Canadian Painting in the Thirties

The 1975 exhibition: Catalogue Reviews

Canadian Painting in the Thirties
Evening Telegram
07 Sep 1975

A review of the Canadian Paining in the Thirties exhibition catalogue, written by Charles C. Hill, Assistant Curator of Post-Confederation Art at the National Gallery of Canada. Jean Boggs, director of the National Gallery of Canada, has written the preface describing the difficulties experienced by the National Gallery of Canada itself during the Depression. The catalogue begins with the Group of Seven, some of whom had moved away from the scene: Tom Thomson was dead, Lismer left to teach and Lawren Harris was pursuing theosophical art theories based on Annie Besant's book Thoughtforms. While united in their aim of establishing a Canadian identity, the members of the Group of Seven retained their individual styles. The National Gallery of Canada?s director, Eric Brown supported the ?new? Canadian painting. New groups sprang up regionally across the country. In contrast to the U.S., Canadian artists, such as Varley, Emily Carr and Jack Humphrey, suffered from deprivation due to Canada?s lack of support and the harshness of the Depression. Varley commented on the sad state for students, when art schools in Canada closed due to lack of funds or government support. Jack Humphrey and Miller Brittain left the Maritimes for New York. Brittain?s work was influenced by the social and economic conditions of the U.S., as well as by the mural art of Mexico. French Canadian artists escaped Quebec to France. Toronto?s Picture Loan Society was formed. According to Hill, Edwin Holgate and John Lyman wrote intelligently about art in Canada. Goodridge Roberts, LeMoine FitzGerald and David Milne appealed to Vincent Massey for exhibition funding. Hill also examines women painters Pegi Nicol MacLeod, Emily Carr, Sarah Robertson and Lilias Torrance Newton. Paraskeva Clark?s provocative Self-portrait graces the cover of the catalogue. Clark, a friend of Norman Bethune?s, was a member of the Committee to Aid Spanish Democracy, along with Pegi Nicol Macleod. Despite the economic hardships, T. Eaton and Co. commissioned artwork and Charles Comfort painted murals for the Toronto Stock Exchange. Vincent Massey and Douglas Duncan bought contemporary Canadian art and later bequeathed their collections to various Canadian galleries. Catalogue illustrations include a color plate of LeMoine FitzGerald?s The Pool, and a black and white reproduction of Sarah Robertson?s Coronation (1937).


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.