Canadian Painting in the 30s

5. New Developments in the Canadian Group of Painters

While the Canadian Group of Painters was a national body and did offer young artists from across the country the opportunity to exhibit, it remained, during the thirties, a Toronto-dominated group. All organizational meetings and opening exhibitions were held in Toronto, the group's originators were Torontonians, and the Canadian Group was consciously identified as an expansion of the Toronto-based Group of Seven. This image survived the second Canadian exhibition in January 1936 with the addition of only one new member, André Biéler, to replace Thoreau MacDonald. 1 Tom Thomson's West Wind, according to Arthur Lismer, remained the symbol of the Group. 2

Lawren Harris's departure from Toronto was a great blow to the Toronto art community. 3 He had been a great stimulator and enthusiast and there was no one to replace him. Personal animosities within the Canadian Group, resulting from his divorce, aggravated the situation. 4 Moreover, his departure occurred at the same time as many artists were having severe financial difficulties, and it seemed doubly difficult to pick up again and go on. There was even hesitation to hold a meeting while the president, Lawren Harris, was in the States. 5

However, with the incorporation of the Canadian Group and the election of a new president, A.Y. Jackson, in 1936, 6 spirits began to revive. The Canadian Group finally fell into the hands of younger artists when Isabel McLaughlin was elected president in 1939. Anne Savage, Carl Schaefer, Charles Comfort, and George Pepper were elected to the executive. 7 Seven new artists were brought into the group in 1936, 8 and by 1942 the membership had expanded to forty-three. 9

The strongest Toronto artist to develop the Group tradition into an individual expression was Carl Schaefer. Born on a farm near Hanover, Ontario, of German ancestry, he was raised by his father and maternal grandparents. He entered the Ontario College of Art in 1921 during the early days of the Group of Seven, studying under Arthur Lismer and J.E.H. MacDonald. He later worked with MacDonald on the decorations for Saint Anne's Church, the Claridge Apartments, and the Concourse Building in Toronto and was staff designer with the T. Eaton Company for about a year until he was let off with sixteen others (out of a staff of eighteen) in 1930, the first year of the Depression. 10 He then worked freelance doing lettering and layout for Brigden's Limited, Eaton's, and occasionally for J.E.H. MacDonald. In the fall of 1930 Peter Haworth, head of the art department at Central Technical High School in Toronto offered him half a day a week teaching printing. This was increased to a full day two years later. 11

While freelance commercial work was available in Toronto during the early thirties, pay was low. Schaefer was earning next to nothing teaching, and income from the sale of his art was pitifully low. With a family to support, he was unable to remain in Toronto the entire year, so from 1932 until he left for Vermont in 1940, he spent all his summers and Christmas holidays with his grandparents in Hanover. 12

From an early age, Schaefer had been imbued with a feeling for the land around Hanover and with a love of history. Through J.E.H. MacDonald he encountered the writings of Walt Whitman and Thoreau whose robust love of democracy and nature held a great appeal for him. Returning to Hanover year after year, Carl Schaefer interpreted the landscape in all its many moods and facets, becoming a 'regionalist' artist in the truest sense of the term.

Schaefer's early paintings retain strong elements of design derived from his decorating work and from his admiration for Lawren Harris. In Ontario Farmhouse (1934, cat. no. 56) the foreground wheat field leading the viewer's vision into the picture, and the light shafts, are reminiscent of Lawren Harris's work, even to his interest in early Ontario architecture. However, unlike Harris's more picturesque rundown urban homes, Schaefer's house becomes a symbol of survival in the face of adversity. The dead tree, a recurring image in Schaefer's work, symbolizes both destruction and regeneration affirmed by the glowing gold of the wheat.

Carl Schaefer's sensitivity to the regenerative qualities of nature is also apparent in Storm Over the Fields (1937, cat. no. 57). The heavy storm clouds, derived from J.E.H. MacDonald's work of the early twenties, menace the countryside, casting dark shadows over the earth; yet in its midst glows a golden field. From the potential destruction of the storm comes rain and growth. The same work shows Schaefer's increasing freedom with the painting medium, the greater fluidity stressing the rhythms and modulations of the land.

However, by 1937 Carl Schaefer was becoming increasingly interested in watercolour and was painting few oils. His first efforts in this medium, resulting from a trip with Frank Carmichael and Joe Gauthier to Haliburton in 1932, were primarily stimulated by his interest in drawing, 13 though the medium had the added advantages of speed, immediacy, and low cost.

Fields with Stubble (1937, cat. no. 58) retains a certain linear quality, reflecting Schaefer's interest in the work of the Englishman Paul Nash. 14 There is a similar interweaving of rhythms and geometric organization of trees and clouds. However, most characteristic of his watercolours is the colouring. He applies them very dry in rust browns, brown-greens, and blacks, often creating a sense of unease, sterility, or death. 1

Shaefer's financial and professional situation improved during the late thirties. As well as teaching part-time at Central Technical High School, he taught at Hart House and at Trinity College School in Port Hope. 16 With the opening of the Picture Loan Society 17 and the interest of the collector J. S. McLean in his work, sales increased. Recognition of his work was growing.

In spite of this, an increasing sentiment of violence and death appears in Schaefer's painting of the late thirties. From his earliest works he had shown a great receptivity to the more awesome elements of nature, reflected in his interest in Northern European painters like Bruegel, Altdorfer, and Ruysdael. The Depression had affected him personally and accentuated this brooding, Gothic side of his personality. Being of German ancestry, with relatives still in Germany, he was increasingly conscious of the approach of war. Much of his work of 1939 and 1940 is painted in deathly greens and blacks, with sharp, angular projections, similar to the work of Charles Burchfield during the same period. 18 Others, like Yellow Apples on a Fall Landscape (1939, cat. no. 59) more subtly express this sentiment of impending menace. While the apples still hold out the possibility of abundance and regeneration, the storm clouds, dead trees, and autumn colours bespell decay. This aspect of Schaefer's work carried over into his Vermont paintings 19 and eventually into his war work.

