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Important Moments in Canadian Art History

Compiled by Dr. Robert J. Belton

1919 to 1945

War art is first publicly shown at the Canadian War Memorials Exhibition. Revue moderne begins its run (to 1960). The federal government's Technical Education Act leads indirectly to the expansion of art education.

The first exhibition of the nationalistic Group of Seven takes place at the Art Gallery of Toronto. The British Columbia Art League is formed. The Outport Nursing Committee is founded in Newfoundland, enabling local women to exchange handicrafts for medical services. Henry Ivan Neilson forms the Québec Society of Artists. Provincial Secretary Athanase David helps found an Ecole des beaux-arts in Québec, which begins to offer systematic art instruction. Loring and Wyle join the Ontario Society of Artists. Marjorie Hill receives a Bachelor of Applied Science, making her the first female graduate of an architectural school in Ontario. (She actually made the front page of the Toronto Star, June 5th.) Associated Screen News is founded in Montréal to supply news footage for the growing film audience. Canadian Forum is first published, with plans to cover the visual arts.

Montréal's Beaver Hall Hill Group pioneers recognition of female artists.

King George V officially recognizes Canada's armorial bearings, which had been in limbo since 1868, when the arms of the Dominion were first used -- unofficially.

Mary Riter Hamilton is named Officier de l'Académie Française and receives the purple ribbon of Les Palmes Académiques for her paintings of war-torn France. The Calgary Art Club is founded, only to be expelled from the library meeting room for daring to draw from the figure. Mary Hiester Reid is the first woman to have a solo exhibition at the Art Gallery of Toronto, albeit posthumously. Elizabeth Styring Nutt organizes an unprecedented "Art Week" in Halifax.

The Ecole des beaux-arts in Montréal offers art instruction. The Royal Canadian Academy organizes a competition to foster mural painting. The first woman to earn the Bachelor of Architecture degree in Canada is Jean Hall. Queen's University biology professor Alfred Brooker Klugh begins contributing a monthly photography column to American Photography. The federal government opens a motion picture bureau. The Royal Ontario Museum publishes its first Bulletin.

Ernest Cormier's fuses functionalism and art deco in his innovative designs for the main buildings of the Université de Montréal.

The Graphic Arts Club holds its first public exhibition. Mary E. Wrinch becomes the first woman Vice-President of the Ontario Society of Artists. The Group of Seven come to international attention in the Canadian section of the British Empire Exhibition in Wembley, England. Thirty Canadian women artists are largely overshadowed by the Group's rhetoric. Architecture Canada Newmagazine begins a forty-nine-year run (including changes of name).

Walter J. Phillips and others found the Manitoba Society of Artists. The Canadian Society of Painters in Watercolour is formed. The Vancouver School of Decorative and Applied Arts is founded. The first Canadian building designed by a woman architect (see 1923) is erected in Toronto.

The Provincial Institute of Technology and Art offers its first art courses in Calgary. F. B. Housser publishes the first monograph on the Group of Seven. Frederick Varley is appointed head of the Department of Painting and Drawing at the Vancouver School of Art. Paintbox appears briefly in Vancouver. St. John's Vocational School offers some art training.

Carr becomes the first Canadian woman artist to achieve national recognition when her work is included in Marius Barbeau and Eric Brown's exhibition of Canadian West Coast Art, Native and Modern, in the National Gallery. The National Museum of Canada is founded on the collections of William Logan, a geologist. Bertram Brooker becomes the first acknowledged abstract artist in Canada with a show of works at the Arts and Letters Club in Toronto. He may have been inspired by a Toronto show of a selection from the so-called Société Anonyme, Inc., an American avant-garde collection of modern works established by Katherine Dreier and Marcel Duchamp. An Art Students' League forms in Toronto. A group of British Columbia photographers organizes the first exhibition of Pictorialist photography in Vancouver.

Frances Loring, Florence Wyle, Elizabeth Wyn Wood and others form the Sculptors' Society of Canada.

John Lyle becomes a pioneer in the use of specifically Canadian ornament on his otherwise Neoclassical temple-style Bank of Nova Scotia in Halifax. Nova Scotia's original coat of arms (1626) is reinstated to replace a second one proclaimed in 1868, and its use on the provincial flag is approved. The Museum of the Province of Québec is opened. Prudence Heward receives the first Willingdon Prize for painting from the Governor General.

McCarter and Nairne's Marine Building in Vancouver is one of the first public buildings to exploit art deco.

Darling and Pearson's Romanesque-flavoured Canadian Bank of Commerce in Toronto becomes the tallest building in the Commonwealth for a time.

The Toronto Camera Club starts to publish Focus. The Canadian Handicrafts Guild fosters interest in native art with an exhibition of Inuit crafts in Montréal. Etcetera begins a three- year run in Toronto.

Ernest Cormier's own house at 1418, avenue des Pins, Montréal, features an innovative use of art deco for domestic use.

The last official exhibition of the Group of Seven takes place at the Art Gallery of Toronto. John Lyman returns to Canada from an 18-year stay abroad, founding the Atelier school of art with four others. The Edmonton Museum of Fine Arts organizes an exhibition of Women Artists. The Women Painters of Western Canada and the Alberta Society of Artists are formed. The Vancouver Art Gallery is founded. Kodak announces a major photographic competition with a special Canadian section. The Toronto Camera Club begins to award a trophy cup. Alfred Brigden demonstrates the use of paper negatives to the Toronto Camera Club. Clifford Johnston wins silver medals in photographic exhibitions in Japan and England. Johnston also calls for a photography that can match the Group of Seven's portrayal of the Canadian landscape.

