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Important Moments in Canadian Art History

Compiled by Dr. Robert J. Belton

1946 to 1967

1946
Wartime Housing Corp. is replaced by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corp. Wartime restrictions on imported comic-books are eased, effectively killing uniquely Canadian products. Discussions take place at the National Gallery to revive the Canadian International Salon of Photographic Art, but it never takes place again. At the behest of C.D. Howe, Donald Buchanan organizes a travelling exhibition of industrial design for the Canadian Manufacturer's Association conference. The Affiliation of Canadian Industrial Designers is formed. Alex Colville begins teaching at Mount Allison University in Sackville. Architecture concept (a.k.a. Architecture, bâtiment, construction) first appears in Montréal.

1947
A group of artists gathered around Borduas becomes famous as les Automatistes. The Calgary Group promotes non-objective art in the west. Buchanan begins to investigate the role of industrial design in Canada. The Association of Canadian Industrial Designers replaces the Affiliation of 1946. Hundreds of artists submit work for an exhibition of Canadian Women Artists to take place at the Riverside Museum in New York (April). The federal government's modest support of the show is effectively the first such governmental patronage in Canada. The Alberta Society of Artists publishes Highlights. Liaison first appears in Montréal.

1948
Borduas publishes the collective manifesto Refus global, overshadowing Pellan's generally opposed Prisme d'yeux group. Borduas is dismissed from his teaching position at the Ecole du meuble. The Income Tax War Act of 1917, introduced to foster private donations to institutions like hospitals and universities, is revamped as the Income Tax Act, setting up the conditions that gradually enrich public collections of art. Asked in 1940 to include Inuit art in their scope, the Canadian Handicrafts Guild designates Toronto designer and arts administrator James Houston their Arctic representative. He brings some soapstone carvings from the Hudson Bay region to Montréal, greatly stimulating renewed interest. The Ontario Potters Association is founded. George Weber introduces art serigraphy -- used in Toronto for commercial reasons since the 1920s -- to Edmonton.

1949
Max Stern of Montréal's Dominion Gallery is the first Canadian dealer to offer an artist (Goodridge Roberts) a contract, instead of percentage and consignment sales. The Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences -- a.k.a. the Massey Commission -- begins its deliberations. A private member's bill is introduced to ban comic-books for moral, rather than economic reasons. The arts journal Qui? appears in Montréal for a five-year run. The first Canadian National Newspaper Award for Political Cartooning is given to Jack Boothe. Saskatchewan establishes the first public arts foundation in North America.

1950
In Montréal, Agnes Lefort opens the first gallery devoted to printmaking. Although it has taken just over two years to works out the details, Québec's provincial flag is officially adopted. Yorkton, Saskatchewan introduces the first Canadian film festival, dedicated at first to documentary films. Perspective, a Winnipeg journal covering architecture, begins a sixteen-year run.

1951
The Massey Commission delivers its report (June), leading directly to the establishment of governmental programmes like the National Library (1953) and the Canada Council (1957). Ross Lort's alterations to Sharp and Thompson's original building for the Vancouver Art Gallery are officially unveiled (Sept.). Arts et pensées appears in Montréal.

1952
Alexandra Luke organizes a touring exhibition of Canadian Abstract Art. Norman McLaren wins an academy award for his pixilated short film Neighbours. The New Brunswick Museum publishes its first Art Bulletin (later known as Memo and Journal).

1953
William Ronald organizes the "Abstracts at Home" show at the Robert Simpson Co., gathering around him the nucleus of Painters Eleven. Tanya Moiseiwitsch and Tyrone Guthrie design the stage of the Festival Theatre for the Stratford Festival (incorporated in 1952), attracting national attention to theatrical design as an art for perhaps the first time. (I am grateful for the correction supplied by Robert Fulford.)

1954
Parkin and Associates design a new headquarters for the Ontario Assoc. of Architects. The firm is one of the earliest to adopt the strategy of offering an exhaustive professional service for all aspects of architectural need. Canadian Photographer begins publication in Toronto.

1954-59
Painters Eleven open up unprecedented possibilities for abstract artists in a series of exhibitions.