A close friend and associate of Carl Schaefer during the thirties, was Charles Comfort. Born in Edinburgh, Comfort was brought to Winnipeg by his family in 1912. Two years later at the age of fourteen, he was employed by Brigden's of Winnipeg Limited. 20 In 1920, on a visit to Toronto, he saw the first Group of Seven exhibition. Overwhelmed by the strength and colour of the work, he determined to make his career in art. 21

Charles Comfort spent the winter of 1922 – 1923 at the Art Students League, studying with Robert Henri and Euphrasius Allan Tucker 22 who introduced him to the work of contemporary American artists. Comfort returned to Winnipeg and married, and in April 1925 moved permanently to Toronto, still employed by Brigden's. 23

The International Exhibition of Modern Art assembled by the Société Anonyme and shown in Toronto in 1927 had a great impact on Charles Comfort's commercial work and he furthered a successful career in this field. In 1929 he signed a two-year contract with Rapid-Grip to work on Canadian National Railway publicity. However, with the Crash in October of that year, all railway work was cancelled, and two years later Comfort found himself unemployed. He then opened a commercial studio with Harold Ayres and Will Ogilvie which was successful though profits lean. 24

Charles Comfort's most striking works of the late twenties and early thirties are large full-length portraits in oil and watercolour. The Portrait of John Creighton (1931 – 1933, cat. no. 60), originally full-length though later cut down by the artist, 25 shows Comfort's strength in expressive characterization of his sitters, achieved through the use of dramatic lighting and concentration on the hands.

In Young Canadian (1932, cat. no. 61), a portrait of Carl Schaefer, the hands are again used to dramatize the sitter. The rock and barn, framing the horizontal clouds, focus attention on the staring eyes. With its sombre tones and expectant pose, it truly does characterize the mood and situation of many Canadians at the time.

Charles Comfort's reputation as a 'virtuoso' 26 was well merited, yet, at the same time, it was one of his greatest dangers. His commercial work demanded instantaneous, eye-catching effects. Incorporated into his paintings these same effects occasionally caused inner strength to be sacrificed for immediacy.

While visiting a former Winnipeg friend, Robert Fawcett, in Ridgefield, Connecticut, in 1933, Charles Comfort met the American Precisionist, Charles Sheeler. 27 Comfort's work already showed a certain affinity with that of the Precisionists, as seen in his painting Lumber Town of 1932. 28 However, in Tadoussac (1935, cat. no. 62), commissioned by Vincent Massey before Massey left for England, 29 the artist carried this simplification of form to the extreme. The smooth curve of the peninsula, the wood-block houses, and the lovely expanse of blue water blending into the sky create a feeling of great serenity, so different from his usually more concentrated and dynamic portrayals.

Charles Comfort was the only Canadian artist during the thirties to have the opportunity to work on a number of mural projects. Few post offices in Canada – unlike those in the United States – bore decorations by native artists; there was no system of government patronage. The Toronto architect Ferdinand Marani 30 commissioned Comfort's first mural in 1932 for the North American Life Building. 31 In 1936, taking its cue from the San Francisco Exchange, 32 the Toronto Stock Exchange invited Charles Comfort to paint eight large panels for their new building. Painted on canvas sixteen feet high and four feet wide (4.87 x 1.21 m) they represent the main industries of the Exchange: transportation and communication, mining, smelting, pulp and paper, refining, agriculture, oil, and construction (fig. 9). 33 In the Luncheon Club of the San Francisco Exchange, the Mexican Communist artist Diego Rivera had combined such industries as mining, forestry, and oil in one organic whole dominated by the massive figure of the goddess of nature. 34 Charles Comfort breaks up the different components of each industry with arbitrary geometric divisions, and abrupt changes in perspective and proportion derived from Thomas Benton's murals in the New School for Social Research in New York. 35 In the panel devoted to construction this is used with great effectiveness. However, where Rivera's and Benton's figures have a naturalism and individuality stressing the humanity of the persons depicted, Charles Comfort's workers become mechanical units arranged in anonymous rows and swamped by the dynamism of industry. Even in the panel of Agriculture, the most 'organic' industry, the cows are aligned in docile rows for slaughter and the kernels of wheat become gold coins of profit for the shareholders. Interpreted as a statement of faith in the recuperative powers of industry, or as a paean of praise for the Capitalist system, these murals are a curious, if not naïve, expression in the midst of the Depression.

In the spring of 1937, while he was completing these panels, Charles Comfort was commissioned by the International Nickel Company to do a large mural, The Romance of Nickel, for the Paris International Exposition. In this he used a similar dramatic perspective and geometricization of elements dominated by the large figure of a miner drilling. 36 In 1939, he painted the mural of Captain George Vancouver for the Hotel Vancouver. 37

Charles Comfort won the first prize in the Great Lakes Exhibition of 'regional paintings' in Buffalo (1938) for his painting, Lake Superior Village, 38 and during the last years of the decade he became involved in art education. He started teaching mural-painting at the Ontario College of Art in 1935, and in 1938 joined the staff at the University of Toronto as a lecturer in the history of art. 39 His interest in fresco-painting and art history took him to Italy during the following summer. 40

At the time of the formation of the Canadian Group of Painters, Charles Comfort and Bertram Brooker opposed the strong nationalist bias adopted by the new group. 41 Both these artists, during the late twenties were part of an active and outward-looking community in Toronto, 42 aware of international developments in art and literature.

