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Tavistock’s Resident Artist


Reginald Franklin Selfe was born in Brighton, East Sussex, England on July 30, 1888 but was raised in Guildford, Surrey, where he returned in 1960. He had his early training there and was a member of the British Watercolour Society. He came to Canada in 1924 with the Hotson family who owned a shoe store on Hope Street West in Tavistock, Ontario. The J.K. Lemp family, who had sponsored his immigration, allowed him to paint and teach art classes in the photo studio above the pharmacy in downtown Tavistock for many years. 

Studio portrait of Reg Selfe by John Lemp

Studio portrait of Reg Selfe by John Lemp

Living a simple life, he rented living space in several locations around the village (the Glasgow Warehouse and the masonic Hall) and boarded with other such as Fred and Anna Funk, Howard Engel, Gott. and Carrie Waldie, and Stan and Beth Schippling.

In the thirty-six years he worked in and around Tavistock, he produced hundreds, maybe thousands of paintings and taught art classes to many grateful young students. He returned to England and his two sisters early in 1960, but passed away November 2, 1960. He is now buried in the cemetery in his hometown of Guildford.

Themes of Selfe’s paintings over the years include urban England, thatched cottages, English villages and countryside, seascapes, lakes, Canadian landscapes such as winter, the Maritimes, wilderness, still life and well-known Ontario landmarks such as the Elora Gorge and the Muskoka region. His works range from 4×6″ postcards to very large 39″x5 ft. canvasses as well as some early works in ink wash and silk screen.

He was known for frequent bicycle trips into the countryside where he would set up his stool and easel and paint for hours on end. He would also set up camp in local spots to complete his work as well as teach art and perspective at Boy Scout camps. The Rotary Club sponsored art classes for two years and Mr. Selfe held private lessons at different times and locations over the years.

“Reg. Selfe came to Canada as a young painter with hopes of finding a good life in the quiet countryside of Ontario. Even though Reg. Selfe finished his days in his native country, most of his work remains here and reminds us of his life as an artist.”

The inscription on his tombstone reads “In unfading memory of dear Reg.” His paintings and memory will never fade as long as Tavistock residents remember the artist they called their own.



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