Canadian Painting in the Thirties

The 1975 exhibition: Other Venues

Along a New Path
The Star
06 Dec 1975

A review of Canadian Painting in the Thirties at the Musée d?art contemporain de Montréal. The original version of the exhibition, organized by the National Gallery of Canada, was shown in Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver. A reduced version, consisting of 55 out of 108 paintings, is exhibited in Montreal, Calgary and Saskatoon. At the opening of the Group of Seven exhibition in 1931, A.Y. Jackson signaled the end of the Group of Seven?s dominance. Charles C. Hill, Assistant Curator of Post-Confederation Art at the National Gallery of Canada, outlines in the exhibition catalogue the diversity and polarity that shaped Canadian art in the 1930s. Internationalism battled with nationalism and loyalties shifted from Toronto to Montreal. The influences of New York and Paris were making themselves felt in Canadian art, specifically in John Lyman?s painting. Artists organized themselves into regional groups, cooperatives and associations, which provided support and enabled them to organize their own exhibitions. Lemieux and Borduas are included in the show. Miller Brittain?s Longshoremen celebrates working-class subjects, while David Milne?s work becomes more sophisticated, revealing an increasingly light touch. As Lismer and Jackson of the Group of Seven attracted younger artists, they expanded into the Canadian Group of Painters. Lawren Harris?s White Triangle (1939) indicates his move towards abstraction and Suprematism. Emily Carr?s landscapes acquire a dynamic tension. The Beaver Hall Group in Montreal was the most receptive to European influences. They looked to Cézanne and Fauvism and focused on portraits and figure painting. Lyman assimilated the European lessons and styles and tried to make them his own. Hill sums up the strength and weaknesses of this transition period in Canadian art. Illustrated with black and white reproductions of Paul-Émile Borduas? Portrait of Maurice Gagnon, Lawren Harris?s White Triangle, Miller Brittain?s Longshoremen and Lawren Harris?s Icebergs and Mountains, Greenland.


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.