Angus Shortt:

An Inventory of His Papers at at the University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections.

Inventory prepared by Jonathan Nordland.
University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections
Winnipeg, Manitoba
(2004)

Finding aid encoded by Vladimira Zvonik (2004)
Finding aid written in English.

Revision History

  • July 26, 2005 - Mss 185 (A.04-07, A.04-36, A.04-115) converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02.xsl (sy2003-10-15).


Collection Summary

Repository:
Archives & Special Collections, University of Manitoba,
331 Elizabeth Dafoe Library, Winnipeg, MB, R3T 2N2

Creator:
Angus Shortt

Title:
Angus Shortt fonds

Dates:
1932-2003

Quantity:
.75m of textual records and graphic materials

MSS 185 (A.04-07, A.04-36, A.04-115)

Language
English.

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Biography of Angus Shortt

Angus Shortt was born on the 25th of September 1908 in Belfast, Ireland. His family moved to Winnipeg in 1911 to avoid Protestant and Catholic tensions. Shortt’s father found work as a conductor on the Winnipeg City Street Railway and his mother worked at Eaton’s art department. Due to his mother’s influence as an artist, he developed a love for sketching birds around the Silver Heights farm located near the family home.

Determined to find employment as an artist, in 1926 Shortt sought a position at Brigden’s, a commercial art firm. Despite his desire to become an illustrator, Brigden’s offered him an apprenticeship as a wood engraver, which he accepted. As part of the apprenticeship, Shortt was sent to the Winnipeg School of Art, where he studied under L. LeMoine Fitzgerald. However, Fitzgerald’s style was considered too modernist to be applied in commercial art and engraving, so Shortt would have apply this teaching to his later portraits of birds and nature.

In 1928, around the time of his enrollment in the Winnipeg School of Art, Shortt and his brother Terry were encouraged to submit their portraits to Percy A. Taverner of the National Museum of Canada by their neighbor, Bert Cartwright. Taverner responded positively to the art, stating in a letter, “I can see a brilliant future either of these boys as bird artists…” Later in 1931, Terry would get a job at the Royal Ontario Museum as an illustrator and eventually become the chief of art and exhibits, but Angus would struggle throughout the 1930s to gain employment as an artist.

At the end of his five-year apprenticeship wit Brigden's in 1931, Shortt was laid off due to recession conditions. Encouraged by his father, he pursued his interest in wildlife study and art. In 1932, Shortt obtained a federal collecting permit so that he could hunt and taxidermy birds for money and the study of plumage and anatomy. During that year, he conducted a study of the Clay-coloured Sparrow, which he presented to The Natural History Society of Manitoba in 1933. The presentation was met with such approval that the members asked Shortt to conduct another study of Hawks in Manitoba. At this lecture he met Elizabeth (Betsy) Haak, who he would later marry in 1939.

In 1935, Shortt secured a position at the Manitoba Museum as an artist technician. Although this granted him a regular wage, the museum was under funded, causing Shortt to entertain the possibility of employment elsewhere. In 1938, he accepted a four-month contract at the American Museum of Natural History in New York doing taxidermy work. Although offered an extension to his contract, Shortt chose to work for the newly formed Ducks Unlimited Canada as an artist in the public relations department. He worked at Ducks Unlimited for thirty-four years, from 1939 to 1973. There he painted wildlife and contributed to the making of eighteen films. After his retirement, Shortt continued to accept commissions for paintings into the nineteen-nineties; however, he now only paints for his own enjoyment.

Angus Shortt’s career has been punctuated by numerous exhibitions, radio and television appearances. In addition he has received many awards, including a bronze medal by the Natural History Society of Manitoba (NHSM) in 1947, elected president of the NHSM from 1947 to 1949, presented the Good Citizenship Award by the Manitoba Travel and Convention Bureau in 1969, awarded the Centennial Gold Medal of Remembrance by the Manitoba Historical Society in 1974, and Ducks Unlimited’s Art award.

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Scope and Contents of the Papers

Accession A.04-36 and A.04-07 consist primarily of photo albums and scrapbooks that document the artistic work of Angus Shortt. In addition, the accessions include journals of birds observed by Shortt from 1931 to 1996. Both accessions have been divided into three series of Scrapbooks, Published Materials, and Journals. The fonds included 218 photos and six scrapbooks of photo reproductions of Angus Shortt’s art. Accession A.04-114

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Organization of the Papers

This collection is organized into three series

  • A.04-07
  • A.04-36
  • A.04-115

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Arrangement of the Papers

The fonds’ order as received by the archives has been maintained with minor alterations.

