Journal of Canadian Art History / Annales d'histoire de l'art canadien

Archive of past issues

Vol. XV:1 (1992)


La pratique architecturale de Claude Baillif

Marc Grignon

Claude Baillif (1635?–1698) est sans aucun doute l'architecte de la Nouvelle-France le plus connu aujourd'hui. On lui a attribué la conception ou la réalisation de nombreux bâtiments dans la ville de Québec, dont plusieurs maisons urbaines, l'aile de la Procure du Séminaire, l'église Notre-Dame-des-Vic-toires à la Place Royale, le palais épiscopal du second évêque de la Nouvelle-France, ainsi que la reconstruction de la cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-Québec. On n'a pas hésité à faire de lui le premier architecte d'importance au Canada. Il est, en outre, devenu le personnage central du roman de Jacques Folch-Ribas, La chair de pierre, selon lequel Baillif aurait obtenu les qualifications de maître-ma-çon et de maître-charpentier en France, avant son départ pour le Canada, et aurait connu les textes de Descartes et de Palladio en plus d'avoir fait le voyage d'Italie. Loin d'être une simple fantaisie historique, ce roman marque le sommet d'une réputation lentement construite par les historiens de l'art québécois.

translated summary:

The Architectural Practice Of Claude Baillif

The seventeenth-century builder Claude Baillif is an important figure in the history of architecture in New France, but his practice has not been clearly understood until today. For example, he is often called an architect without further qualification, and this simplification obscures his actual role in the production of buildings. This paper focuses on this role and examines Baillif's formation, his involvement in a series of contracts with various clients, and the changing fortunes of his career.

Aux origines du Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal

Jean Trudel

En 1972, l'Assemblée nationale du Québec adoptait une loi sur le Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal, qui allait permettre au gouvernement de nommer douze personnes au conseil d'administration et au Musée d'avoir accès à des subventions gouvernementales. Connu sous le nom de l'Art Association of Montreal depuis ses origines puis, en 1949, sous celui de Montreal Museum of Fine Arts et enfin, en 1969, sous le vocable Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal/Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, le plus ancien musée d'art au Canada allait connaître un tournant majeur dans son histoire: le début de sa francisation et de son passage du contrôle de l'élite anglophone à celui de l'élite francophone. Afin de mieux comprendre l'évolution de cette institution, il est nécessaire d'examiner le contexte et les circonstances de sa fondation à Montréal en 1860.

translated summary:

The Birth of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

The Founding of the Art Association of Montreal in 1860

The law regarding the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, passed in 1972 by the National Assembly of Quebec, marked a turning point in the history of this private English-speaking institution which was to become French-speaking and semi-public. To understand how the Museum developed, we must examine the context in which it was founded in 1860 under the name, the Art Association of Montreal.

Canadian Historical Murals 1895–1939

Material Progress, Morality and the "Disappearance" of Native People

Marylin Mckay

Between 1895 and 1939 many artists in English Canada responded to nationalist sentiment by producing murals which documented the material progress of Canadians of European ancestry. For these artists, as for most Canadians at this time, material progress would undoubtedly lead to national greatness, to elevated status for the new Dominion within the British Empire, and to important new roles in international affairs. Contemporary texts reflected this position …

Beauty My Mistress

Hector Charlesworth as Art Critic

Paul Walton

During fifty years as a journalist Hector Charlesworth (1872–1945) wrote on average only two or three reviews a year dealing with the visual arts, but his critical opinions have acquired an important place in the history of Canadian art. His limited engagement with the subject was determined in large part by the relative scarcity of art exhibitions in Toronto until about 1925, by his editorial duties and also by his greater commitment to writing about music and drama; however what he had to say was expressed with authority and forcefulness, especially when it came to the Group of Seven. For them he became the embodiment of reactionary opposition to new ways of painting the Canadian landscape. They counter-attacked with articles and letters to editors, and Arthur Lismer's well-known caricature presents their view of him as both sanctimonious and doltish. Eventually, when their success was assured, he could be dismissed with amused tolerance as "Old Heck," but their original feelings may have lingered to the end. When Charlesworth's daughter met A.Y. Jackson at the McMichael Collection in the 1960s she was rebuffed, and believed it was because of the old animosity toward her father.

