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ABA BA YEFSKY and HUMPHREY N. MILNES Fields of Force in Canadian Art, 1930 to 1980 Most of what is important in Canadian art has been achieved within living memory, and this fact underscores how young and fragile are the creative traditions of this country. Until the turn of this century Canada got along very well with other people's achievements so far as art was concernedEnglish , French, European, and latterly American. This was true even of the artists themselves, whose paintings were traditional in subject and technique and were intended to recall other times and places - some European in spirit like Krieghoff, some English like Homer Watson and Paul Peel. In the early twentieth century some of our best painting was done by : anadian artists living abroad for extended periods such as James Wilson Vlorrice and Maurice Cullen, or else by Englishmen such as Arthur jsmer and Frederick Varley, who had no sooner moved from Yorkshire '0 Canada than they were thrown into a dazzling whirlpool of artistic nspiration. They met Tom Thomson, the outdoorsman turned painter, md were swept away by his vision of the wild beauty of the Laurentian :hield. Their enthusiasm was shared by J.E.H. Macdonald, A.Y. Jackson, .awren Harris, and others soon to be famous or infamous. There is no loubt that Canadians only learned of the visual force and grandeur of heir country from the works of Tom Thomson and this collection of ike-minded enthusiasts who came to be known as the Group of Seven. '.fter devoting themselves to the landscapes of Muskoka and Georgian lay, they moved on, by canoe or special trains, to the north shore of Lake ;uperior, and from there westward to the Rockies and the Pacific, east to 2uebec and the Maritimes, and north into the Arctic cirele, following an nplicit imperative to encompass the whole face of the country visually. Ironically the Group of Seven had just established itself as the centre- ,iece of Canadian art by '932, the year of its formal dissolution. But it onsciously made way for a more broadly based art organization which ,eluded younger artists and the newer art forms. Critical attitudes tolards the group had run the gamut from acelamation to arch hostility, ut recognition of its vitality and relevance on a national scale was not mg in coming. The group laid the basis for the first real national awareess of art, offering Canadians a way of viewing their country in other ,an traditional European terms. 136 ABA BAYEFSKY and HUMPHREY N. MILNES Although the Group ofSeven was disbanded in 1932, the year ofJ.E.H. Macdonald's death, it revived again, phoenix-like, as the Canadian Group of Painters. There were originally 28 members in this new body, including eight members of the Group of Seven! Among the new members were Emily Carr, Prudence Heward, Will Ogilvie, and Bertram Brooker. The new group rapidly expanded to include other young artists such as Paraskeva Clark, Andre Bieler, Carl Schaefer, David Milne, and Fritz Brandtner. By 1942 Paul-Emile Borduas, Alfred Pellan, and a host of others exhibited regularly with the Canadian Group, and new members and new exhibitors continued to participate in the group's exhibitions until its dissolution in 1969. One effect of this expanding new group was to define more clearly the roles of the older art societies. The Royal Canadian Academy defended the traditional, while the Ontario Society of Art was regional and solicitous of the needs of the provincial art community. The Canadian Society of Graphic Art, the Canadian Society of Painters in Watercolour, the Canadian Society of Painter Etchers, and the Sculpture Society of Canada were media societies with limited but important technical horizons. In the thirties it was possible for an artist to belong to more than one art society and many did so without qualms of conscience, except in the case of the Academy and the Canadian Group of Painters: for some years mosll artists felt it necessary to identify exclusively with one or the other oil these societies. Even this division disappeared as the stylistic differencesl between the societies diminished. But this was the decade of the depres sion and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 135-145
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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