Bertram Brooker had moved to Toronto from Winnipeg in 1921, and by 1926 was working as a freelance journalist to allow him more time for his own creative ventures. 43 His first abstractions, perhaps stimulated by his relationship with Lawren Harris and, through Harris, with the Société Anonyme, 44 as well as by his interest in music, were exhibited at the Arts & Letters Club in January 1927. 45

Few of Brooker's works of the late twenties are pure abstractions: they combine abstracted concepts of spiritual awakening and natural phenomena with representational elements. While the earlier works are more flowing, employing naturalistic modelling and relying on the expressive qualities of colour, the later abstractions are more Cubist, perhaps influenced by the work of his friend Kathleen Munn. Munn, a former student at the Summer School of the New York Art Students League in Woodstock, New York, and a great admirer of the work of El Greco and Cézanne, 46 as early as 1923 was exhibiting Cubist paintings similar to those of Franz Marc. 47

During the next few years, as well as painting, Bertram Brooker wrote a weekly art and literary column, 'The Seven Arts,' for the Southam Publishing Company, 48 illustrated an edition of Elijah, 49 wrote a book on advertising layout and another on copy writing, 50 and edited the Yearbook of the Arts in Canada. 51

Visiting Winnipeg in the summer of 1929, Bertram Brooker met LeMoine FitzGerald 52 and, as a result, his painting took a sudden turn away from abstraction. On his return to Toronto, he wrote FitzGerald, 'Your attitude toward your work and your companionship in the few days I had with you have had a very considerable effect on me. . . . So far its effect has been that I have become perhaps too realistic . . . but I hope to grow out of that to a bigger appreciation of form – particularly. To boil it down to one word – form is the thing that obsesses me. Colour is no longer a thing that interests me for its own sake, as it did.' 53 This new concern for form and structure was reflected in his admiration for Edwin Holgate's nudes and the figure work of Prudence Heward. 54 Brooker himself, following the example of LeMoine FitzGerald, 55 began doing life studies. He had earlier commented on the resistance to nude figure painting in Canada, 56 but it was brought home to him more directly when The Art Gallery of Toronto refused to hang his own work, Figures in Landscape, after it had been accepted by the jury. 57

Another object of the attacks of Toronto's Methodist puritans was Morley Callaghan, whose novel It's Never Over, had been criticized for its sexual content. 58 The winter following the controversy at the Art Gallery, Brooker painted Morley Callaghan's portrait (1932, cat. no. 63). 59 He was still primarily concerned with the construction of form through naturalistic modelling, especially noticeable in the face where certain areas appear almost overworked. However, the intersecting angles of the folds of the coat add a greater solidity to the body.

Bertram Brooker's concern for form naturally turned him to still-lifes. His first works followed a traditional format of objects arranged on a surface against a drapery backdrop. However, perhaps his most original contributions to this genre were combinations of interior scenes and still-lifes, such as Ski Poles (1936, cat. no. 64). The arbitrary perspective projects the objects forward, creating a vertical as well as horizontal progression. The objects are clearer and sharper and more carefully structured than in the earlier still-lifes. In arrangement, concern for texture, and choice of typically Canadian subject matter, the work parallels Charles Sheeler's classic American interiors of the thirties.

Despite Toronto's proprietory forces, Bertram Brooker continued to paint and exhibit female nudes. The 'Leda and the swan' pose in Torso (1937, cat. no. 65) accentuates the interrelationship of the different volumes and intersecting lines, as well as the eroticism of the subject. The rough texture of the brush stroke, like that in FitzGerald's Jar (cat. no. 46) creates an overall surface tension, contributing to the solidity of the forms.

David Milne, Charles Comfort, Bertram Brooker, and even LeMoine FitzGerald turned away from the traditional theme of contemporary Canadian art: landscape. The concern for the 'formal' or 'aesthetic' qualities of painting began to replace the stress on subject matter. All these artists received their stimulus from Cézanne, the Cubists, or the Fauves through the United States, continuing an American derivation of European Post-Impressionism.

Paraskeva Clark was the exception in this group of artists, having arrived in Canada directly from Europe, already a mature artist. Born in Leningrad, she received her first art education in night courses at the Petrograd Academy of Fine Arts, while working days in a shoe factory. 60 After the Revolution of 1917, the Academy became 'Free Studios' open to all persons interested in art. Paraskeva Clark spent three years, from 1918 to 1921, at the Free Studios studying under Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin, a follower of Cézanne 61 then worked in theatre decoration at the Mali Theatre in Leningrad where she met her first husband, Oreste Allegre. After the birth of a son, they were preparing to leave for Paris when her husband was drowned. Nonetheless, in the fall of 1923, Paraskeva joined her father-in-law in Paris. Employed in an art-glass store, she met Harry Adaskin, then studying in Paris, and his friend Philip Clark. In June 1931 Paraskeva married Philip Clark in London and moved to Toronto. 62

Paraskeva Clark had had little opportunity to paint in France; however, she soon met several artists in Toronto and, motivated by the activity around her, began to paint again. She was not overly impressed by the work of the Toronto artists, 63 dominated as it was by landscape painting in what she felt to be decorative patterns. She felt more kinship with the Montreal artists who placed more emphasis on structure.

One of the first works Paraskeva Clark exhibited in Canada was her Self-Portrait (1933, cat. no. 66) in which she portrayed herself pregnant with her second child. The boldly structured figure shows her debt to Cézanne and, perhaps, to Picasso's classic heads. The roughly applied paint, the sharply receding background, and complex structure create a work of vigorous strength.

One of Paraskeva Clark's first Canadian landscapes was Wheatfield (1936, cat. no. 67), formerly in the collection of Douglas Duncan. In format and viewpoint it is similar to Carl Schaefer's Hanover works; yet where Schaefer creates a feeling of depth and solidity in the fields through flowing rhythm and fluid paint, Paraskeva uses a Cubist-derived pattern of intersecting straight lines. Her trees are more angular and the paint texture more coarse.

Having received her art training through the 'Free Studios' created by the Soviet government, Paraskeva Clark was naturally sympathetic to Leftist causes. Pegi Nicol introduced Paraskeva to Norman Bethune when he came to Toronto to set up the Medical Aid Committee 64 for Spain and she became active in the Committee to Aid Spanish Democracy. 65 From Spain, Norman Bethune sent her a page from a mediaeval missal and a scarf and cap of the International Brigade – all three of which she incorporated into a still-life, Presents From Madrid. 66

Norman Bethune returned from Spain in June 1937, at the same time that Paraskeva Clark was working on Petroushka (1937, cat. no. 68). Instigated by a newspaper account of the murder of five strikers by Chicago police, 67 the painting depicts a puppet show in which a puppet policeman, egged on by the 'Capitalist,' beats a fallen worker while the audience naïvely laughs. The foreground worker raises the clenched fist of the Popular Front. The Futurist arrangement of the apartment houses, like a theatre backdrop, heightens the drama of oppression and resistance.

