The Publishers and Editors of The Journal of Canadian Art History, with sorrow, note the passing of J. Russell Harper on November 17th, 1983. His loss will be felt keenly by all those individuals involved in the research, teaching, exhibition and publication of Canadian art history; also by his colleagues and former students fortunate enough to have known him personally and to have worked with him, and who shared his interest in, and passion for, the field.
Russell Harper will be remembered as a completely dedicated and thorough scholar who stressed, through his own example, the vital need to establish a clear and reliable base upon which to build the study of Canadian art history. Although, as the Chronological Bibliography that follows would indicate, Harper's interests could span many areas in the field, both in the geographical and historical sense, his own special interest lay in the topographical and narrative traditions of the early and mid-nineteenth century.
The Anglican church of St.Paul's is, in parts, the oldest building still standing in Halifax. It was founded in the same year as the city, 1749, and is often identified as the oldest Protestant church building in Canada. Located at the south end of the parade grounds of the then newly laid out city, St.Paul's still occupies a conspicuous position in downtown Halifax. It now faces the Victorian structure of the City Hall, across the formal flower beds of the Grand Parade, and still manages to assert a strong presence among the banal and brutal buildings of the twentieth century that surround and tower over it. Because of its position in the chronological and spatial framework of the city, it has continued to be the object of affection and interest.
There were few communities in British North America during the early decades of the nineteenth century that could claim a professional resident artist and teacher, and fewer still a landscape specialist. Transient painters continued to fill the demand for family memorabilia of the living and dead, while the majority of North American scenes were produced for foreign military personnel. William H. Eagar (1796–1839) resided in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, practising art professionally for only one decade, from 1829 to 1839. His influence can be judged factually by the success of his Academy and students, and speculatively by the vicarious appreciation pupils, associates and countrymen gained for the "new" art of landscape.
Tous les commentaires sur l'œuvre de Claude Tousignant signalent que ce peintre s'est intéressé, avant toute chose, au sort de la peinture et qu'il a recherché pour celle-ci un état très avancé d'abstraction et de pureté. Le commerce d'une telle idée n'est pas aisé et c'est sans doute pour cette raison qu'elle n'apparaît le plus souvent qu'au travers de détours et d'esquives. L'absolu que représente l'objectif de Claude Tousignant n'arrive pas à se matérialiser facilement et il se situe de manière tout aussi problématique dans une histoire de l'art qui ne s'alimente pas d'objectifs et d'idées, mais bien plutôt de mouvements, de courants et d'étiquettes. Si on désirait intégrer Tousignant à une quelconque histoire de l'art il fallait le raccrocher à un courant et lui trouver une rubrique. Il était hors de question de le classer sous celle des peintres philosophes puisque les classifications sont telles en histoire de l'art qu'elles reposent sur le contenu dénoté ou manifeste d'une oeuvre, et il n'a jamais été évident, si l'on s'en tient à ce point de vue, que Claude Tousignant ait un propos autre que simplement plastique. C'est ainsi qu'on a identifié Claude Tousignant, par exemple, aux "espaces dynamiques", à 1'"abstraction perceptuelle", à la peinture optique, à la couleur: on l'a donc identifié aux moyens qu'il prenait pour arriver à ses fins.
To Sculpt in Order to Paint
Claude Tousignant is best known as a painter. His name has been associated with the Montreal Plasticiens and he has always advocated abstract and geometric painting. His work spans a good twenty-five years and comprises a number of pieces which he himself calls' "sculptures." He uses the term to refer as much to reliefs and wood constructions he did in the fifties and sixties as to more recent works that are in fact free-standing paintings. Tousignant made this ambiguity between painting and sculpture the centre of an exhibition which brought together his sculpted work since 1956 at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in JanuaryFebruary 1982 under the title Sculptures.
This landmark exhibition catalogue accompanied a show of fifty-two works by Stanley Brunst at the Mendel Art Gallery (30 September–14 November, 1982). The artist worked for eighteen years in Saskatoon, from 1923–1941, but has almost been forgotten since his move to Vancouver in 1941. Recently a nephew of the late artist came forward with some three hundred previously unknown works, several of which were donated to the Mendel Art Gallery. This exhibition, then, marked the first time these paintings had been exhibited publicly and the catalogue presents an opportunity to set Brunst in an artistic context.
Alberta Rhythm: The Later Work of A. Y. Jackson is the first of a series of three exhibitions that Dennis Reid, Curator of Historical Canadian Art at the Art Gallery of Ontario, is organizing in order to bring to light the post-Group of Seven paintings of Jackson, Arthur Lismer, and Lawren Harris. It opened at the Art Gallery of Ontario in May 1982 and was later seen at the Glenbow Museum in Calgary. Everything in the exhibition was reproduced and documented in the accompanying catalogue and an excellent chronology of Jackson's activities from 1933 until his death in 1974 was provided by Jackson's niece, Naomi Jackson Groves. Carol Lowrey also prepared a bibliography of titles omitted from Reid's 1971 Bibliography of the Group of Seven. Both these inclusions are very useful but I would have liked to have seen the chronology expanded to cover Jackson's entire life. It is unfortunate that the bibliography, which goes back to 1917, was primarily designed to be used in conjunction with Reid's now difficult to find Bibliography.
There has recently been a strong revival of interest in Arthur Lismer, particularly in his post-Group of Seven period paintings which tended to be neglected during the artist's lifetime. The lurid, intestinal and claustrophobic qualities of many of them were not to contemporary taste and have only gained attention as our view of Canadian art has relaxed and expanded. Lismer was more of a painter than most of the Group. As if in reaction to the polished niceties of aesthetes, he laid pigment down with deliberate coarseness. However heavy and unsatisfactory the results sometimes were, they were always frank and, in the post-Group works in particular, seemed to develop from a form of deep, personal expressionism.