Teachers Lesson Plans

Canadian Painting in the Thirties


The beginning of the Great Depression in Canada.

Dorothea Lange
White Angel Breadline
1933, printed c. 1945


  • Japan invades Manchuria.

    Last official exhibition of Group of Seven at the Art Gallery of Toronto (includes the work of Emily Carr).

  • John Lyman returns to Canada after an 18-year stay abroad, founding the Atelier school of art with four other artists.
  • The Edmonton Museum of Fine Arts organizes an exhibition of Women Artists. The Alberta Society of Artists are formed. The Vancouver Art Gallery is founded.

Johnston, Lismer, and MacDonald in 1920 at the Arts and Letters Club. Photo by Arthur Goss, courtesy of The Arts and Letters Club of Toronto.


  • Adolf Hitler becomes German Chancellor.
  • Twenty-eight artists from across the country form the Canadian Group of Painters to succeed the defunct Group of Seven. This first exhibition of "art with a national character" takes place in Atlantic City.
  • An experimental School of Fine Arts is founded in Banff, Alberta, evolving into the influential Banff Centre for Continuing Education.
  • Frederick Varley and Jock Macdonald found the British Columbia College of Arts in Vancouver.

John Heartfield, Adolf the Superman Swallows Gold and Spouts Junk, before 28 August 1932, printed before 1942 © SODRAC


  • Demilitarized Rhineland is occupied by Germany: the Siegfried Line is begun.
  • Douglas Duncan and others creates the Picture Loan Society in Toronto as a co-operative adventure.
  • John Lyman starts writing a monthly column on art for The Montrealer (to 1940).
  • Norman Bethune's and Fritz Brandtner initiate a Children's Art Centre for the underprivileged of Montréal and hold an exhibition for the benefit of the Canadian League Against War and Fascism. Other artists, like Paraskeva Clark, are attracted to Bethune's Committee to Aid Spanish Democracy.
  • Canadian Group of Painters exhibition, circulated by the NGC, is shown for the first time on West Coast at Vancouver Art Gallery.

Passing through the Siegfried Line, Germany March 1945 Photo: George Soper


The Spanish Civil war breaks out when the Spanish army in Morocco led by General Francisco Franco rise up against the democratically elected Republican government.


Lawren Harris establishes the Transcendental Painting Group in Santa Fe, New Mexico.


  • John Lyman and others establish the Contemporary Arts Society in Montréal to promote greater awareness of international modernism.
  • Isabel McLaughlin becomes the first woman President of the Canadian Group of Painters.