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Melanie Idnurm

Recollections of her homeland - Through my Mother's Eyes - Paintings by Melanie Idnurm

Visitors to the Walnut Web page often write to ask "What happened to the passengers?  What kind of lives did they have?  Were they happy in their new homeland?"  I am proud to say that everyone became productive citizens of Canada, working hard to build homes for themselves and their families. 

Matti Idnurm has kindly shared what happened to his family after they arrived in Halifax.  In particular, he has shared some photographs of his mother's paintings. They are very special to him and have never been publicly displayed before. So strong were Melanie's remembrances of her beloved homeland, that she painted scenes from her childhood by memory.   We thank Mr. Idnurm for sharing his mother's painted recollections with us.  In his own words, he describes his mother and her paintings:

Recollections Through my Mother's Eyes - Paintings by Melanie Idnurm

Rein and Melanie Idnurm arrived in Canada aboard the Walnut.  After a short stay in Halifax and Ajax , they rented a flat in Toronto, Ontario. After about 18 months,  they purchased a house off the Danforth in Toronto. To help with expenses, Melanie obtained a job with Wintraub and Sons - a company that manufactured an assortment of hand painted items. Melanie worked in the painting department applying hand painted designs, flowers, etc on various items.

With her children growing up, Melanie found time on her hands, and began to experiment with her love of creating something of beauty.  At her job, she had developed a sense of creativity as well as a feeling for colour and balance.  At first she experimented with water colours, doing flower scenes.  She quickly moved to flower pastels, but now included flowers she recalled from her childhood memories in Estonia. Pastels did not seem to fit Melanie’s creative needs and, as expensive as they were, she now purchased oil paints.  From that point on she worked only in oils using an assortment of techniques.

Idnurm painting GlobeFlower

Melanie’s topics for her art were always close to her heart. She did a number of paintings of Tallinn, the tower, and the churches and scenes she recalled from her childhood.  She would sometimes point to a painting and recall how she would walk past this scene on her way to school.   When painting the rural scenery around Udora, Ontario, she would recall her farming roots in Estonia and include scenes from her childhood farm and farming activities.

Altogether, Melanie painted about 100 or so paintings over a span of about ten years. She never sold or even attempted to sell any of her work.  From time to time she would give a painting to a family member or close friend but always asked that it be returned if no longer appreciated.  Each of her works had a special meaning to her and she always knew where each piece was.  As a consequence, even today, her works are closely held within the family unit and by a few close friends or their families.

Melanie painted through the late 1950's and through the 1960's and then, for some unknown reason, she stopped.  Her work was never put on display or evaluated for merit. She did not want recognition or publicity, but rather only wanted the personal pleasure she got from recalling her memories and creating each piece. 

Matt Idnurm - November 2011     

Melanie Idnurm painting Tallinn Tower