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


Vol. XIV:2 (1992)


Les jésuites du Québec et la diffusion de l'art chrétien
l'église du Gesù de Montréal, une nouvelle perspective

translated summary:
Quebec Jesuits and the Dissemination of Christian Art
Montreal Gesù Church, a New Approach

Taken from a chapter of my doctoral thesis, this article was originally presented at the 1988 annual meeting of the University Art Association of Canada. Based on a case study of the Jesuits and the wall decorations of Montreal's Gesù church, this article explores an art that Gérard Morisset and a majority of art historians considered cold, rigid, tedious, maudlin and commercial; an art they referred to as "saint-sulpice." Rather than deal with the question through modern and contemporary attitudes, I have preferred to examine these works in the context of the predominent ideologies of the time of their production.

À Kingston, il y a 50 ans, la conférence des artistes canadiens
Débat sur la place de l'artiste dans la société

translated summary:
Fifty Years Ago at Kingston, the Conference of Canadian Artists
A Debate on the Artist's Place in Society

The year 1991 marked the 50th anniversary of the Conference of Canadian Artists which was held June 26-29, 1941, at Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario. To recall this event – today referred to as the Kingston Conference – it is expedient to identify the major points of this meeting: by whom and why was it planned and organised? what were its objectives, its program and its proceedings? who were the participants? and, finally, what were the main issues discussed and what resolutions were adopted at the Conference?

Qualified Democratization
The Museum Audioguide

The audioguide, that chattering box that members of the "general public" strap on for enlightenment, is becoming increasingly integral to the temporary art-museum exhibition, or more specifically to the "blockbuster." Audience is the object here: the bigger the better. Aggressive advertising campaigns and other marketing practices work hard to ensure that the non-habitual, art-viewing public arrives at the museum's ticket counter. Once the uninitiated are inside, the audioguide takes over, telling them about what they are seeing. Historians, artists, critics and art administrators, the educated, unconditionally dismiss such popularizing tools as too elementary. Yet, their popular presence seems to warrant more than a look of disdain.

Notes and Commentary

Lucius R. O'Brien
A Victorian in North America

In the historiography of Canadian art, Lucius R. O'Brien (1832–99) has been noted more for his role in the promotion of cultural life than for his painting. However, the first retrospective exhibition of his work held in 1990, almost a century after his death, attempted to counteract this view and place O'Brien in the forefront of art practice in nineteenth-century Canada. With the hindsight of one hundred years, he now emerges in the exhibition catalogue as "the pre-eminent Canadian artist of his day." He is seen as "a key link in the development of a theme that is Canada's major contribution to the history of painting: the idea that self is necessarily located in its relationship to place."

Frederick Alexcee, Indian Artist (c.1857 to c.1944)

A study of the art produced by Canadian Indians during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries reveals the diversity and creativity following the breakdown of their traditional cultures and during the period of European appropriation of their land and traditional territories. Artistic activity was continuous despite being sporadic, regional and relatively unrecognized. As attempts are made to define and classify the work of contemporary Indian artists within the art history of Canada, this early historical period should be noted for the technical innovation among native artists and the general reassessment of their cultural values. The exceptional artwork of the native people on the west coast of Canada has long been admired and recognized for its formal complexity and characteristic style, and can be found among the most prestigious collections around the world. But few individual artists were identified by name prior to the end of the nineteenth century. One Indian artist is noteworthy for his naive but dynamic painting and woodcarving.

John S. Archibald, Architect (1872–1934)

John Smith Archibald played a vital role in the creation of many of Montreal's landmarks. His buildings contributed to all facets of life in the city he chose as his home. The son of David and Mary Fettes (Smith) Archibald, he was born in Inverness, Scotland on 14 December 1872. So far as is known, John Archibald was educated at the public schools and High School of Inverness, and from 1887 to 1893 he apprenticed in the Inverness architectural office of William Macintosh. Well into the nineteenth century, British architectural education depended largely upon articled pupilage, and may have been supplemented by formal lectures at university colleges and travel abroad. Unfortunately, there is no documentation to substantiate any other formal training beyond Archibald's apprenticeship. Archibald arrived in Canada on 4 May 1893. His Canadian career began in the office of Edward Maxwell in Montréal, where Archibald was employed as a draughtsman and assistant. William S. Maxwell, Edward's younger brother, was also one of the firm's draughtsmen.


The True North: Canadian Landscape Painting 1896–1939
Michael Tooby, Robert Stacey, Charles C. Hill, Maria Tippett, Esther Trépanier

Our initial reaction to an exhibition of Group of Seven et al. landscape painting shipped over to Britain this year might be to roll our eyes and swat our collective forehead. But, the companion catalogue to this show is a serious, scholarly effort by writers intent on taking (yet another) look at this period and its overriding subject: the unpopulated, Pre-Cambrian Shield region, mainly in Ontario. Michael Tooby, a British scholar, has taken an interest in Canadian art, sparked by his exploration of the Sheffield-Canada connection with artists such as Arthur Lismer, F.H. Varley and Elizabeth Nutt. He organized and selected the exhibition, edited the catalogue and wrote its introduction. In this introduction he reveals a familiarity with the period and its artists that is as deep and detailed as that of the best Canadian art historians. His fascination with and enthusiasm for the works are clearly conveyed. Tooby does not express any defensiveness about the project, feeling the selection to be obvious, and he hopes that the exhibition will lead to further debate, enquiry and recognition for Canadian art in Britain.

Jack Shadbolt
Scott Watson

The trade edition of Jack Shadbolt was released in the fall of 1990, along with a deluxe limited edition containing an obligatory signed print. The luxury edition, especially, prompted a good deal of promotional foot-stamping by the publishers. An advertising flyer I received in the mail (because I live in Vancouver and subscribe to VISA?) touted the volume as "Canada's art book of the year." It also advised that this was a special "opportunity to reserve a copy of an exceptional collector's edition." Maybe. But if I believed all the claims made in the brochure, I would be more than unusually naive about the ways of the art world.

Splitting Images: Contemporary Canadian Ironies • Remembering Post-Modernism
Linda Hutcheon • Mark Cheetham

Publication Notice

Lucius R. O'Brien: Visions of Victorian Canada
Dennis Reid

Lucius O'Brien (1832–1899) has the notoriety of being first President and co-founder of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts (est. 1880) and one of Canada's premier landscape painters of the nineteenth century. In spite of his prominence, few studies have elaborated on the artist's work in any detail and few have given more than perfunctory notice to O'Brien's activity as an art promoter.