Canadian Painting in the Thirties

The 1975 exhibition: Media Index

La peinture des années trente à la Galerie nationale du Canada
L'Information Médicale et Paramédicale
03 Jun 1975

A review by Paul Dumas of the Canadian Painting in the Thirties exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada. The author praises the work of curator Charles Hill for his research. Dumas describes the socio-economic context of the 1930s?a global crisis with repercussions for Canada as well, and which determined the context of Canadian painting. Three types of artists coexisted during this period: mature painters on the their way out, such as Maurice Cullen, Suzor Côté and Horatio Walker; fully established painters such as the Group of Seven, later the Canadian Group of Painters, and the painters this group influenced, such as Emily Carr, David Milne, and Lionel LeMoine FitzGerald; and finally emerging artists such as Goodridge Roberts, Stanley Cosgrove, Paul-Émile Borduas, Philip Surrey, John Humphrey and Miller Brittain. John Lyman became the first great art critic and was followed by Robert Ayre, Donald Buchanan, Paul Duval, Gérard Morissette, Jules Bazin and Maurice Gagnon. Painting in the 1930s was characterized by artistic decentralization. The Contemporary Arts Society brought together artists such as Lyman, Roberts, Borduas and Pellan. The journalist notes that the exhibition works lagged behind the international arts movements of the period, lacking poetic spark. There is little abstraction, except in some works by Fritz Brandtner and Lawren Harris. Some painters, such as FitzGerald, Carl Schaefer and Brittain, show foreign influence. Most of the works, even those by the European-born Brandtner, Goldberg and Muhlstock, are shorn of political content. Other important painters from this period include A.Y. Jackson, Varley, David Milne and Marc-Aurèle Fortin. The more avant-garde include Lyman, Roberts, Philip Surrey, Jori Smith, Jean-Philippe Dallaire and Stanley Cosgrove. Dumas deplores the absence of Alfred Pellan, notable for his influence on Québec painting and in particular on Borduas and Jean Paul Lemieux. The journalist concludes by calling this period of painting one of transition. The article is illustrated with Roberts?s Ontario Landscape in Sunlight (1936); Jackson?s Grey Day, Laurentians (1930); Varley?s Night Ferry (1937); Lyman?s The Card Game (1935); Milne?s Splendour Touches Hiram?s Farm (1932); and Surrey?s The Red Portrait (1939).


Images of the exhibition's installation, the opening ceremony and official visits.

Media Coverage

Almost 200 newspaper and magazine articles in English, French and other languages: reviews, details of the Canadian tour, lectures, films and special events.


Audio clip of curator Charles Hill interviewed by CBC's Carol Bishop. Includes Pierre Trudeau's opening speech.

NFB Film

Derek May's 1977 documentary Pictures From the 1930s looks at the exhibition in the context of the Depression, with newsreel footage of the day.