By the end of the 19 th century, a handful of photographers had begun to fight for a new status for photography, arguing that the medium had its "own canons of art, range, and practice." The battle for public opinion was already well underway when the Pictorialist Sidney Carter (1880–1956) successfully mounted an impressive international exhibition of photography at the Art Association of Montreal in late 1907. This was conceived as one more salvo in photography's long campaign to breach the walls of the art museum, and constituted an early manifestation of modernism in Montreal.
Nationalism And Modernity
The Critical Reception of the Group of Seven in the Montreal Francophone Press in the 1920's
At the beginning of the 1920's, conservative tendencies in the Montreal art and culture scene continued to dominate. However, there were certain French-Canadians – intellectuals, academics and scientists – who felt the necessity of modernizing Quebec society. From the 1910's onwards, literary and artistic circles, notably those around the periodical Le Nigog, took a stance against nationalism and regionalism in art. Such a position in the domain of culture often coincided with a reconsideration of academicism and a certain openness to modernity.
The Portrait of Sir James Henry Craig by Levi Stevens
The discovery of the Craig portrait by Levi Stevens (?–1832) in the archival collections of the Seminary of Quebec provides an example of an engraving long thought to have been lost. The print was part of the library bequeathed by Abbot Hospice-Anthelme Verreau (1828–1901) to the Seminary. It was exhibited in 1908 in a presentation on the history of Canada held at the Seminary as part of Quebec's 300th anniversary festivities. Afterwards, the Stevens' print was simply forgotten among the holdings of this collection which had been inaccessible for almost a century.
Over the last three decades Canadian artists who have been associated to varying degrees with the French Impressionists—those "despisers of art" castigated by Edmond Dyonnet in a wildly inaccurate 1913 speech—have come under increased scrutiny. Retrospective exhibitions have been devoted to the work of, among others, Henri Beau, William Blair Bruce, William Henry Clapp, Maurice Cullen, Ernest Lawson, Helen Galloway McNicoll, Marc-Aurèle de Foy Suzor-Coté and Ernest Percyval Tudor-Hart. In addition, and despite the difficulties inherent in dealing with the breadth, inconsistencies and contradictions of "Canadian Impressionism" as a phenomenon, the subject has been tackled in an M.A. thesis, an essay by Dennis Reid, a coffee-table book by Paul Duval, and two exhibitions (1965 and 1973).