Paintings by Vernon, B.C., artist Sveva Caetani return home

WATCH: A piece of local art history has returned to the Okanagan. Decades ago Vernon artist Sveva Caetani sent many of her key works to Alberta for safe keeping. Now those paintings are back in her hometown.

A Vernon, B.C., non-profit is ecstatic that key works by a well-known local artist have been returned to the North Okanagan city.

AJ Jaeger, the past president of Caetani Cultural Centre Society, said she has dreamed about bringing Sveva Caetani’s art back to Vernon for more than two decades.

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“She and her work (have) come home, that’s how we feel and we will definitely share her work with the world,” said Jaeger.

Caetani’s series of more than 50 watercolour paintings had been cared for by the Alberta Foundation for the Arts for more than three decades.

Wanting to preserve her work, Caetani donated the series to the Edmonton-based foundation when she died in 1994.

“She wanted to keep the series together and it was very difficult for her to find a place that would also do it with her conditions,” explained Caetani Cultural Centre Society executive director Susan Brandoli.

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Brandoli said Caetani wanted her series, title “Recapitulation,” kept together and framed to archival standards and, at the time, the BC Arts Council didn’t have the resources to do that.

“They have taken very good care of those pieces. They have spent an enormous amount an effort in getting them archivally framed,” said Jaeger.

“The main thing for us is that they kept the pieces together and didn’t rip the collection apart so we all could get them back in one piece. So thank you very much to them.”

After years of safekeeping, the Alberta Foundation for the Arts agreed to give Caetani’s artwork to the Caetani Cultural Centre if an archival storage facility was built in Vernon.

COVID-19 conditions permitting, the Caetani cultural centre is hoping to display the art and Caetani family artifacts publically this summer.

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The watercolour series tells the story of Caetani’s life.

“She had this incredibly intriguing and disturbing storyline behind her of being held captive in house for over 25 years basically, by her mother,” Brandoli said.

“When her father passed away her mother basically became a hermit and took with her. She was only about 17 or 18 years old and by the time she emerged, she was in her 40s and had to find a job. So she became a teacher. She was really well-loved in the community.”

Brandoli said the works are significant because of the fairly unique watercolour layering technique Caetani used, and the sheer size of the watercolour paintings.

One piece is around 20 feet long.

“She created this body of work based on her travel through life with her father and her mother. It embraces so many different things: her philosophy and her outlook on life. She became a real inspiration for many people,” Brandoli said.

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