During the late thirties, Paraskeva Clark made several trips north of Toronto and to the Gatineau and turned increasingly to landscape and still-life painting. In Trout (1940, cat. no. 69), she combines a few ordinary objects in a carefully studied formal arrangement, projected forward by the arbitrary perspective. The paint texture and contrast of angles and curves create a dynamic construction.

Pegi Nicol, born near Ottawa, 68 studied for three years with Franklin Brownell, followed by a year at the École des Beaux-Arts in Montreal. 69 In 1928 she painted in the Skeena River area in British Columbia with Marius Barbeau 70 and in 1931 won the Willingdon Prize for her landscape, The Log Run. 71 She moved to Montreal about this time, rented a studio, and had an exhibition of her works; 72 however, her studio burned down in the fall of 1932 and she was forced to return to Ottawa. 73

Pegi Nicol's figure work of the late twenties is very close to that of Edwin Holgate in composition, concern for structure, and concern for the plastic qualities of paint; however, her landscapes and studies of children (working in the school garden across the street from her parent's Ottawa house) 74 are more flowing, with graceful interweavings of arabesques. She first prepared watercolour sketches and occasionally worked them up in oil; the largest of these is School in a Garden (c. 1934, cat. no. 70). By the repeated curves of the bending figures and contours of the garden plots, and bright summer colours she expresses the joy of the children's work. She retained this interest in group activity and concern for humanity throughout her career.

After moving to Toronto in the fall of 1934, 75 Pegi Nicol became involved in theatre work and found employment preparing window displays for the T. Eaton Company under René Cera. Cera had come to Canada about 1929 to work in the new College Street store as head of design, and during the mid-thirties he offered work and much needed money to several of the younger artists, including Charles Comfort, Carl Schaefer, Paraskeva Clark, and Caven Atkins. 76 Pegi Nicol completed several projects for Cera, including the decoration of one of the Eaton's restaurants. 77

In Pegi Nicol's works there is often a conflict between her innate spontaneity and the necessity of restraint to give some structure to her work. As she wrote herself, 'Spontaneity should be in the fingers. In me it was spontaneity in the mind.' 78 In Descent of Lilies (1935, cat. no. 71) the freedom of her fantasy is expressed with great control and direction. She creates a swirling vision of floating lilies, wildly kicking horses, and sensuous women, the whole 'integrated through the decorative arrangement of shapes, and color relationships.' 79

Yet it is in her watercolours of Toronto street scenes that Pegi Nicol achieved the most direct expression of her love of life. In Jarvis Street Sidewalk ( c. 1936, cat. no. 72), the costumed children parade along the sidewalk, the shadows and trees echoing their joy. The masked child on the bicycle is swiftly brushed in with a minimum of line expressive of the intensity of her need to paint and of her spontaneous fantasy.

Pegi Nicol was an active and popular member of the Toronto art community, contributing art criticism, drawings, and even an anti-fascist Christmas card to The Canadian Forum. 80 Through Norman Bethune she became involved in the Committee to Aid Spanish Democracy, 81 and, with Douglas Duncan and Gordon Webber, was one of the founders of the Picture Loan Society. Early in 1936 Pegi met Norman MacLeod, an engineer from Fredericton, and married him in December. 82 Soon after they moved to New York and in the fall she gave birth to a daughter, Jane. 83

Pegi Nicol MacLeod was overwhelmed by the New York art scene and found it difficult to find a niche in such a highly competitive environment. 84 She obtained work illustrating children's books, 85 but disliked commercial work. Feeling confined by her marriage and by Belleville, New Jersey, 86 she transferred her energies and affection into an almost obsessive relationship with her daughter, painting endless studies in watercolour and oil of Jane asleep, playing, reading, or painting. In Children in Pliofilm (1939, cat. no. 73), Jane flies across the streets of Belleville, over the heads of the other children, encased in the transparent pliofilm. The colours are brighter and more joyful than the sophisticated tones of Descent of Lilies (cat. no. 71).

The MacLeods moved back to Greenwich Village in New York in the fall of 1939, 87 and the following year, Pegi spent the first of many summers at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton. 88

The Maritimes were fallow ground for the visual arts during the early thirties. Efforts had been made during the previous decade to stimulate interest in the arts through the efforts of Elizabeth Nutt in Halifax, the art department at Mount Allison University, and Walter Abell at Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. Exhibitions organized by The National Gallery, the College Art Association, and the American Federation of Arts toured the major centres and local art societies provided outlets for artists to exhibit their work. Commercial galleries were non-existent and public taste was extremely conservative.

Walter Abell received his appointment at Acadia University in 1928 89 through a grant from the Carnegie Corporation. Recognizing the difficult situation of the arts in the Maritimes, he was instrumental in organizing the Maritime Art Association, a cooperative effort of art societies, clubs, and women's organizations in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island. Formed in the spring of 1935, 90 the new association toured exhibitions and lecturers, arranged distribution of educational material, promoted greater communication between the different centres and, most important, organized annual exhibitions of Maritime art to tour the provinces. In 1940 the association began the publication of Maritime Art, the first periodical in Canada, beyond art gallery bulletins, to be entirely devoted to art and providing national information about Canadian art and artists. 91

One artist aware of the lack of support for artists was Jack Humphrey. Born in Saint John, he spent three years, from 1920 to 1923, at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and then transferred to the National Academy of Design in New York 92 where he met Charles Hawthorne. An extremely popular teacher with his own art school at Provincetown, Hawthorne's teaching concentrated on the relationship of colours, the importance of silhouette, and the creation of form through colour. 93 Jack spent five summers at Provincetown studying with Hawthorne and retained a life-long admiration for his teacher. 94

While Jack Humphrey planned to stay at Provincetown for the winter of 1929, relatives offered to send him to Europe 95 and in October he sailed for France. In Paris he visited museums and galleries, being especially interested in contemporary work, 96 and sketched in the open studios of the Academies. 97 On the recommendation of fellow Hawthorne students 98 he went to Munich studying three months with Hans Hofmann. 99 He then spent several months travelling in Italy, France, and Holland returning to Saint John in the summer of 1930.

