AT THE GOING DOWN OF THE SUN AND IN THE MORNING WE WILL REMEMBER THEM
These words from Laurence Binyon's 1914 poem For the Fallen adorn war memorials throughout the Commonwealth and they are carved as the gilded epitaph on the wall of the University of New Brunswick's Memorial Student Centre in the province's capital city of Fredericton. Although the poetry has lost none of its meaning, paradoxically, the mid-twentieth century campus building seems to have been forgotten. There is a strong appreciation for traditional architecture in New Brunswick and anything outside the realm of historical convention has become suspect; significant post-War buildings are met with disdain, ignorance and in many cases, demolition. However, a number of noteworthy structures were designed in Fredericton during the 1950s and 1960s and they observe a purity of form and quality of material that is remarkable for the time and place. Their inherent modernist principles evoke the human spirit and notions of idealism through a visionary architectural framework that is both clear and austere. Perhaps it is these very qualities that are largely responsible for the structures' lack of recognition in a municipality rich in vernacular charm and Victorian ornament.
Tucked away in the vaults of Charlottetown's Confederation Centre Art Gallery are sixty-nine objects that symbolize the failed dream of a national craft: museum. Collected between 1965 and 1967 by Moncrieff Williamson, then director of the gallery, these pieces represent what he considered to be the best of contemporary Canadian craft. The objects were among the over one hundred and seventy works displayed in the Canadian Fine Crafts exhibition that Williamson curated for the Canadian pavilion at Expo '67 in Montreal. The fine craft works in the exhibition were a careful blend of utilitarian function, playful representation, and artistic conceptualization. For example Jack Sures' stoneware bowl of 1967 is minimally glazed, with a practical rim and footed bottom and one can easily imagine the feel of the grainy clay body as the bowl is placed on a dinner table. In contrast to the earnestness of such functional ware, Williamson also chose lighthearted pieces depicting recognizable figures and motifs. Elain Genser's The General, 1967, a fabric hanging adorned with medals, epaulettes, and gold tassels, can be read as a play on authoritarian military images as the well-decorated general is reduced to a cartoon character. Williamson was also cognizant that craft extended well beyond the utilitarian or playful, and he was careful to feature a number of individuals who worked in a conceptual manner. One of the most famous textile artists of the day was Charlotte Lindgren, whose hanging Winter Tree, 1967 stood out from many of the other objects on display at Canadian Fine Crafts. Created from wood and lead wire, the piece is composed of a complex single woven form that emerges from a tight circular base and becomes a series of loose threads suggesting the branches of a tree.
Entre les méandres du nationalisme et la construction de la figure de l'artiste maudit Cet essai veut s'attaquer au mythe, encore partagé par plusieurs, selon lequel Marc-Aurèle Fortin aurait été un artiste méconnu de ses contemporains. Par l'analyse du corpus de près de 150 textes parus au Québec entre 1915 et 1969 et qui font référence à son travail, j'explore, en suivant le cours chronologique, les méandres d'un accueil critique très riche qui témoigne que son œuvre a été au cœur de débats esthétiques et idéologiques qui ont marqué la scène artistique québécoise de son temps.
Marc-Aurèle Fortin'S Critical Reception
From the Complexities of Nationalism to the Construction of the Artist as "Maudit"
This article debunks the myth that Marc-Aurèle Fortin was ignored by his contemporaries and demonstrates instead that throughout his lifetime, his work was a focal point for various ideological and aesthetic issues within the Quebec art milieu. To accomplish this reevaluation, I have analyzed approximately one hundred and fifty texts from 1915 to 1969 that contain references to Fortin. The first part of the article deals with the critical approach to his work shown in about fifty exhibitions from 1915 to 1941, a period when the concept of aesthetic modernity was being defined in Quebec. From the very beginning, critics commented on his bold and personal style, and such attention to his work continued to grow. By the end of the 1920s, Fortin had become a significant representative in Quebec's modernist art community. This is confirmed by the chapter devoted to him in Jean Chauvin's Ateliers of 1928. The author raised two fundamental questions: the modernity that he sees in Fortin's work (something totally denied by the artist), and the issue of nationalism in art, which Fortin claimed as his inspiration. These two themes were essential to the aesthetic debates of the era.
The interrelationship of image and text is a particularly dominant characteristic of early Canadian visual culture whose roots lie deep within European precedents. It is paradoxically a daunting sphere of study: at once as distant, vast and deep as the ocean between them, and yet as personal, intimate and luminous as the individuals whose work bridges these cultural worlds. The expressive word/image communications from the New World were motivated by, created by, and directed primarily to Europeans either as official reportage or informally as personal self-reflection in written journals or correspondence. In his 1625 Essays Francis Bacon encouraged travelers abroad to "let diaries, therefore, be brought into use." The coincidental advent of New World exploration and the invention of the printing press heralded an era of global communication in the form of the printed, illustrated book that inaugurated published travel literature. Most of the images were created by amateurs for whom drawing and painting was not a primary ambition. Amateur sketching and watercolour painting were practiced by members of the upper, educated classes and later came to be regarded as social accomplishments for men and women of the European bourgeoisie.
Since the 1976 opening of the much discussed exhibition, Women Artists 1550–1950, in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the publication and re-publication of Anne Sutherland Harris and Linda Nochlin's accompanying catalogue, numerous exhibitions have featured female artists. One of the most exciting of these was the Liverpool exhibition Women's Works (1988) organised by Jane Sellars. Sellars selected about seventy works of art by women artists from the permanent collections of the National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside — a conglomerate of a major public gallery, the Walker Art Gallery, and two private collections, the Lady Lever Art Gallery and Sudley Art Gallery. The result was a comprehensive analysis of about one hundred and fifty years of exhibiting and collecting of women's art in one location. This kind of examination provides insightful material about a relatively cohesive body of work and, in addition, offers a relatively precise picture of what exactly was purchased and displayed during specific time periods. As Sellars contends, "although only 13 paintings by women were bought between 1877 and 1900, as a group they present an outstandingly good representation of the kind of art activity in which women were engaged at the time" (p. 15)
In the wake of the 1995 Quebec Referendum, Canadian culture continues to be positioned in relation to a perceived imperialism based in the United States, particularly by those interested in defending and defining a uniquely Canadian identity. In 2004, vice-president of Radio-Canada, Sylvain Lafrance, commented that when the CBC/Radio Canada was founded in 1936, this "was in keeping with a necessary shift toward cultural protectionism. In view of the proximity of the United States, a powerful country with whom we share one of the longest borders in the world, Canadians felt the need to create a strong radio broadcasting industry capable of describing and defending the distinct character of our country." Foreshadowing a much-publicized labour dispute by CBC/Radio-Canada employees in which the very notion of a broadcasting company's ability to describe and defend any sense of universal nationality was called into question, Lafirance's words also point to larger debates surrounding a complex dichotomy that Jeffrey Brison describes as "American wealth and Canadian culture." Cultural historians often situate such debates in relation to what many have termed the "Crisis of Canada;" this terrain involves unraveling the complex myths and symbols that once defined the Canadian nation state. It is now well established that the concept of a bi-national, multicultural, liberal, egalitarian Canada has dissipated.