Canadian Painting in the Thirties

The 1975 exhibition: Ottawa Exhibition

Peinture des années 30: Une époque de transition
Le Droit
15 Feb 1975

A review of the exhibition Canadian Painting in the Thirties at the National Gallery of Canada. Noting that art history involves a succession of periods of innovation, followed by periods of decline or transition, author Michel Dupuy suggests that the 1930s in Canada represents a transitional period, and one that holds considerable interest. The exhibition?s 100 paintings by some 30 artists reveal a variety of talent from diverse regions of the country, including established artists such as A. Y. Jackson and Emily Carr, and emerging artists such as Lemieux and Borduas. The paintings of the period share a muted palette, an expressiveness and a concern for aesthetics. They show a strong interest for landscape, but little for the hardships of the Depression and the approaching war. Dupuy comments on the debate between the nationalists, represented by the Group of Seven and their followers, and the internationalists, inspired by John Lyman and the School of Paris. He notes that a decade later, Borduas demonstrated the importance of the debate between figurative and non-figurative art. The exhibition examines Toronto?s Art Students? League and the Canadian Group of Painters, demonstrating the influence of the Group of Seven ? especially A.Y. Jackson, Arthur Lismer and Lawren Harris ? on artists such as Emily Carr. A.Y. Jackson?s Algoma, November is included in the show, as are works by independent artists David Milne, Charles Comfort, Carl Schaefer and L.L. FitzGerald . John Lyman is given particular attention for the influence he had among Montréal artists such as Goodridge Roberts, Philip Surrey, and Alexandre Bercovitch, all of whom were precursors to the Contemporary Arts Society. Paul-Émile Borduas? Portrait of Maurice Gagnon (1932), and Lemieux?s works mark the beginning of the revolution in Canadian art that began in the 1940s. Illustrated with black and white reproductions of Jackson?s Algoma, November and Borduas? Portrait of Maurice Gagnon.


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.