The most immediate result of Jack Humphrey's European trip was a greater appreciation of the work of Cézanne as is seen in Studio Chair and Still-Life (1932, cat. no. 74). The selection of objects follows Hawthorne's dictates to find beauty in commonplace things. However, whereas Hawthorne emphasized careful modulation of form, Humphrey concerns himself with the more plastic qualities of form in earthy, almost sombre, colours, stressing the structure of the component units and their interrelationship.

This same concern for formal organization is seen in Untitled (Houses) (1931, cat. no. 75), the watercolour being quickly washed over the charcoal drawing in a Cubist arrangement similar to the work of the American artist John Marin. The sparse laying-on of colour and line in faceted planes creates a feeling of great dynamism and terseness, yet is ordered in a careful harmony.

Having studied in the United States for nine years, he naturally considered moving there when he returned from Europe. His father's wholesale firm had closed and the Depression had paralyzed the province. Jack wrote to Eric Brown, 'When the economic depression relaxes, unless more favourable opportunity offers itself, I have the exceedingly unpleasant prospect of returning to some form of unskilled and ill paid labor at night in New York City in order to attempt to support the thus impoverished efforts of contributing to art and civilization by day.' 100

Determined to continue with his art, he sought teaching jobs in the States and in Toronto, but without success. As Arthur Lismer wrote him, 'There are dozens at present who are teaching to earn a living.' 101

During the summer of 1933, Jack Humphrey visited relatives in Vancouver, working as a guard for immigration prisoners being transferred across Canada, 102 returning that fall via Ottawa 103 and Montreal. Through his cousin John Humphrey, he met John Lyman, Jori Smith, and her husband Jean Palardy, and he stayed with the Palardys for a few months 104 before returning to Saint John. 105

On the recommendation of Arthur Lismer, Jack Humphrey started children's classes in his studio; 106 however, students were few. The paucity of sales and indifference to his work accentuated the bitterness of his love-hate relationship with Saint John. 107 Wanting to leave, with nowhere to go, he was at the same time wedded to an environment he knew: the streets and people of Saint John. As Walter Abell, his main support at this time, wrote him, 'You have cast your lot for the first factor [to be able to work] choosing to pursue your creative work above all else, and unfortunately sacrificing a living to it.' 108

Walter Abell managed to sell Jack's watercolours in the Maritimes; however, it was only when his work was brought to the attention of Toronto critics that his situation began to improve. An article by Walter Abell in The Canadian Forum, 109 a show of his work at Macdonald Galleries, 110 the interest of Graham McInnes, and an exhibition of watercolours at the Picture Loan Society 111 finally brought his work to public attention.

Early in 1938, a bequest from a friend 112 enabled Jack Humphrey to visit Mexico for a few months, 113 resulting in over a hundred watercolours and drawings 114 which were exhibited at the Picture Loan Society the following spring. 115 In the fall of 1938 John Lyman invited Jack to join the newly founded Eastern Group in Montreal, 116 and soon after he became one of the charter members of the Contemporary Arts Society. 117

Perhaps for reasons of economy, Jack Humphrey concentrated predominantly on watercolour during the mid-thirties. With increasing sales he returned to oil and, perhaps stimulated by the work of Miller Brittain, 118 began to experiment with new techniques. Charlotte (1939, cat. no. 76), painted in oil over tempera, reverts to the work of Hawthorne in its concentration on silhouette and painterly brush-stroke. There is no longer the concern for structural relationships seen in the earlier works, but a greater concentration on mood and character.

Miller Brittain rented a studio next door to Jack Humphrey in the fall of 1938. He had studied at the Art Students League in New York, intending to work as a commercial illustrator; however, his teacher, Harry Wickey, introduced him to the work of Rembrandt, Hogarth, and Goya and he 'was completely lost when [he] tried to turn out the tricky slap-dash demanded by art directors.' 119 He returned to Saint John in 1932 after two years at the League and worked at various construction and office jobs. 120

Sometime during the thirties, Frank Buchman, founder of the Oxford Group, lectured in Saint John, and Miller Brittain, swept up by the talk, for a short period became an active worker for the Group. 121 A Christian movement, the Oxford Group stressed 'moral rearmament' and a Christian solution to social issues and took a great interest in the problems of workers and unions.

Miller Brittain expressed his social commitment in large charcoal drawings, in which he documented and satirized the contemporary scene. B.K. Sandwell became interested in his drawings and reproduced them in the magazine he edited, Saturday Night, bringing Miller's work to public attention for the first time. 122 As Graham McInnes noted, Miller Brittain's drawings are the sole example of social satire in Canadian art of the thirties. 123

The proximity of their studios resulted in certain parallels between the work of Miller Brittain and Jack Humphrey around 1940. Edith White (1939, cat. no. 77) by Humphrey and Master McCullough (1939, cat. no. 78) by Brittain both follow a fifteenth-century Italian portrait composition adopted by Reginald Marsh and other artists of the New York Fourteenth Street School. However, Humphrey's work is more painterly, the surface mat, and its psychological concentration less intense. Brittain's work verges on caricature, its linear treatment accentuated by the use of egg tempera and glazes. 124 The portraits of the young newspaper boy and girl, prematurely old and sombre, are expressive documents of the Depression years.

From single figures, Miller Brittain moved to larger, social themes. In Longshoremen (1940, cat. no. 79) he uses a German Renaissance composition, linking the men by telling gestures and glances. The massive figures are crowded into a confined space, accentuating the intensity of the scene. In his paintings of the next few years, Miller Brittain depicted his human environment in all its political and social aspects. He wrote, 'I have no patience with those individuals who think of pictures merely as embellishments to a decorative scheme . . . . A picture ought to emerge from the midst of life and be in no sense divorced from it . . . . And I think artists should be rooted in their native heath . . . . And they will be so if their life and work are one and the same.' 125


NOTES TO CHAPTER 5

1. 'Members "Canadian Group of Painters," ' Catalogue of an Exhibition of Paintings by the 'Canadian Group of Painters' (Toronto: The Art Gallery of Toronto, 1936).

2. A.L. [Arthur Lismer], 'Foreword,' Ibid.

3. A.Y. Jackson, Toronto, to Sarah Robertson, Montreal, [late November 1934]; in The National Gallery of Canada. A.Y. Jackson, Toronto, to L.L. FitzGerald, Winnipeg, 28 September [1935]; private property. Emily Carr, Victoria, to Nan Cheney, [Montreal?], 25 October [1935]; in The University of British Columbia, Vancouver.

