In the 1978 Art Gallery of Ontario catalogue dealing with the urban scenes and wilderness landscapes of Lawren S. Harris, Jeremy Adamson wrote that the artist's "social class and personal wealth, along with his interest in esoteric thought [Theosophy] militated against the politicisation of his artistic vision." This position had been expressed by the artist in writings that post-date his 1924 membership in the Toronto Theosophical Society …
L'étude que j'ai effectuée sur l'émergence des œuvres murales publiques non commémoratives au Québec de 1950 à 1962 a démontré que cette émergence s'inscrit dans un contexte de modernisation de la société québécoise et de son architecture. Le développement démographique et celui des divers secteurs d'activité socio-économique dans les années cinquante au Québec a suscité une construction effervescente de bâtiments, surtout dans les banlieues montréalaises. Cela a permis à des architectes modernes de renouveler l'esthétique architecturale et de faire appel à des artistes qui défendaient, eux aussi, une vision moderne de l'art, afin d'intégrer des œuvres murales aux édifices qu'ils érigeaient.
Modernist Public Art in Québec Under Premier Maurice Duplessis
Non-commemorative mural art
This study shows that between 1950 and 1962 in Québec, non-commemorative public mural art was integrated into new buildings being constructed to respond to the growing needs of a changing society. The modernization of society in the post-war era was characterized by a demographic explosion that favoured urbanization and the development of suburbs, especially in the greater Montréal area, and by economic growth, particularly in the service industry. It is precisely within the private and public sectors of the service industry, located in Montréal and its suburbs, that private sector entrepreneurs and civil servants embraced the integration of mural art into the architectural context, often choosing to work with architects whose aesthetic had been redefined by modernism. At least forty architectural firms and a handful of decorators, collaborating with at least twenty-seven artists, four of whom were women, were involved in the production of modernist murals. These artists produced more than one hundred works, the majority of which espoused geometric abstraction, a reflection of the current avant-garde aesthetic. The murals used a variety of techniques and materials. Mosaic, ceramics and sculpture (relief and claustra), were especially favoured, while painting, stained glass and tapestry were used less frequently. Materials were varied and numerous: wood, stone, terra cotta, glass, brick, metals (brass, aluminum and copper), acrylic, fibreglass and concrete.
The son of Scottish immigrants, David Brown Milne (1882–1953) grew up in rural Bruce Peninsula near the shores of Georgian Bay. As a country school teacher, he began taking correspondence courses from a New York art school. In 1903 he decided to attend the school full-time and pursue a career in illustrating. Soon Milne set his sights higher and began a serious effort to launch himself into the tumultuous New York art scene, firmly aligning himself with the Modernists who were inspired by the new French art. The peak of his early career came in 1913 when his work was exhibited at the famed Armory Show, which introduced Modern art to a wide North-American audience. But the wear and tear of this life took its toll and in 1916 Milne retreated to the countryside of Boston Corners, N.Y. This set the pattern for the remainder of his life, in which economic considerations and his preference for subjects in nature kept him away from cities. Except for a stint in the Canadian Army in 1918-19 when he served as a war artist and a brief sojourn in Ottawa, Milne remained in the United States until 1929. Returning to Canada that year, he lived mostly in the small Ontario villages, with Toronto as the focus of his activities within the Canadian art world. Milne's breakthrough came in 1934 when, desperate for money, he offered his entire artistic output to Vincent Massey.
Ozias Leduc was the pre-eminent church decorator in Québec in this century. During a distinguished career that spanned seven decades he carried out over thirty commissions in and beyond Québec. However, Leduc's religious art is the least known and appreciated aspect of his body of work, as Lévis Martin notes with regret in this recent publication. Only two of the many academic studies on Leduc since the 1970s have concentrated specifically on his church commissions. Laurier Lacroix wrote his Master's thesis (Université de Montréal, 1973) on the murals in the chapel of the Bishop's Palace in Sherbrooke; Craig Stirling followed with his thesis (Concordia University, 1981) on the interior of the Church of Saint-Hilaire, a study which was published in 1985.
Evelyn McMann had many friends across Canada. Some of us were fortunate enough to personally know her ready wit and wry smile. Those who never met her recognize her as the author of three outstanding research tools; Royal Canadian Academy of Arts: exhibitions and members 1880–1979 (University of Toronto Press, 1981), Canadian Who's Who 1898–1984 (University of Toronto Press, 1984), and Montreal Museum of Fine Arts formerly the Art Association of Montreal Spring Exhibitions 1880–1979 (University of Toronto Press, 1991). These publications presented a new standard of scholarly reference material on Canadian art; art historians, librarians, curators and art dealers welcomed their scope, precision and accuracy.
Evelyn McMann avait beaucoup d'amis à travers le Canada. Quelques-uns d'entre nous ont eu la bonne fortune de la connaître personnellement et d'apprécier son sens de l'humour et son sourire ironique. Ceux qui ne l'ont jamais rencontrée reconnaissent en elle l'auteur de trois instruments de recherche remarquables: Royal Canadian Academy of Arts: exhibitions and members 1880–1979, University of Toronto Press, 1981, Canadian Who's Who 1898–1984, University of Toronto Press, 1984, et Montreal Museum of Fine Arts formerly the Art Association of Montreal Spring Exhibitions 1880–1979, University of Toronto Press, 1991. Ces ouvrages présentaient de nouvelles normes de références pour les recherches sur l'art canadien. Historiens de l'art, bibliothécaires, conservateurs et marchands d'art saluent leur envergure, leur précision et leur exactitude.