the way things used to be – life doesn’t change,” says Norma.

While the good folk of Dundarave and Ambleside may say a lot has changed in the 15 to 20 years since Vojislav captured their neighbourhoods through careful brushstrokes, at least one thing has remained constant for Norma.

“He was inspired for six years trying to make these pieces of art. For me, it’s been a huge undertaking, but I have to make sure I finish this job.”