4. Arthur Lismer, Toronto, to L.L. FitzGerald, Winnipeg, 12 February [1936]; private property.

5. Bertram Brooker, Toronto, to Mrs. L.L. FitzGerald, Winnipeg, 5 February 1935; copy property Estate of M. A. Brooker.

6. Arthur Lismer, Toronto, to L.L. FitzGerald, Winnipeg, 12 February 1936; private property. Fred Housser remained secretary of the Canadian Group of Painters.

7. Pearl McCarthy, 'Art and Artists,' Toronto Globe and Mail (29 July 1939).

8. A.Y. Jackson, Toronto, to H.O. McCurry, Ottawa, [received 13 January 1936]; in The National Gallery of Canada. New members included Carl Schaefer, Rody Courtice, Paraskeva Clark, Gordon Webber, Pegi Nicol, Kay Daly, and John Alfsen.

9. Canadian Group of Painters (Toronto: The Art Gallery of Toronto, 1942). New members included Mabel Lockerby, Kathleen Morris, Jack Humphrey, Ethel Seath, Louis Muhlstock, Caven Atkins, Henri Masson, David Milne, Lawren P. Harris, and Peter Haworth.

10. Carl Fellman Schaefer, 'Personal Reminiscences,' in J. Russell Harper, Carl Schaefer Retrospective Exhibition / Paintings from 1926 to 1969 (exhibition catalogue) (Montreal: Sir George Williams University, 1969), pp. 4 – 6.

11. Interview with Carl Schaefer, Toronto, 11 October 1973.

12. Ibid.

13. Ibid.

14. Carl Fellman Schaefer, op. cit., p. 8.

15. Similar colours appear in David Milne's watercolours painted during the war.

16. Carl Fellman Schaefer, op. cit., p. 8.

17. The first solo exhibition at the Picture Loan Society was Exhibition by Carl Schaefer, 9 – 22 January 1937.

18. Carl Schaefer visited Charles Burchfield in Buffalo around 1937 and admired his work greatly. (Interview with Carl Schaefer, Toronto, 11 October 1973).

19. Carl Schaefer was the recipient of the J.S. Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Painting in 1940, the first year it was offered to Canadian artists. He spent the year in Vermont. See Robert Ayre, 'Carl Schaefer The Industrious,' Montreal Standard (13 April 1940).

20. H.M. Jackson, Charles Comfort, The Man and the Artist, n.p. (Christmas 1935, New Year 1936).

21. Interview with Charles Comfort, Hull (Quebec), 3 October 1973.

22. Patricia E. Glover, Charles Fraser Comfort / Fifty Years (exhibition catalogue) (Winnipeg: The Winnipeg Art Gallery, 1973).

23. Interview with Charles Comfort, Hull (Quebec), 3 October 1973.

24. Idem.

25. Conversation with John Creighton, Vancouver, 21 November 1973.

26. Patricia E. Glover, op. cit.

27. Interview with Charles Comfort, Hull (Quebec), 3 October 1973.

28. Lumber Town, exhibited at the Canadian National Exhibition, Toronto, 1932 (no. 95) and reproduced in the catalogue. Lumber Town , Unpainted Barn, and The Brothers were left in storage at Hart House during the war and could not be located when Charles Comfort returned to Toronto. (Interview with Charles Comfort, Hull (Quebec), 3 October 1973.)

29. Charles Comfort, Toronto, to H.O. McCurry, Ottawa, 15 November 1935; in The National Gallery of Canada.

30. Ferdinand Marani (Canadian, 1893 – 1971) was the architect of the Bank of Canada Building in Ottawa for which he commissioned Jacobine Jones to do the sculptural decoration.

31. Interview with Charles Comfort, Hull (Quebec), 3 October 1973.

32. John Lyman, 'Art,' The Montrealer (April 1937).

33. Robert Ayre, 'Toronto Stock Exchange Murals Greatly Stimulate Canadian Art,' Montreal Gazette (24 April 1937). Charles Comfort also designed the frieze across the front of the new building.

34. Hans F. Seeker, Diego Rivera (Dresden: Verlag der Kunst, 1957), p. 177 repr. Rivera's mural was painted in 1930.

35. Interview with Charles Comfort, Hull (Quebec), 3 October 1973. See Lloyd Goodrich, 'The Murals of the New School,' The Arts, vol. XVII, no. 6 (March 1931), pp. 399 – 403, 422.

36. Graham C. McInnes, 'Mural – "Romance of Nickel," ' Saturday Night, vol. lii, no. 36 (10 July 1937), p. 6.

37. Robert Ayre, 'Murals in Our Public Buildings,' Saturday Night, vol. LV, no. 30 (25 May 1940), p. 2. This mural is presently in the Confederation Art Gallery and Museum, Charlottetown.

38. 'Artist's Work Wins Acclaim,' Toronto Globe and Mail (29 October 1938). Lake Superior Village (1937, oil on canvas; 42-1/2 x 70 in., 108.0 x 177.8 cm) is in the collection of the Art Gallery of Ontario. See Helen Bradfield, Art Gallery of Ontario: The Canadian Collection (Toronto: McGraw-Hill Company of Canada, 1970), p. 77 repr.

39. Interview with Charles Comfort, Hull (Quebec), 3 October 1973.

40. 'Toronto Artist Impressed by Art of Modern Italy,' The Toronto Telegram (19 August 1939).

41. Bertram Brooker, Toronto, to L.L. FitzGerald, Winnipeg, 20 March 1933; private property.

42. This community consisted of , among others, Lawren Harris and Dr Harold M. Tovell, chairman of The Art Gallery of Toronto's Exhibition Committee which brought the Société Anonyme exhibition to Toronto in 1927, and owner of Marcel Duchamp's Chess Players, now in the Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection, Philadelphia Museum of Art. See Anne D'Harnancourt and Kynaston McShine, Marcel Duchamp (exhibition catalogue) (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1973), repr. p. 247. Others in this community were the writers Merrill Denison and Morley Callaghan, and Harry Adaskin of the Hart House Quartette.

