Art at the Canadian National Exhibition 1905-1938Home
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by Sybille Pantazzi
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Notes in the C. N. E. (D. F. A.) Catalogues, 1905-1938
The artists' dates and biographical information are included only
exceptionally, but their affiliation with artists' societies is
nearly always indicated. The medium is indicated by grouping only (e.g., the watercolours or
sculpture are usually in a separate
section). In the graphic arts section, information on the processes
of engraving used is given for each work. The names of the lenders
(unless lent by the artist) and prices are listed, but not the
dimensions of the works. The introductory matter is limited to a
brief foreword or note. With the exception of Dibdin's "Notes
on the Pictures" in 1913, few statements of the policy of selection or analyses of the exhibitions or individual works appear in
the catalogues. Misprints occur with some frequency in connection
with artists and works that are neither British nor American.
Black and white illustrations only are used throughout the whole
period. Those of foreign works increase from three in 1905 to
twenty-three in 1914 but drop to thirteen in 1938. The proportion of
illustrations to the number of works listed fluctuates (e.g., in
1917, twenty-one out of 115 foreign works were reproduced). There
were more illustrations in the 1920s than in the 1930s. In 1938, for
example, when 787 foreign works were listed, only thirteen (two
from the Surrealist exhibition, none from the Theatre Art) were
reproduced. In retrospect, it is difficult to judge to what extent
the selection of the illustrations was governed by the importance of
the works, or the availability of photographs.
The size of the catalogues (8 x 5-1/2 in, 20.3 x 14
cm) remains approximately the same during this period. The number of
pages grows from forty in 1905 to an average of ninety from 1912
to the early 1920s. It rises to 191 in 1931, and settles to an
average of 140 to 160 in the late 1930s.
The earlier catalogues are in dull brown wrappers
with the O. S. A. crest in reddish-orange (1905-1910), followed by
the same type of wrappers, but with three variants of the C. N. E.
crest, from 1911 to 1923. From 1924, the covers are in lighter
colours and decorated with sketches by artists of C. N. E. buildings,
among them a vignette of the Fine Art Gallery by Stanley Turner
(1924 and 1925). In 1927 an overall stylized design by A.J. Casson
was used. This effective cover, in black on a light ground, was
the first of a series of attractive and colourful covers with
distinctive lettering. The cover designs for 1931 to 1938, different
each year, were by Thoreau MacDonald. Those for the 1930, 1933 and
1935 catalogues are reproduced in M. E. Edison's Thoreau MacDonald
(Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1973), pp. 69, 74, 79.
This article is mainly based on the annual exhibition catalogues
of the Department of Fine Arts of the C. N. E. It does not claim to
have exhausted the subject, nor can it make any pretense at
completeness because, at present, the records concerning the art
exhibitions in the C. N. E. archives do not seem to be readily
available. The Centennial of the C. N. E. in 1979 will no doubt be
marked by the publication of an official documented history.
Apart from the local press, the secondary material on the C. N. E. is
surprisingly meagre and contains little that is relevant to the
subject of this article. The only two reviews of the C. N. E. I have
traced in foreign periodicals deal mainly with the Canadian art
exhibited there: The International Studio, vol. LI (December
1913), pp. 160- 163; Art News, vol. XXI (15 September 1923),
In addition to the sources mentioned in the text or cited in the
notes, the following were used:
1 Five albums of press clippings on the C. N. E. in the Metropolitan
Toronto Central Library.
2 L. Alloway, The Venice Biennale, 1895-1968 (London: faber
and faber, 1969).
3 E. Arthur, Toronto: No Mean City (Toronto: University of
Toronto Press, 1964).
4 J .P .Crespelle, Les Maitres de la Belle Époque (Paris:
5 H. Honour, "Biennales of Other Days," Apollo, vol.
84 (July 1966), pp. 24- 33.
6 Britain's Contribution to Surrealism of the 30's and 40's (London:
Hamet Gallery, 1971).
7 Retrospective Exhibition from previous Internationals 1896-1955,
catalogue compiled by L. A. Arkus (Pittsburgh: Carnegie Institute,
Department of fine Arts, 1959).
8 Catalogue of the International Exhibition of Modern Art:
Assembled by the Société Anonyme (Toronto: Art Gallery of
9 P. Voigt, Was sie liebten: Salonmalerei im XIX Jahrhundert (Cologne:
DuMont Schauberg, 1969).
10 Who's who in Art, 1927. vol. I, 3rd ed. (1934); 4th ed.
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