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

Archive of past issues

Vol. XXXII:1 (2011)


Martha Langford

Originality is perhaps an exhausted concept, but I would be derelict in my responsibilities as editor-in-chief of the Journal of Canadian Art History were I not to list the ‘firsts’ represented by this issue. First of these is the Journal’s recognition of a Canadian art historian through the commissioning of a series of articles honouring his contributions to the field. This model is, of course, the Festschrift, a collection of original essays published in celebration of a scholar whose work has not only informed, but inspired his colleagues and students. Being scholars, we write “in honour of …” but this serious tone does not mute the expressions of pride, pleasure, and just plain good luck at having in our midst a scholar of the intellectual quality and critical penetration of Francois-Marc Gagnon. A Festschrift normally marks a milestone in the career of the honouree. This one comes as Francois-Marc Gagnon completes his tenure as founding director of the Gail and Stephen A. Jarislowsky Institute for Studies in Canadian Art, having graciously accepted to continue his association with the Institute as its distinguished research fellow. We can expect more to celebrate as he completes two major publications and irrepressibly, as we know him, invests himself further in the work he loves.

Guest Editorial

Honouring Françoise-Marc Gagnon

Sandra Paikowsky

This issue of the Journal of Canadian Art History and another to be published in 2012 celebrate the career of the eminent art historian Francois-Marc Gagnon. The texts constitute a Festschrift in honour of his direct and indirect contributions to Canadian art history, whether through his own numerous writings or through the work produced by two generations of Canadian scholars, who have been inspired by the brilliance of his ideas and the relentlessness of his devotion to our discipline. For many of us, he is and will always remain the very image of a mentor. It is impossible to satisfactorily summarize his professional career in Canadian art history that began over forty years ago. A mere overview of Francois-Marc’s accomplishments – his teaching in Montreal, Quebec, Ottawa and Israel, his public lectures and scholarly conferences nationally and internationally, his awards and prizes, his many advisory positions, his curatorial work, and his wide-ranging publications – would constitute a substantial text on its own. The second part of this Festschrift, however, will make one contribution to his unwritten biography by publishing a detailed bibliography of his almost three hundred texts, from his early art reviews in Montreal newspapers to his new books that will have appeared by 2012.


Autobiographie critique et analyse de l'œuvre

François-Marc Gagnon

Je suis né dans la potion magique, pour ainsi dire. Mes parents avaient habité à Paris pendant trois ans, où mon père, Maurice Gagnon (1904–1956), avait fait ses études d'histoire de l'art en Sorbonne, où il avait eu Henri Focillon pour maître. Sa carrière, cependant, l'avait orienté plutôt vers la critique d'art que vers l'histoire de l'art proprement dite. Je suis né le 18 juin 1935 et notre famille est revenue à Montréal trois semaines plus tard. Mais, en même temps, c'est ce qui explique qu'en famille, nous étions en contact avec « l'art vivant ». J'ai raconté ailleurs que mon premier souvenir d'enfance nous amenait chez les Borduas. Nous avions hébergé chez nous Fernand Léger (1881–1955), lors de son passage à Montréal en 1944. Une nuit, Charles Daudelin (1920–2001) avait dessiné deux immenses personnages sur le mur de notre salon. Je me souviens encore de Louis Muhlstock (1904–2001) nous faisant le truc du bras détaché, pour notre plus grande frayeur à nous les enfants. Éloi de Grandmont était un habitué de la maison.

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Critical Autobiography and Analysis of the Work

I truly must have been born under a lucky star. My parents had been living in Paris for three years where my father Maurice Gagnon (1904–1956), was studying art history at the Sorbonne, with Henri Focillon and other towering figures, before he turned towards art criticism. I was born on 18 June 1935 and our family returned to Montreal just three weeks later. My direct connection to modern art – "living" art, as we called it – was in large measure due to my father. As I have recounted elsewhere, my earliest childhood memory involves visiting the Borduas family. When Fernand Léger (1881–1955) came from France to Montreal in 1944, we hosted him; and the poet Éloi de Grandmont was a frequent visitor as well. One night, Charles Daudelin (1920–2001) drew two immense figures on our living room wall. Louis Muhlstock (1904–2001) came too; I still remember him scaring us kids silly with his severed arm trick.