43. Dennis Reid, Bertram Brooker 1888 – 1955 (Ottawa: The National Gallery of Canada, 1973), p. 10.

44. Lawren Harris was already in contact with Katherine Dreier by the summer of 1926 and two of his works were included in the International Exhibition of Modern Art (assembled by the Société Anonyme) at the Brooklyn Museum, 19 November 1926 to 1 January 1927.

45. 'New Young Toronto Artist Paints Subjective Group,' Toronto Daily Star (5 February 1927).

46. Conversation with Kathleen Munn, Toronto, 18 February 1974. It is uncertain when Bertram Brooker first met Kathleen Munn. The first reference to her by Brooker is in a letter to FitzGerald, 28 December 1929; private property.

47. The Dance (Collection of the Artist) was exhibited at Toronto, The Art Gallery of Toronto, 22 November 1923 – 2 January 1924, The Forty-Fifth Exhibition of The Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, no. 127.

48. Bertram Brooker wrote the column 'The Seven Arts' from October 1928 to November 1930.

49. Bertram Brooker, Elijah (New York: William Edwin Rudge, 1929).

50. Richard Surrey (pseudonym), Layout Technique in Advertising (New York: McGraw Hill, 1929) and Copy Technique in Advertising (New York: McGraw Hill, 1930).

51. Bertram Brooker, ed., Yearbook of the Arts in Canada, 1928 – 1929 (Toronto: The Macmillan Company of Canada Limited, 1929).

52. Bertram Brooker, Toronto, to Lawren Harris, [?] ,19 August 1929; copy property Estate of M.A. Brooker.

53. Bertram Brooker, Toronto, to L.L. FitzGerald, Winnipeg, 28 December 1929; private property.

54. Bertram Brooker, 'The Seven Arts,' Ottawa The Citizen (1 March 1930).

55. L.L. FitzGerald, Winnipeg, to Bertam Brooker, Toronto, 11 January [1930]; property Estate of M.A. Brooker.

56. Bertram Brooker, 'The Seven Arts,' Ottawa The Citizen (1 March 1930).

57. 'Nudes in Landscape Causes Art Dispute,' Toronto Daily Star (7 March 1931).

58. Bertram Brooker, 'Nudes and Prudes,' in William A. Deacon and Wilfred Reeves, eds, Open House (Ottawa: Graphic Publishers Limited, 1931), p. 97.

59. Bertram Brooker, Toronto, to L.L. FitzGerald, Winnipeg, 10 January [1932]; private property.

60. Conversation with Paraskeva Clark, Toronto, 30 January 1974.

61. Paraskeva Clark, Toronto, to H.O. McCurry, Ottawa, 3 June 1944; in The National Gallery of Canada.

62. Conversation with Paraskeva Clark, Toronto, 30 January 1974.

63. A.Y. Jackson, A Painter's Country (Toronto: Clarke, Irwin & Company Ltd., 1958), p. 119.

64. Pegi Nicol, Toronto, to Marian Scott, Montreal, [October 1936]; property of Marian Scott, Montreal. See also, Roderick Stewart, Bethune (Toronto: New Press, 1973), p. 90.

65. Paraskeva Clark, Toronto, to H.O. McCurry, Ottawa, 16 August 1939; in The National Gallery of Canada. At this time the Committee was attempting to bring Picasso's Guernica to Toronto to raise funds for Loyalist refugees.

66. Presents From Madrid (1937, watercolour on paper; 19 x 21 in., 48.3 x 53.4; private collection).

67. 'Five Steel Strikers Killed In Clash With Chicago Police,' Toronto Daily Star (1 June 1937).

68. She was born Margaret Nichol at Listowel, Ontario, 17 January 1904. ('Pegi Nichol MacLeod,' The National Gallery of Canada Information Form, 15 July 1942.)

69. Pegi Nicol attended the École des Beaux-Arts at the same time as Marian Scott, i.e., 1925 – 1926. (Interview with Marian Scott, Montreal, 15 September 1973.)

70. Eric Brown, Ottawa, to Emily Carr, Victoria, 8 October 1928; copy in The National Gallery of Canada.

71. The Willingdon Prize was offered by the Governor General of Canada, Lord Willingdon, from 1929 to 1931 when he left for India.

72. Montreal, The T. Eaton Co. Ltd., [February 1932], Pegi Nicol.

73. Interview with Marian Scott, Montreal, 15 September 1973.

74. Donald W. Buchanan, 'Pegi Nicol MacLeod 1904 – 1949,' Canadian Art, vol. VI, no. 4 (Summer 1949), p. 158.

75. Pegi Nicol spent the summer of 1934 with the Masseys in Port Hope (Pegi Nicol, Toronto, to Marian Scott, Montreal, [ c. December 1934]; property of Marian Scott, Montreal) and prepared sets for a Hart House Theatre Production of' The Piper' in December. See 'Vivacious Artist,' Saturday Night, vol. l, no. 14 (9 February 1935), p. 16.

76. Walter Abell, Toronto, to Jack Humphrey, Saint John, 15 July 1936; property of Mrs J.W. Humphrey, Saint John.

77. 'Causerie,' The Canadian Forum, vol. xv, no. 177 (August 1935), p. 323.

78. Pegi Nicol MacLeod, Belleville (N.J.), to Marian Scott, Montreal, [October 1938]; property of Marian Scott, Montreal.

79. Graham C. McInnes, 'Contemporary Canadian Artists No. 8 – Pegi Nicol,' The Canadian Forum, vol. xvii, no. 200 (September 1937), p. 202.

80. Pegi Nicol, 'Merry Christmas,' The Canadian Forum, vol. XVI, no. 191 (December 1936), p. 3.

81. Conversation with Paraskeva Clark, Toronto, 30 January 1974.

82. Pegi Nicol, Toronto, to Marian Scott, Montreal, [postmarked 17 December 1936]; property of Marian Scott, Montreal.

83. Pegi Nicol, New York City, to Marian Scott, Montreal, [autumn 1937]; property of Marian Scott, Montreal.

84. Interview with Marian Scott, Montreal, 15 September 1973.

85. Pegi Nicol MacLeod, Belleville (N.J.), to H.O. McCurry, Ottawa, [received 17 October 1938]; in The National Gallery of Canada.

