Canadian Painting in the Thirties

The 1975 exhibition: Catalogue Reviews

Canadian Painting in the Thirties at the National Gallery of Canada
Art Magazine (Vol. 6, No. 21)
21 Mar 1975

Review by Barry Lord of the Canadian Painting in the Thirties exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada. The show opened in Ottawa and will go on tour to Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon and Montreal. According to Lord, the exhibition perpetuates the misrepresentation of this decade in galleries and museums. Assistant Curator of Post-Confederation Art, Charles C. Hill organized the exhibition and wrote the catalogue. Hill maintains the centrality of the Canadian Group of Painters and focuses on the independents, including Milne and FitzGerald. Hill also contrasts the regionalism of Quebec with the international style in the Eastern Group and the Contemporary Arts Society. Lord recommends re-reading Harper and Duval?s books on Canadian art.

Lord discusses The Beaver Hall Group and Prudence Heward?s Girl Under a Tree (1931), Bertram Brooker, Lawren Harris, John Lyman, and British Columbia artists Emily Carr and Varley. He mentions Philip Surrey?s Going to Work (1935), Miller Brittain?s Longshoremen, Fritz Brandtner?s Men of 1939, Louis Muhlstock?s Open Door of third House, Grubert Lane, Montreal and Paraskeva Clark?s Petroushka.

According to Lord, Hill neglects to discuss the importance of Saint John, New-Brunswick, as a major centre of activity, and that of social realist art, such as Nathan Petroff?s Modern Times (1937), works by the Orenstein brothers, Norman Bethune, Leonard Hutchinson and Walter Phillips, as well as Miller Brittain?s cartoons for the Saint John Tuberculosis Hospital. The Artists? Union, Progressive Arts Club, the Masses publications, and Dorothy Livesay?s poems are dismissed by Hill, and he denies the centrality of the figure in Canadian painting. Article is illustrated with colour reproductions of Phillip Surrey?s Sunday Afternoon (1939), Paraskeva Clark?s Petroushka (1937) and Self-Portrait (1933), Fritz Brandtner?s Men of 1939, André Biéler?s Before the Auction (1938), Prudence Heward?s Sisters of Rural Québec (1930) and Dark Girl (1935) and Miller Brittain?s Longshoremen (1940).


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.