1955
Avrom Isaacs opens the Greenwich Gallery and framing shop in Toronto. Jauran (a.k.a. Rodolphe de Repentigny) publishes the manifesto of les Plasticiens, gathering about him a number of other artists interested in a more controlled abstraction than that of les Automatistes. Kenneth Lochhead and Arthur McKay add professional artists' workshops to the programme of the Emma Lake school, eventually initiating a very influential series of international exchanges. Painter Guido Molinari opens l'Actuelle, a short-lived Montréal gallery (to 1957). Canadian Architect begins its run.

1956
Painters Eleven participate in the 20th annual exhibition of American Abstract Artists in New York, generating considerable national attention. Fernand Leduc becomes first president of the Association des artistes non-figuratifs de Montréal. Vie des arts begins publication. The Society of Typographic Designers is formed. The Northwest Territories and the Yukon are officially granted their coats of arms. The National Film Board's move from Ottawa to Montréal boosts production of French language films.

1957
Despite some resentment, Ronald arranges for the powerful New York art critic Clement Greenberg to visit some members of Painters Eleven in Toronto. Ronald becomes one of the youngest members of the stable of artists attached to New York's Kootz Gallery. A Society of Co-Operative Artists is founded in Toronto. The Art Gallery of Toronto's first News and Notes appears. The Canadian Conference on the Arts addresses but does not resolve issues of importance to visual artists, ranging from tax reform to copyright. The Canada Council for the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences is formed to stimulate cultural production. Houston begins teaching print-making techniques (some of which he would later develop in Japan) to native artists in the Cape Dorset area, taking them into unexplored, but immensely successful territory. Krieghoff's Merrymaking (1860) attains celebrity when the popular press announces its sale to Lord Beaverbrook for a surprising $25,000.

1958
Duncan Macpherson, one of the first editorial cartoonists to enjoy wide celebrity as an artist, joins the Toronto Star. Bill Reid and Douglas Cranmer initiate a Northwest Coast cultural revival when the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia asks them to make copies of totem poles and other artifacts. Canada artistique et littéraire appears in Montréal. Gambit begins a five-year run in Toronto.

1959
Isaacs changes the Greenwich gallery to the Issacs Gallery and begins to gather around him some of the most creative, if anarchic, individuals in Toronto. Influential New York painter Barnett Newman is visiting artist at Emma Lake. Dorothy Cameron opens the Here and Now Gallery in Toronto. Molinari and others found a short-lived magazine in Montréal, Situations, and some of the group surrounding it become known as the Nouveaux plasticiens. The Royal Ontario Museum's Annual supersedes its Bulletin. The Brandon Art Club (founded 1907) is transformed into the Brandon Allied Arts Council.

1960s
Crafts and traditional handiwork enjoy a resurgence of popularity with the expansion of many community colleges.

1960
Saskatchewan sculptor Robert Murray moves to New York. Although approved for use as early as 1906, the crest of British Columbia is only now made an official part of the provincial flag. The first Canadian film festival to include fiction features is initiated in Montréal. The Structurist first appears in Saskatoon.

1961
Ronald Bloore arranges a show of five Regina painters affected by international encounters at the Emma Lake summer school. They soon exhibit across Canada together as the Regina Five. The Provincial Institute of Technology and Art is renamed the Alberta College of Art. The Association des sculpteurs du Québec begins its activities. Buchanan plays a role in the formation of the Industrial Design Council. The Canadian Eskimo Art Committee is established. Region first appears in London, Ontario.

1962
Greg Curnoe attracts attention to the vigorous regional art centre of London, Ontario, with the first happening, the first artist-run gallery (the Region Gallery), and the founding of the Nihilist Party, among other things. Clement Greenberg has considerable impact at the Emma Lake summer workshops. Art dealer Jack Pollock gives Ojibwa artist Norval Morrisseau a solo exhibition in Toronto, opening more perspectives to contemporary native artists. Michael Snow and Joyce Wieland begin to make names for themselves in New York.

1963
David Mirvish opens his influential modernist gallery in Toronto. The largest of the provincial arts funding organizations, the Ontario Arts Council, is founded. artmagazine (sic) begins publication. Cartoonist Robert LaPalme arranges a show of caricatures in Montréal that eventually evolves into the International Salon of Caricature and Cartoon. American modernist Kenneth Noland visits Emma Lake. Though he has been teaching since 1946, Alex Colville's first one-man show is only now held in the Banfer Gallery in New York. Ronald takes out American citizenship; ironically, his New York dealer gives him his last show. Manitoba's provincial flag is approved.

