Celebrated Victoria artist Karl Spreitz, who died this month, was a “life enhancer,” according to his friend and fellow artist Pat Martin Bates.
“He gave life to the work that he did, to anything he did,” Bates said.
Spreitz was born in Austria. He died on May 13 at age 88.
Spreitz leaves a diverse body of work in paintings, still photographs, films and graphic art. In 2013, he donated more than 100 reels of 16-mm film to the University of Victoria. His papers are saved in UVic’s archives.
Spreitz was a “wonderful artist,” Bates said. “He could do anything.” He was a “brilliant” photographer and his paintings were “astonishing,” Bates said.
Spreitz was among a group of influential Victoria artists who fostered modernism in the local art world. These included the renowned Limners, a collective of eminent artists who met in each other’s homes.
Fellow Limners Jan and Helga Grove said Spreitz was a very nice person.
To Bates, Spreitz was a loyal and generous friend for more than 50 years. “We were such close friends that we could say anything to each other.”
She would come home to find that he had left gifts on her doorstep. These might be photographs, notes or flowers.
He gave Bates photographs he had taken of her and her daughter. The late artist Myfanwy Pavelic used the pictures to paint a portrait of the pair. Pavelic used Spreitz’s photos for many of her paintings and he produced a film biography of her.
He teamed with Bates on a documentary film showcasing the poor conditions in a local public school, where children wore coats indoors because of the cold and the janitor chopped wood for a furnace. After it was shown to civic officials, students were moved to a better environment in portable classrooms, Bates said.
Environmentalist Vicky Husband and Patrick Pothier worked with Spreitz on a 1983 film Ninstints, Shadow Keepers of the Past, to help preserve the historically important site on Haida Gwaii.
Spreitz’s sense of fun was well-known and often seen when he was with painter Herbert Siebner, who died in 2003. Siebner, Bates and Spreitz often presented exhibitions together.
Spreitz created a happy atmosphere whenever he entered a room, Bates said. “He would have us laughing so much.”
As a child, his family encouraged him to pursue art, and he loved watching movies, a UVic Maltwood website states. He studied physical education at university and was an assistant coach to Austria’s women’s Olympic team.
After immigrating to Canada in the early 1950s, he arrived in Victoria in the 1960s. He worked as a television cameraman with then-reporter Andy Stephen, and for Beautiful B.C. and other magazines.