It has been commonly acknowledged in Canadian art history that in the beginning there was a school: a school of arts and crafts which was established by Bishop Laval (François-Xavier de Laval Montmorency), during the latter part of the seventeenth century, at Saint-Joachim, some thirty miles from Québec.
L'Abbé Amedée Gosselin, writing in L'Instruction au Canada sous le Régime Français (1635–1760), 1911, was the first to set forth in full detail a case for what he entitled "l'Ecole des Arts et Métiers de Saint-Joachim," dating the founding of the school at approximately 1668, and documenting as far as possible, the material of his research. Since the time of the publication of Gosselin's findings, the so-called "Ecole des Arts et Métiers de Saint-Joachim," as a country branch of the Seminary of Québec, has been accredited with providing the foundation for the establishment of the arts, and more particularly the art of woodcarving, in French Canada.
Robert Holmes (1861–1930), R.C.A. is best known for his studies of Canadian wild flowers, a considerable number of which are in the collection of the Art Gallery of Ontario. From 1891 to 1920 he was the drawing master at Upper Canada College and from 1912 to his death he taught Design and Applied Arts (and also gave a summer course on art history) at the Ontario College of Art. After his death a book-plate designed by Thoreau MacDonald was placed in a number of books now in the library of the Ontario College of Art. It represents a trillium and contains the following text: "In Memoriam Robert Holmes R.C.A. for many years a teacher in this college. This book is one of a number from the library of Mr. Holmes presented to the Ontario College of Art by his relatives June 1930".
No record has survived of the number of books given nor of their titles and therefore it is not known how many have been lost or discarded during the forty-five years which have elapsed since the gift was made. However, the book-plate makes it possible to reconstitute a portion (126 volumes) of Holmes's library which was donated to the College.
Frederic William Cumberland's considerable reputation as an architect rests largely on a few major monuments executed in the 1850's in Toronto: St-James' Anglican Cathedral, 1850–3, at King and Church Streets; University College, 1856–8, on the north side of the University of Toronto's center campus; and the central portion of Osgoode Hall, 1857–60, on Queen Street at University Avenue. These three alone demonstrate a highly eclectic and greatly gifted talent but Cumberland did outstanding work in many fields and deserves to be more widely known. His contribution includes other notable public and educational buildings, not only in Toronto but in such places as Hamilton/Whitby and Cayuga.
So far as we know, Cumberland designed only three churches, the subject of this paper, all for the Anglican Communion, all within the decade of the 1850's. Each was a particuliar ecclesiastical type, each was intended for a different situation, and hence each took a different form. In addition to the cathedral already mentioned, Cumberland's two other churches were the Church of the Ascension, 1850–1, on the corner of John Street and Forest Avenue in Hamilton, and the cemetery chapel of St. James the Less, 1857–61, at the entrance to St. James' Cemetery on Parliament Street in Toronto. The Church of the Ascension was designed for a small but thriving industrial city. St. James' Cathedral was designed for the Diocese of Toronto yet was required to answer the needs of both parish church and cathedral. St. James the Less was planned to serve both as a cemetery chapel and chapel-of-ease. Each represents a solution to a particular problem through the adaptation of British precedents. Central to the understanding of these churches is the rapid development of High Victorian forms in the service of the Anglican "science of ecclesiology".
Notes and Commentary
In 1884 William Brymner would finally terminate his much-interrupted student days in Europe and return to Canada in search of painting subjects and remunerative employment. He wanted, however, to spend the summer of that year somewhere in Europe working at his craft. His companions were to be F. W. Jackson, a north-of-England man and J. K. Lawson, a fellow student from Hamilton, Ontario. The three were interested in "good subjects" and were considering working in either Belgium or England.
According to Brymner's correspondence with his father, Jackson influenced them to try Yorkshire and the little village of Runswick Bay. This was and is a most picturesque fishing settlement perched at such a precarious angle on the side of the ocean that not too long after the turn of the century, a whole section disappeared into the North Sea.
The history of nineteenth century Canadian painting is still an enigma. The mystery could be solved by increased publication of written material and by more exhibitions pertaining to the period; however, first the paintings must be found. The locating of little-known pictures is one of the most difficult problems faced by the researcher, especially one studying the works of a single artist. A great number of nineteenth century Canadian paintings are still to be found in the homes of private individuals who own a limited number of art works, consider them as family heirlooms and rarely publicize their existence. Discovery of such isolated paintings may be the result of a methodical process or, as in the case of the work discussed here, pure chance.
The portrait of Elizabeth Campbell Mason by George Théodore Berthon is in a small family collection owned by the grand-daughter of the sitter. No mention of the portrait is cited in William Colgate's lengthy article on the artist and the owner believes the work was never loaned for public showing.
Leonard Hutchison, People's Artist: Ten Years of Struggle, 1930 to 1940 is the first in a series of monographs entitled Toward a People's Art to be published by the N C Press, the publishing arm of the Canadian Liberation Movement. Apparently emerging from Barry Lord's interpretation of Canadian art, The History of Painting in Canada, this monograph is to be followed by works on Jan Wyers, Miller Brittain and The Life of Norman Bethune in comic book format.
This book contains forty-four full page reproductions of Leonard Hutchison's wood-block prints, indud-ing five in sepia and black, as well as an introduction by Barry Lord and a short essay by the artist's daughter Lynn Hutchison Brown. Though occasionally too dark, the N C Press has done a fine job in reproducing the prints. It is especially pleasing to see a monograph dedicated to a Canadian graphic artist as the history of the graphic arts in Canada is too little known.
The deluxe book is one convention of a more elegant age that is still with us, though it serves a very different purpose than that originally intended by early publishers of the genre. Today it is not so much the mark of intelligent patronage by a discerning aristocracy as the vehicle by which scholarly publication is made palatable, and therefore possible, in a popular market. Russell Harper's A People's Art is a handsomely presented book (by the Univ. of Toronto Press's incomparable designer, Allan Fleming) in the large format (more than a foot square) that has become popular in recent years, while Mary Allodi's Canadian Watercolours in the Royal Ontario Museum is an equally sumptuous work (by the ROM's John Grant), slightly smaller in format (because oblong) but heftier as it consists of two volumes in a suitably sturdy slipcase (weighing in at more than seven pounds). Art historians whose subject matter has broad appeal, or whose material is given popular appeal by very attractive presentation, may be genuinely grateful when lavish and yet sympathetic publishing makes it possible to do justice to a subject through the medium that is pejoratively known as "the coffee-table book".