Sources and Documents

The R.B. Angus Art Collection

Paintings, Watercolours and Drawings

Gloria Lesser

Scottish-born Richard Bladworth Angus (1831–1922) was a prominent and respected financier and one of the major promoters of the Canadian Pacific Railway. A central member of Montreal's economic oligarchy and social establishment, he began to donate to the Art Association of Montreal in 1879. Throughout his lifetime he gave princely gifts to numerous causes, confirming his status as both patriot and benefactor.

Early in his collecting activities, R. B. Angus may have purchased William Bartlett's popular steel-engravings of Canadian scenes in the English romantic tradition. Mounted in heavy frames, these prints likely graced the walls of his Ontario Avenue residence built in 1872. In the seventies, he was probably decorating that home with seascapes, Victorian interiors, landscapes and pastoral scenes of the British school. By the 1880's, Angus was collecting Hague School and Barbizon School landscapes, as well as French Realist and marine paintings.


By a Lady: Celebrating Three Centuries of Art by Canadian Women

Maria Tippett

Janice Helland

While Garland Publishing, New York is promising a dictionary of twentieth-century North American women artists that will include numerous Canadians, most compilations of biographical notes on women artists include few Canadians. Maria Tippett's recent publication, By a Lady: Celebrating Three Centuries of Art by Canadian Women, attempts to move these lesser-known women from the margins into the centre of an art-historical discourse. However, the book does not live up to Whitney Chadwick's recent attempt to make a comprehensive survey of European and North American women artists in Women, Art and Society, 1990. Unlike Tippett, Chadwick understands and acknowledges that it has become difficult, if not impossible, to compile large and sweeping generalizations about women artists and their production. Neither does Tippett's book honestly present itself as a dictionary of women artists, such as occurs with Charlotte Rubinstein's American Women Artists: From Early Indian Times to the Present (1982).

A Not Unsightly Building: University College and Its History

Douglas Richardson

Franklin Toker

Douglas Richardson's history of the central building of University College at the University of Toronto takes as its subject what may well be the most significant university building still standing from nineteenth-century Canada. I would guess, however, that I am not the only reader to be perplexed by this publication. For one thing, the authors seem to have little thought to a possible readership outside their own city: the world contains many other buildings called "university college," after all. I wonder if the parochial title A Not Unsightly Building: University College and Its History will not puzzle even a million or so of the residents of Toronto. It is not clear for which audience the book was crafted, either. From its size and from the inclusion of a dozen handsome colour views, this appears to be a standard coffee-table book, marketed for University of Toronto alumni. But it is far less interesting in a nostalgic way than those books tend to be, and much more data-filled with architectural questions.

"The Talented Intruder." Wyndham Lewis in Canada, 1939–1945

Catharine M. Mastin, Robert Stacey, Thomas Dilworth

C.J. Fox

This remarkable book-catalogue from the comprehensive 1992–93 exhibition of Wyndham Lewis's Canadian paintings will, among other things, rekindle the controversy over what Liz Wylie, writing in The Journal of Canadian Art History (XIV/2, 1991), referred to as "the machinery of the myth of the north" in Canadian art and the apotheosis of the Group of Seven it implied. Lewis, Canadian-born and self-exiled in Canada during World War II, is shown in "The Talented Intruder" to have been an enthusiast of both the "myth" and the Group. Indeed he wrote of the two with the sort of forthrightness that had made him far more enemies than friends back in Britain after his first eruption on the art scene there as Vorticist-in-chief in 1914.

The Crisis of Abstraction in Canada. the 1950s

Denise Leclerc

Christine Boyanoski

Denise Leclerc, the National Gallery's curator of Later Canadian Art, who organized the exibition The Crisis of Abstraction in Canada: The 1950s, purports to "pay tribute to the creativity manifested by Canadian artists in the course of a singularly rich and productive period in the artistic life of the nation," which has previously been neglected in the history of Canadian art. She attempts to redress the isolation that the artists themselves had felt during that time by bringing together work from across the country to effect a synthesis.