Mortgaging Canada

George Reid's Mortgaging the Homestead and the 1891 Federal Election

Charles C. Hill

In the late 1880s and early 1890s the Toronto artist George Reid (1860–1947) painted a number of canvases inspired by memories of his childhood. Born in 1860 in Wingham, Ontario near Goderich on Lake Huron, Reid had worked on the newly cleared farms of his father Adam Reid and maternal uncle James Agnew, familiarizing himself with all aspects of rural life. Suspicious of his son's interest in art, Adam Reid tried to direct him towards a career in architecture but in 1879, George began his studies with Charlotte Schreiber (1834–1922) and Robert Harris (1849–1919) at the Ontario School of Art in Toronto. Three years later he moved on to study with Thomas Eakins (1844– 1916) at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia where he met his future wife, a fellow art student Mary Hiester (1854–1921) of Reading, Pennsylvania. Married in May 1885, that summer the couple travelled through France, Spain, and Italy, settling in Toronto on their return. It was in the summer of 1886, on a visit to the family homestead at Wingham that Reid began his first farm painting, Call to Dinner (McMaster University Art Gallery), a large canvas of his sister Susan against a landscape bathed in bright sunlight that recalls Winslow Homer's well-known painting The Dinner Horn of 1870 (National Gallery of Art, Washington).

La Rue Saint-Denis, au cœur de la modernité francophone montréalaise

Esther Trépanier

Réalisée en 1927, cette vue de la rue Saint-Denis, depuis le sud de la rue Sainte-Catherine, constitue un beau témoignage de l'habileté du peintre Adrien Hébert (1890–1967) à marier les diverses tonalités de gris aux autres couleurs de la ville, à en traduire les reflets et les jeux de lumière. À l'instar de ses nombreuses scènes de rue, celle-ci multiplie les motifs d'une vie urbaine contemporaine, les tramways, les automobiles, les passants, les panneaux publicitaires, même si, dans le cas présent, ces derniers troquent leurs insignes contre de simples surfaces de couleur. Mais, au delà de la contemporanéité de ces motifs, la présence, presqu'au centre du tableau, du clocher de l'église Saint-Jacques, qui fut la première cathédrale de Montréal, atteste d'une histoire religieuse, mais aussi économique et culturelle du Montréal francophone qui doit beaucoup aux sulpiciens lesquels, on le verra, étaient encore très présents dans le paysage du quartier évoqué par l'artiste.

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La Rue Saint-Denis, the Heart of Francophone Modernity in Montreal

Formal analysis of the painting La Rue Saint-Denis by Adrien Hébert (1890–1967), in tandem with the social, cultural and political histories of Quebec, allow us to explore the symbolic significance of the picture's subject matter. The thematic content of Hébert's image is, in fact, the focus of this discussion. In 1927, when he painted La Rue Saint-Denis, this bustling street was the nexus of French Canadian modernity in Montreal. The large, vertical format of the work is unusual for the artist, whose horizontal street scenes rarely exceeded eighty centimetres in height. Because of its geographical location and its social context, Hébert's contemporary urban view, more than merely anecdotal, reflects the numerous changes inherent in the modernization of francophone Quebec during the late 1920s. Parts of Saint-Denis Street and its Quartier Latin were at the hub of Montreal's transformation into a modern city. Yet amid the signs of contemporary city life depicted by the painter – streetcars, automobiles and billboards – rises the spire of Saint-Jacques Church (the seat of Montreal's first archdiocese), an affirmation of the powerful presence of religion.