Yousef Karsh opens his popular portrait studio in Ottawa. Canadian Kodakery ceases publication. The Dominion Drama Festival arranges a series of annual competitions for stage and costume design. The Alberta Society of Artists is founded. A number of disenfranchised artists charge that the National Gallery's criteria for its exhibitions are too narrow.

Twenty-eight artists from across the country form the Canadian Group of Painters to succeed the defunct Group of Seven. Although centred in Toronto, the CGP's first show of "art with a national character" is held in Atlantic City, New Jersey. An experimental School of Fine Arts is founded in Banff, Alta., evolving into the influential Banff Centre for Continuing Education. Frederick Varley and Jock Macdonald found the British Columbia College of Arts in Vancouver. The Graphic Arts Club changes its name to the Canadian Society of Graphic Art. Some members of the Sculptors' Society of Canada -- especially the influential women Loring, Wyle, and Wyn Wood -- resign from the Ontario Society of Artists, which they felt gave insufficient support to sculpture. The Canadian Handicrafts Guild forms an Indian Committee to support traditional Indian crafts. Lester D. Longman is appointed Special Carnegie Lecturer in the history and appreciation of art at McMaster University in Hamilton, making his the first such university appointment in Canada. Negotiations for a similar appointment begin at Queen's University in Kingston. Edith Hallett Bethune wins a Diploma for Exceptional Photographic Art at the Chicago World's Fair.

The National Gallery arranges the first Canadian International Salon of Photographic Art. The Hamilton Camera Club holds its first Canadian Salon of Photography, travelling shortly after to the Vancouver Camera Club. Responding to the growing popularity of miniature cameras, the Toronto Camera Club creates a new competitive category for enlargements. Montréal's Ecole du meuble, a prominent school of art and design, is founded. Lawren Harris and Bess Housser move to Hanover, New Hampshire, where Harris teaches at Dartmouth College.

The Maritime Art Association is founded, as is the Hamilton Art Association. The British Columbia College of Arts closes.

Douglas Duncan creates the Picture Loan Society in Toronto. Augustus Kenderdine moves from Saskatoon to Regina and starts a summer school for the arts in Emma Lake. The first Western Ontario Salon of Photography is held. John Lyman starts writing a monthly column on art for The Montrealer (to 1940). Norman Bethune's social conscience leads Fritz Brandtner to initiate a Children's Art Centre for the underprivileged of Montréal and to hold an exhibition for the benefit of the Canadian League Against War and Fascism. Other artists, like Paraskeva Clark, are attracted to Bethune's Committee to Aid Spanish Democracy.

Paul-Emile Borduas joins the faculty of the Ecole du meuble. The Canadian Interchange Print Circuit (Eastern Division) is formed, linking camera clubs in southern Ontario and Québec.

The Manitoba Arts Review begins a run lasting until 1965. The Eastern Group of Painters is founded in Montréal to counter the nationalism of the Canadian Group of Painters. Florence Wyle is the first female sculptor to become a fully-accredited member of the Royal Canadian Academy. Toronto expatriate Joseph Shuster creates the Superman comic-book character in New York. Phyllis Jacobine Jones sculpts architectural reliefs for Ottawa's Bank of Canada building. The Canada Pacific Exhibition starts to show photography. Harold Kells wins an award from the Royal Photographic Society. Lawren Harris joins the Transcendental Painting Movement in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Cormier adds château-style roofs to his design for the Supreme Court in Ottawa at the insistence of Mackenzie King.

Lyman founds the Contemporary Arts Society in Montréal to promote greater awareness of international modernism. The first Bachelor of Fine Arts degree is awarded at Mount Allison University in Sackville, N.B. John Grierson initiates the National Film Board of Canada. The Art Association of Montréal changes its name to the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts. Québec's original coat of arms (1868) is revised. Isabel McLaughlin becomes the first woman President of the Canadian Group of Painters.

Harry Mayerovitch produces many posters to sell Victory Bonds for the National War Financing Board.

The Wartime Housing Corp. introduces plans for inexpensive, standardized housing. Alfred Pellan returns to Québec from a 15- year study in Paris. The Maritime Arts Association begins publishing Maritime Art (to 1943). Lawren Harris moves to Vancouver. Painter B.C. Binning designs his own home in West Vancouver along the sharply geometrical lines of the International style. John Parkin and others begin to introduce the International style and Bauhaus modernism into Canadian architecture schools. Wartime restrictions force the cancellation of the Canadian International Salon of Photographic Art.

Carr publishes Klee Wyck and wins the Governor General award for literature. The first Conference of Canadian Artists is held in Kingston. American comic-books are banned for economic, not moral reasons, enabling the development of some short-lived Canadian characters. The most famous of these is Leo Bachle's Johnny Canuck, who is intended to represent the typical Canadian character.

The Canadian Review of Music and Art begins publication. Montréal opens an Ecole des arts graphiques. The Québec government opens its Service de ciné-photographie to promote the production of educational films. Pegi Nicol MacLeod and Lucy Jarvis open the Observatory Art Centre in association with the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton.

Canadian Art begins to appear. H.O.McCurry assists in the establishment of the Canadian War Art Programme, hiring 30 artists. School of Paris painter Fernand Léger delivers a lecture in Montréal.

Although she has had at least four solo shows in public institutions, only now does Emily Carr have her first solo show in a commercial establishment, the Dominion Gallery in Montréal. Alex Colville is appointed an official War Artist, and his experiences will forever affect the character of his work. The Province of Québec begins a series of Artistic Competitions. The Canadian Jewish Congress publishes Jewish War Heroes, a series of comic books combatting anti-semitism.

Pellan quarrels with Charles Maillard, director of the Ecole des beaux-arts.

Last reviewed shim12/19/2012 11:18:37 PM