Romance in the Rockies: The Life and Adventures of Catharine and Peter Whyte


116 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography
ISBN 1-55153-998-5
DDC 759.11




Reviewed by Kathy E. Zimon

Kathy E. Zimon is a fine arts librarian (emerita) at the University of
Calgary. She is the author of Alberta Society of Artists: The First 70
Years and co-editor of Art Documentation Bulletin of the Art Libraries
Society of North America.


Banff native Peter Whyte met Catharine Robb when both were students at
the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston in 1925. Born into a
family who were among the first to settle in Banff around 1900, Peter
showed an early interest in drawing and sketching, and as a driver and
guide with the Brewster Transport Company, met many of the artists who
frequented the Rockies to paint the spectacular scenery. Meeting artists
like Carl Rungius, Belmore Brown, J.E.H. MacDonald, and Aldro T. Hibbard
not only fuelled his artistic ambitions, but Hibbard also encouraged
Peter to study at his alma mater in Boston. Catharine Robb came from a
wealthy, cultured, and well-connected Boston family whose friends
included the Rockefellers. It was in Hibbard’s studio that Catharine
fell in love with a painting of the Rockies, and it was their love of
art, and of nature, that first brought Peter and Catharine together.
Later they found that they also shared a love of travel and adventure.
Their romance, initially kept secret from friends and family, and often
conducted by letter, blossomed. They were married on the Robb estate in
1930 and settled in Banff for an almost “happily ever after” new
life in the Rockies.

Kim Mayberry’s account of their romance and subsequent life in Banff
is part of Altitude Publishing’s Amazing Stories series about the
history of Western Canada. To write this book, she consulted the papers,
journals, and correspondence of the Whytes in the archives of the Whyte
Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Peter and Catharine’s lasting legacy
to Banff. This is not an art book (the couple’s paintings are neither
discussed nor reproduced, although the Whyte Museum holds many of their
works in its collection), but an account that skims lightly over
Peter’s cataracts and alcoholism, which in later years clouded the
couple’s otherwise fairy-tale life. Rather, it highlights the
protagonists’ largely happy and privileged lives, and their generosity
to their beloved hometown. Recommended for all Canadiana collections.


Mayberry, Kim., “Romance in the Rockies: The Life and Adventures of Catharine and Peter Whyte,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 21, 2024,