Lawren S. Harris's Self-Portrait

Critical Milestone on a Remarkable Human Journey

Dennis Reid

A unique Self-Portrait by Lawren Harris (1885–1970) has received very little attention over the years, perhaps with reason. There is no record of Harris ever having made reference to it, and it was not included in either of the two major retrospectives of his work organized during his lifetime. It has been publicly exhibited only twice; at the Arts & Letters Club in Toronto in 1932 right after it was painted, and in an exhibition devoted to his abstract paintings that was organized by the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, shown there in the fall of 1985 and subsequently in Vancouver, Winnipeg, and Halifax. It was actually painted for the Arts & Letters Club exhibition, one of the events organized for the Monthly Dinner of Saturday, 27 February 1932; a letter to members a few days before announced that a "gallery of portraits of the artist members by themselves will be formally opened." Given that context, it is possible that it was not meant to be taken entirely seriously, and indeed, the first Harris scholar to identify the work refers to it as "a satirical likeness which emphasizes his resemblance to Charlie Chaplin." Charles S. Band, the prominent Toronto collector and a friend of Harris's, acquired the work either from the exhibition or shortly after. It remained with the Band family until recently donated to the Art Gallery of Ontario. Charles and his wife, Helen, seem not to have displayed the work often in their home. When I first viewed it in 1979 it was in their attic, propped up against a box close to and directly facing a west window. Mrs. Band explained that Harris had advised this treatment to diminish the tendency of the white paint to yellow.

Quitter le maître, accomplir sa différence

les voies divergentes de Borduas et Alleyn

Gilles Lapointe

Fidèle à une tradition déjà riche, notre histoire de l'art offre quelques exemples privilégiés de rapports étroits entre maître et élève. La nature singulièrement complexe de ces relations, qui embrassent une gamme étendue de sentiments, pouvant aller du respect et de la vénération la plus entière, au doute, au détachement, au rejet et à la trahison, ne cesse de fasciner. À la figure souveraine du maître, synonyme d'ouverture et d'accueil de l'autre, dépositaire d'un savoir ou d'un savoir-faire exceptionnel qu'il a dessein de perpétuer et de transmettre, répond la soif de connaissance sans borne et la curiosité de l'élève, mis en présence d'un modèle à imiter dont il lui incombe de satisfaire les attentes. Fondée sur une considération mutuelle et une confiance réciproque, cette relation maître-élève met néanmoins chaque fois en jeu un rapport de force bien réel, une forte émulation régissant la relation. On sait à quels prolongements l'étude de ces questions peut prêter dans une perspective psychanalytique. L'obéissance de l'élève doit-elle prendre la forme d'une acceptation inconditionnelle ? Jusqu'où peut s'exercer le contrôle du maître ? Quand la soumission à la loi du maître devient-elle pour l'élève synonyme d'abdication de soi ou d'aliénation ? La nécessaire émancipation de l'élève répond-elle simplement à la loi psychique inhérente à toute relation maître-élève, et jusqu'où l'autorité du maître peut-elle être mise à l'épreuve ? Qu'arrive-t-il lorsque l'équilibre « naturel » se renverse, que l'élève se met à parler, à agir en maître ? Dans une perspective plus large, ce modèle d'apprentissage traditionnel hérité du Moyen Âge est-il compatible avec l'émergence de la modernité ? Sa contestation serait-elle à mettre en rapport avec la critique moderne de l'autorité ? Pour discuter de ces questions et montrer les voies divergentes que peuvent prendre les réponses, j'ai choisi d'orienter ma réflexion autour de deux cas de figure : dans un premier temps, je me propose d'examiner de près la nature des échanges entre Paul-Émile Borduas (1905–1960) et Ozias Leduc (1864–1955) durant le voyage que fit le Quitter le maître, accomplir sa différence : les voies divergentes de Borduas et Alleyn premier en France de 1928 à 1930. Anticipant de vingt ans les événements à venir, on y voit poindre déjà un antagonisme qui sépare Borduas et Leduc, différend qui connaîtra son dénouement durant la période de crise qui entoure la publication de Refus global et qui conduira Borduas, en 1948, à désigner Leduc parmi les ultimes « valeurs sentimentales » qui doivent être sacrifiées.

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Moving on from the Master

The Divergent Paths of Borduas and Alleyn

A study of the relationship between master and pupil throws light on the influence of the one upon the other. Such complex interactions possess, naturally enough, a professional dimension but also an emotional, personal one. Some last a lifetime and evolve into veneration; others end in rejection and betrayal. This text presents a study of two fascinating but very different relationships – between Ozias Leduc (1864–1955) and his apprentice Paul-Émile Borduas (1905–1960), and that of Jean Paul Lemieux (1904–1990) and his pupil Edmund Alleyn (1931–2004) during the period when Quebec was moving towards modernity.