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


Vol. XX (Anniversary, combined) (1999)


La république des castors de la Hontan
Savoir indien et mythologie blanche

translated summary:
The Republic of Beavers by La Hontan
To know Native and White Mythology

This article presents a preliminary exploration of eighteenth-century thought on the language of animals, especially beavers. Illustrations of the period which show beavers working together on the construction of their lodges and their dams can be examined in this context. The perceptions of Father Guillaume Hyacinthe Bougeant, Buffon and Charles Bonnet, as well as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who dedicated a few lines to the subject, are each examined. Certain thinkers, such as Bougeant, endowed beavers with a soul and language. Others hesitated to go so far; Buffon's opinion seemed to vacillate between the Cartesian concept of animal as mere machines, devoid of a soul and the ability to reason, and the view that acknowledges the emotions of domestic animals. Bonnet and Rousseau added to the debate, by introducing an important distinction between natural and conventional language, of which the latter is the sole privilege of human beings.

Les envois de tableaux européens de Philippe-Jean-Louis Desjardins à Québec, en 1817 et 1820
Établissement du contenu

translated summary:
Shipments of European Paintings Sent by Philippe-Jean-Louis Desjardins to Quebec in 1817 and 1820
Establishing The Contents

In 1817 and 1820, 180 large religious paintings arrived in Quebec. These paintings occupy a relatively important place in Quebec art history and have become known inappropriately as the "Desjardins Collection." Although the principal protagonists, the abbes Philippe-Jean-Louis (1753–1833) and Louis-Joseph Desjardins (1766–1848), did everything possible to keep their actions from becoming public, around 1880 a discourse began celebrating the gesture of these two emigré priests who had found a refuge in the Diocese of Quebec. The emphasis on the French heritage of the Ancien Régime encouraged the concept of a "collection" in order to distinguish those paintings that had passed through the hands of the abbes Desjardins. It would seem more accurate to describe these two shipments as a fonds of paintings, as they were not a coherent group of works brought together to be appreciated as a whole. Instead, the paintings should be compared to lots of mixed, even mismatched paintings which were intended for commercial sale.

Une résidence oubliée
La maison de Louis-Hippolite LaFontaine

translated summary:
A Forgotten Residence
The Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine House

One hundred and fifty years ago, on April 25th, 1849, the Parliament of United Canada was destroyed by a fire started by rioters protesting the indemnification law intended to compensate people who had suffered losses during the 1837 and 1838 rebellions. Not satisfied with the destruction of the Parliament, the protesters decided to take over Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine's house in the Faubourg Saint-Antoine. The house was sacked and the outbuildings burned by rioters. Then, strangely, the LaFontaine house disappeared from our collective memory until 1987 when two entrepreneurs, Douglas Cohen and Martin Landau, decided to develop the property where the house is situated. This was met with ferocious opposition when it was discovered that the building, where LaFontaine died on February 26, 1864, was located in the area. The house was then named an historic monument by the City of Montreal. In September 1990 the refrigerated warehouse next to its east wall was demolished and the "restoration" of the house began. This was, however, a disaster. All the interior walls were destroyed, and the east, north and west facades were almost completely reworked. When the work was finished, very little remained of the original house which had now been vandalized twice.

"Synchromism" in Canada
Lawren Harris, Decorative Landscape, and Willard Huntington Wright, 1916–1917

On 10 March 1917 the (Toronto) Mail and Empire published a review of the annual exhibition of the Ontario Society of Artists. The unidentified critic observed that, because Lawren Harris was serving in the Army, he had opted to exhibit only one picture: his aptly-titled Decorative Landscape. This painting, the critic noted, "is an experiment in color. He has painted a bright yellow sky, a sky so yellow that it seems to give off light, and against it are outlined stiff, brittle fir trees with rocks in the foreground. It suggests a little of the technique of a stained glass window and is not Mr. Harris at his best."

Les carnets de dessins de Marian Dale Scott

translated summary:
Marian Dale Scott'S Sketchbooks

This article discusses the two sketchbooks that Marian Dale Scott bequeathed to the National Archives of Canada upon her death in 1993. These sketchbooks contain almost 190 drawings made over a period of ten years from 1940 to 1950. Technically, the images are most often influenced by the drawings of Picasso and Matisse. They deal with a wide range of intimate subjects and present a more spontaneous approach to a subject than her works in oil. As well as being of aesthetic importance, the sketchbooks present themes of biographical and social interest - portraits of family and friends, scenes of everyday life, leisure, and cultural and political events.

Constructing an Identity
The 1952 XXVI Biennale di Venezia and "The Projection of Canada Abroad"

In 1952, Canada was officially represented for the first time at the Venice Biennale. Her debut appearance at "the most famous art exhibition in the world" positioned Canada on the world stage and marked the first significant "projection abroad" of her aesthetic identity in the post-war era. Canada's participation at the XXVI Biennale is a striking reflection of the country's growing confidence in the international arena immediately following the conclusion of World War II. The most important symbol of this new sense of nationhood within a global context was the establishment of Canada's political position as a middle power. As a consequence of this recognition, the Massey Report introduced a mandate for an energetic cultural foreign policy and by extension, encouraged the proactive involvement of the National Gallery of Canada in the world's art community. The Gallery's presentation of paintings by Emily Carr, David Milne, Goodridge Roberts and Alfred Pellan at the 1952 Biennale from 14 June to 19 October exemplifies the museum's determination to establish an international presence. This raises issues surrounding the presumption of an official national art and the institutional authentication of culture. The National Gallery's modus operandi and its implications in the context of the international audience of the XXVI Biennale di Venezia is the subject of this discussion.

Le flanneur et l'allégorie
Fragments sur les photographies de Charles Gagnon

translated summary:
The Flâneur and the Allegory
Fragments on the Photographs of Charles Gagnon

In the photograph Sans titre – Sackville, N.B., 1973, we see a tiger skin, an electric fan and an iron on an ironing board. The grouping is improbable and strange, like the one with a sewing machine and an umbrella on a dissecting table. Both stir up the same vaguely troubling feeling that words will try vainly to dispel with questions such as "What does this mean?" At first glance, these objects have nothing in common. But slowly, strange connections are made between the ironing board and the flattened tiger skin, between the roaring tiger and the motionless fan, between the motionless fan and the cooling iron, between the pail of ashes and the glass of water and so on. And yet, all these objects are still, frozen in the blazing noon light and the mystery remains intact. Most of Charles Gagnon's photographs could be thought of as enigmas - or logogriphs - or more properly allegories.

Rodin, Laliberté et les autres
Réalités et perception d'un musée d'art

translated summary:
Rodin, Laliberté and Others
Reality and the perception of an art museum

This article analyzes the Musée du Québec's recent exhibitions and puts them into perspective by reflecting on the museological institution and its obligation to preserve memory that is the responsibility of those who built it. The text is a continuation of lectures and papers presented at conferences, and pursues a reflection made when writing prefaces for the Museum's publications.