During a meeting of the Ontario Society of Artists in March of 1885, the members present voted that the thanks of the Society be expressed officially to certain artists who had contributed paintings to the current Art Loan Exhibition. Further to this expression of gratitude was the decision to grant to these individuals the privilege of honorary membership in the Society.
Outstanding among the eight artists named was the American painter Thomas Eakins (1844–1916). Indeed Eakins's participation in the 1885 Art Loan Exhibition, sponsored by the Ontario Society of Artists, and the honour of membership subsequently bestowed upon him, marks a significant confluence of the Canadian and American artistic communities. Greatly respected by the several young Canadian artists who had been his students, Eakins was also admired by older Canadian artists who shared many of the same aesthetic and stylistic sources and principles. Eakins, in turn, demonstrated his respect for his Canadian associates by selecting works of deep personal significance for the Toronto exhibition.
During the Second World War, after almost forty years of selecting his subjects from his surroundings, David Milne began to invent idiosyncratic subject matter for his paintings. The resulting pictures, mostly water-colours, are often called "fantasy paintings" in the literature and they are fascinating for their complexity of thought, their humour and their resistance to interpretation. They are, overall, syntheses of elements from both the modern world and the past, and many have Christian allusions. They reflect the fact that Milne, although not involved in organized religion, had been raised as a Christian and over the years had become a dedicated reader of the Bible.
Parmi les nombreux sujets connus de l'art religieux québécois du début du XIXe siècle, il en est un qui pose un problème à la fois complexe et fascinant. Les tableaux, gravures et même sculptures représentant La mort de saint François Xavier forment un ensemble dont l'ampleur et la diffusion constituent un cas particulier dans l'art au Québec. La plupart de ces œuvres (plus d'une vingtaine) furent produites dans un laps de temps relativement court, soit une quarantaine d'années entre 1800 et 1840. Comment expliquer cette popularité et surtout quelle en est la signification? Ce thème est probablement relié à une dévotion qui lui donne son sens: voilà l'hypothèse de départ. En analysant les deux aspects de cette manifestation, il sera possible de véritablement toucher à sa signification intrinsèque ou contenu tel que défini par Erwin Panofsky. Ainsi le cadre strict de l'analyse plastique et historique (analyse iconographique) sera élargi afin d'englober les symptômes culturels qui s'expriment à travers l'œuvre d'art (interprétation iconologique). Pour y arriver, il faudra établir les données relatives à la bonne compréhension du sujet représenté, de son imagerie, de son culte, mais également du contexte historique de l'époque étudiée.
Dissemination of an Iconographical Theme in the Artwork of Quebec
The Death of Saint-François Xavier
Twenty-six works of art on the theme of The Death of Saint-François Xavier have been recorded in the province of Quebec: nineteen paintings, four engravings, one polychrome high relief, one drawing and one fresco. Using specific iconographical criteria, these works have been grouped into three distinct series. As well, the original models for two series have been rediscovered. Problems of attribution, dating and provenance have also been researched and solved.
With memories of images taken in the fifties and sixties hovering behind my eyes, I looked at the catalogue of photographs by Michel Lambeth. There was rarely the swiftness of a Cartier Bresson, the aggressiveness of a William Klein, the insatiable humour of a Robert Doisneau, the social conscience of a Helen Levitt, the critique of a Robert Frank. But is it fair to compare Lambeth to others? He had his own vision. However, context is important: visual, social, political and personal contexts. Lambeth was part of a generation which had been at war. They saw and experienced events which we can only imagine and they survived. A diary entry for 1943 reads:
Come along with me and I will fill your ears with the clamorous sounds of war. You don't look as if you have ever been involved with the worst of the four horsemen, you don't seem to have that green mustard tinge pressed into the creases round your mouth. Let me tell you something about the development of gangrene in festered limbs. You say that you have never seen a dead man? Not in your whole life? Well let me tell you what happens when a man steps on a mine. You have never seen that either? Come along then, you have a lot to learn and I am going to write it all down; you'll know about it then.