86. Pegi Nicol MacLeod, Belleville (N.J.), to Marian Scott, Montreal, [autumn 1938]; property of Marian Scott, Montreal.

87. Pegi Nicol MacLeod, New York City, to Marian Scott, Montreal, [postmarked 19 September 1939]; property of Marian Scott, Montreal.

88. 'Association News: Fredericton Art Club,' Maritime Art, vol. I, no. 1 (October 1940), p. 27.

89. Conversation with Mrs Walter Abell, Ottawa, 12 June 1974.

90. Walter Abell, 'Co-operative Art in the Maritimes,' Saturday Night, vol. LII, no. 32 (12 June 1937). p. 7.

91. The first issue of Maritime Art is dated October 1940. Maritime Art was superceded by Canadian Art in 1943.

92. J. Russell Harper, 'A Painter in the Maritimes,' in Jack Humphrey, A Retrospective Exhibition (exhibition catalogue) (Fredericton: Beaverbrook Art Gallery, 1966), p. 7.

93. Hawthorne on Painting From Students' Notes Collected by Mrs. Charles W. Hawthorne (New York, Chicago: Pitman Publishing Corporation, 1938).

94. Jack Humphrey, Saint John, to Eric Brown, Ottawa, 7 May 1931; in The National Gallery of Canada. It is possible Jack Humphrey spent some time at the Art Students League in New York as among his papers is a student card in his name for the League for the year ending 1 October 1930. However, Humphrey left for Europe in October 1929.

95. Jack Humphrey, Provincetown, to Ruth Humphrey, [Victoria?], 10 June 1929; property of Ruth Humphrey, Vancouver.

96. Jack Humphrey, Paris, to Ruth Humphrey, [Victoria?], 8 November 1929; property of Ruth Humphrey, Vancouver.

97. Jack Humphrey, Paris, to Ruth Humphrey, [Victoria?], 16 December 1929; property of Ruth Humphrey, Vancouver.

98. J. Russell Harper, op. cit., p. 8.

99. 'Jack Weldon Humphrey,' The National Gallery of Canada Information Form, [May 1931].

100. Jack Humphrey, Saint John, to Eric Brown, Ottawa, 7 May 1931; in The National Gallery of Canada.

101. Arthur Lismer, Toronto, to Jack Humphrey, Saint John, 3 July 1932; property of Mrs J. W. Humphrey, Saint John.

102. J. Russell Harper, op. cit., p. 10.

103. Marius Barbeau, Ottawa, to Arthur Lismer, Toronto, 30 October 1933; in the Art Gallery of Ontario.

104. Interview with John Humphrey, Montreal, 18 September 1973.

105. Jack Humphrey, Saint John, to Arthur Lismer, Toronto, 26 January 1934; in the Art Gallery of Ontario.

106. 'St. John Artist to Hold Exhibition of Works May 10 to 12,' Saint John Times-Globe (4 May 1934).

107. Jack Humphrey, Saint John, to H.O. McCurry, Ottawa, 26 October 1935; in The National Gallery of Canada. 'I spent a few days in Grand Manan recently. Was a great relief after this preposterous hole of a city.'

108. Walter Abell, Wolfville (N.S.), to Jack Humphrey, Saint John, 19 June 1935; property of Mrs J.W. Humphrey, Saint John.

109. Walter Abell, 'Jack Humphrey – Painter,' The Canadian Forum, vol. XVI, no. 185 (June 1936), pp. 16 – 18.

110. Graham C. McInnes, 'World of Art,' Saturday Night, vol. lii, no. 14 (6 February 1937), p. 16. There was not a single sale from this exhibition. See A.A. Macdonald, Toronto, to Jack Humphrey, Saint John, 17 February 1937; property of Mrs J. W. Humphrey, Saint John.

111. Graham C. McInnes, 'World of Art,' Saturday Night, vol. LIII, no. 14 (5 February 1938), p. 7.

112. Jack Humphrey, Saint John, to H.O. McCurry, Ottawa, 28 September 1937; in The National Gallery of Canada.

113. A.Y. Jackson, Toronto, to H.O. McCurry, Ottawa, 2 May [1938]; in The National Gallery of Canada.

114. Douglas Duncan, Toronto, to H.O. McCurry, Ottawa, 17 May 1938; in The National Gallery of Canada.

115. Graham C. McInnes, 'World of Art,' Saturday Night, vol. liv, no. 22 (1 April 1939), p. 20.

116. John Lyman, Montreal, to Jack Humphrey, Saint John, 23 Septemper 1938; property of Mrs J.W. Humphrey, Saint John.

117. 'Contemporary Arts Society List of Artist Members,' Montreal, 16 May 1939; in The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

118. Pegi Nicol, 'Miller Brittain,' Maritime Art, vol I, no. 4 (April 1941), p. 17. Experimentation with new techniques became very popular in the United States during the late twenties and thirties, first at the Art Students League and later, at the Fogg Museum in Cambridge (Mass.), a research programme was conducted under the Works Progress Administration Federal Art Project. Participants in this project gave demonstrations at the Kingston Conference in 1941.

119. Artist's statement in Pegi Nicol, 'Miller Brittain,' Maritime Art, vol. I, no. 4 (April 1941), p. 17.

120. Ibid., p. 16.

121. Interview with Ted Campbell, Saint John, 29 October 1973. The Oxford Group later developed into the Moral Rearmament movement.

122. Pegi Nicol, op. cit., p. 15.

123. Graham C. McInnes, 'Contemporary Canadian Artists No. 11 – Miller Brittain,' The Canadian Forum, vol. XVII, no. 203 (December 1937), p. 312.

124. 'When in 1938 I began to paint seriously, I sought an approach that would enable me to give full expression to plastic surfaces, and finally found it in an egg-tempera medium combined with oil and varnish glazes in various ways.' See artist's statement in Pegi Nicol, op. cit., p. 17.

125. Artist's statement in Pegi Nicol, op. cit., pp. 17 – 18.