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Restrictions on Access

There are no restrictions.

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Restrictions on Use

There are no restrictions.

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Custodial History

This fonds was donated to the University of Manitoba Archives and Special Collections by Angus and Elizabeth Shortt in 2004.

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Detailed Description of the Collection

A.04-07
Scrapbooks
BoxFolder
11 Album 1,

photos removed from sticky pages

2 Album 1,

photocopy before materials removed from sticky pages

3 Album 5,

photos removed from sticky pages

4 Album 5,

photocopy before materials removed from sticky pages

6 Scrapbook 7,

additional materials

Published Materials
BoxFolder
1 My Life With Birds, [ 2003 ]

- book

Journals
Short Memories: Chickadees to Canvasacks -

an Autobiography of Wildlife Artist Angus Shortt

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A.04-36
Scrapbooks
BoxFolder
11 Album 2,

photos removed from sticky pages

2 Album 2,

photocopy before materials removed from sticky pages

3 Album 3,

photos removed from sticky pages

4 Album 3,

photocopy before materials removed from sticky pages

5 Album 4,

photos removed from sticky pages

6 Album 4,

photocopy before materials removed from sticky pages

Published Materials
BoxFolder
1 Marsh World

- book

Ducks are Different

- book

Journals
BoxFolder
1 Bird Sightings-various areas in Manitoba, [ 1931-1935 ]
Fall notes , [ 1932-1934 ]
Bird list and notes and B.C. trip, [ 1958 ]
Bird notes and lists, [ 1973-1978 ]
Bird notes and lists, [ 1979-1986 ]
Bird notes and lists, [ 1987-1996 ]

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A.04-115
Publications
BoxFolder
1 Treasure of Waterfowl:

copy of the book featuring 36 paintings of ducks and geese found in Canada and the United States, published by “Sports Afield” magazine (U.S.). The magazine had featured these paintings once a month over 3 years, with text by B.W. Cartwright.

Two additional printings followed with a new title, Know Your Ducks and Geese , same colour plates and text.

“The Reeder” (Ducks Unlimited), reference to Angus Shortt’s Life With Birds, pages 4 and 15.

Notebooks
BoxFolder
11 Spring records, [ 1931-1940 ]
Waterfowl Drawings
BoxFolder
2-3 List of numbered drawings:

Map Cabinet #3

(located in map cabinet)

  • 1. Pair of Mallards in flight
  • 2. Pair of Emperor Geese in flight
  • 3. Monarch Butterflies and sprig[?] of Chokecherry leaves
  • 4. Blue Jay on sprig[?] of Red Osier Dogwood leaves
  • 5. Male pintail in flight
  • 6. Cardinal on Manitoba Maple sprig[?]
  • 7. Male Shoreler[?] in flight
  • 8. White-breasted Nuthatches on tree trunk
  • 9. Male Wood Duck in water
  • 10. Pair of Pintails in snow
  • 11. Pair of Long-Tailed Ducks
  • 12. Pair of Blue Winged Teal in flight
  • 13. Flight of Mallard on Big Grass Marsh, Ducks
  • 14. Unlimited’s first project, 1938
  • 15. Tundra Swans in group, standing
  • 16. Tundra Swans, 3 in flight
  • 17. Mandarin Ducks 3 sketches of male
  • 18. Raven perched in branch
  • 19. Mallards into grain field with stooks
  • 20. Canvas backs over marsh scene
  • 21. Buffleheads over marsh scene
  • 22. Canada Geese into swathed grain field
  • 23. Pintail pair in flight over marsh
  • 24. Mallards heading into marsh
  • 25. Pair of Mandarin Ducks on log
  • 26. Bluebills at Illinois River, U.S. (sitting)
  • 27. There is an additional, full colour print of Canvasbacks over marsh, painted in 1981. It was awarded the Ducks Unlimited “1981 Waterfowl Artists Award Painting”.

Twenty-seven completed pencil drawings. Subjects done in detail and setting for transfer to canvas, already with background sky and foreground. A tracing is taken and transferred to the canvas with underlay of carbon and painting is ready to proceed. Canvas sized range from 24” to 30”, smaller sizes for smaller birds.

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