Call Number: Mss 185, Pc 207 (A.04-07, A.04-36,
A.04-115, A.06-23, A.06-37)
Title: Angus Shortt fonds.
Dates: 1908 - 2005.
Extents: 2 m of textual records, 273 photographs,
3 photo-albums, artwork collection, and artifacts.
Biographical sketch: 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 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. Angus Shortt passed away on January
8, 2006 at the age of 97.
Custodial history: This fonds was donated to the
University of Manitoba Archives and Special Collections by Angus
and Elizabeth Shortt in 2004 and by the Shortt Family in 2006.
Scope and content: Accessions A.04-36, A.04-07,
A.04-115 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.
Accessions A.06-23 and A.06-37 consist of biographical information,
correspondence, field records, journals, Ducks Unlimited publications,
artwork collection, numerous paintings and designs of ducks and
geese and other wildlife birds; photo-reproductions of artwork;
and scrapbooks reflecting A. Shortt's graphic artwork, family photographs
and biographical information depicting his life. There are also
substantial photograph collectionand video collection (PC 207) featuring
an interview with Angus and Betsy Shortt conducted by Bev Pike for
Manitoba Museum Archives and various Ducks Unlimited films.
Restrictions on access: There are no restrictions.
Accruals: Further accruals are expected.