1963-65
Arthur Erickson and Geoffrey Massey are given a modernist carte blanche in their plans for Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C.

1964
Yves Robillard, Richard Lacroix and others form Fusion des arts, Montréal, French Canada's first alternative (artist-run) exhibition centre. Greenberg organizes a show of Post-Painterly Abstraction for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, including works by Lochhead, McKay and Jack Bush. American colour-field painter Jules Olitski visits Emma Lake. L'Atelier libre de recherches graphiques, the first Montréal printshop specializing in contemporary art, opens its doors. Prince Edward Island's provinical flag is formally adopted.

1964-68
Parkin, Bregman and Hamann collaborate with consulting architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe on the corporate International style Toronto Dominion Centre, Toronto. Affleck, Desbarats, et al. initiate the widespread Canadian phenomenon of indoor "cities" with Place Bonaventure, Montréal.

1964-78
The Department of Public Works establishes a policy that 1% of the budget of all government buildings must be spent on art.

1965
Finnish architect Viljo Revell collaborates with Parkin and Associates on the new Toronto City Hall. Queen Elizabeth II officially recognizes the new Canadian flag. (The old Red Ensign was never actually authorized as the national flag, although it had been approved for use on federal buildings outside Canada since 1924 and within Canada since 1945. Similarly, the maple leaf was never an official Canadian emblem, although it had been used in more or less that capacity since at least 1834.) Ontario's provincial flag, a variation on the Red Ensign, is officially approved within two months. The Associated Designers of Canada is formed to promote recognition of theatrical design. An exhibition entitled "The Responsive Eye," now generally associated with the origins of Op Art, opens in New York's Museum of Modern Art, including works by Molinari. In Regina, the Mackenzie Art Gallery publishes its first Newsletter.

1965-76
Rankin Inlet Pottery is one of the few native ceramic studios to meet with success.

1966
Canadian Collector first appears in Toronto. Twenty Cents magazine appears London, Ontario. The Musée du Québec publishes its first Bulletin. Iain and Ingrid Baxter form N.E. Thing Co. in British Columbia. The Professional Art Dealers Association is formed. The Art Gallery of Toronto is renamed the Art Gallery of Ontario. The Société des artistes professionels du Québec is formed. The first book illustrated by a native artist is Christie Harris's Raven's Cry, with designs by Bill Reid. Manitoba's provincial flag is officially proclaimed. The Ontario Folk Arts Council and the Professional Art Dealers Association are formed in Toronto.

1967
Alex Colville's designs appear on the special Centennial coinage. Moshe Safdie attracts international attention when his Master's thesis is realized as the innovative prefabrication experiment at Habitat, Montréal. The Baxters and others form Intermedia in Vancouver, opening up the new fields of performance, installation and video art. Canadian Art is renamed artscanada (sic). The Society of Co-Operative Artists reforms as the Society of Canadian Artists. Jack Chambers, Greg Curnoe, and other artists loosely affiliated with the regional developments in London initiate Canadian Artists Representation/Front des artistes canadiens (CAR/FAC), a decentralized union, as it were, to ensure artists' rights, exhibition fees, and the like. The Robert McLaughlin Gallery opens in Oshawa. Carl Dair designs Canada's first domestic typeface. James Borcoman begins a collection of contemporary international photography for the National Gallery of Canada. Foto Canada begins a short-lived run in Montréal, and another photography publication, Image, appears in Ottawa. The Department of National Defence initiates a Canadian Armed Forces Civilian Artist Program, with over twenty participants eventually travelling to Vietnam and the Middle East. Ronald's painted output slows as he becomes a radio and television personality, first for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and later for Toronto's CITY-TV. The Vancouver Art Gallery's "Arts of the Raven" show celebrates Northwest Coast Indian art as "art, high art, not ethnology." The Yukon adopts an official territorial flag. The Canadian Film Development Corporation is founded. The Canadian Eskimo Arts Council replaces the Canadian Eskimo Art Committee (1961).

Last reviewed shim11/3/2015 3:24:17 PM