National Gallery of Canada / Musée des beaux-arts du Canada

Bulletin 22, 1973

Annual Index
Author & Subject

Click figure 20 here for an enlarged image

Foreign Art at the Canadian National Exhibition 1905-1938

by Sybille Pantazzi

Pages  1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5  |  6  |  7  |  8  |  9  |  10  |  11 

Russian contemporary artists working in Russia and abroad were represented twice at the C. N. E., first as a group in 1925 and later in 1938 in the Theatre Art exhibition where they were at their best. In May 1925, the Art Gallery of Toronto exhibited 116 works by fifty-four Russian artists. From this exhibition, first shown in the United States, and "organized by the Russian Art Societies of Moscow and the hope that their artists, who experience great hardships and difficulties, may obtain assistance by sales, etc. to carry on their work," (30) the C. N. E. showed fifty works by thirty Russian artists in August of that same year. Both James Mavor, in his introduction to  the Art Gallery of Toronto catalogue, and the Toronto press emphasize that these are pre-Revolutionary works. The Globe and Mail, 3 September 1925 comments that "while bizarre and futuristic work might be expected from a race which has veered to radical poles in government, music and literature, conventionality pervades for the most part....Even the wood-carvings by Anna Golubkine (illustrated in the C. N. E. catalogue), while striking enough in their conception do not reach the high flights of expressionism attempted by Dadaists, for example."

A typical example of the confusion in the minds of the journalists concerning the avant-garde movements and their nomenclature, it also surprisingly expresses disappointment at being shown conventional art once again. The disappointment was justified if one can judge by the seven illustrations in the C. N. E. catalogue: A. Isupov's At the Monastery, I. Mashkov's Portrait of a Man, M. Nesterov's St Barabara, A. Rybakov's Stormy Sky, and so on. Nikolay Bogdanov- Bielski's A Corner in the Garden (three children looking at a picture book) has a nostalgic period-charm evoking the autobiographies of Pasternak and Nabokov. Only two other names stand out: Constantin Korovin and Boris Koustodieff. Koustodieff's The Merry Go Round (fig. 20) was acquired by the Art Gallery of Toronto in 1925 from the selection shown at the gallery itself in May of that year. For its literary interest Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin's portrait of the great Russian poet Ana Achmatova may also be mentioned. (The brilliant Russian theatre designs shown in 1938 will be referred to in connection with the graphic art.)

After 1912, independent exhibits of graphic and applied arts were also held at the C. N. E. The catalogue for that year gives the names of the three members of the new Department of Graphic Art as Arthur Heming, Fergus Kyle, and will H. Alexander. The exhibits were distributed in three buildings: the Fine Art Gallery, the Applied Art Gallery, and part of the Woman's Building.

The Graphic Art Department made its début with an ambitious, if somewhat miscellaneous and over-crowded, show which was divided into no less than seven sections containing some 400 works. A detailed enumeration of the sections is given, as this mixture is a fair example of the type of exhibition held in the following years. The sections were as follows: Lithographs by Members of the Senefelder Club (England) with Frank Brangwyn, Hubert von Herkomer, Alphonse Legros, Joseph Pennell, Edward J. Sullivan, and Charles Shannon among the exhibitors; The School of Colour Printing (London) and The Society of Graver-Printers in Colour, the latter including three illustrations by Lucien Pissarro; British and Foreign Etchings and British Drawings and Illustrations, in which works by noted illustrators such as Walter Crane, Edmund H. New, W. Heath Robinson, Byam Shaw, and Paul Woodroffe were shown; the Graphic Gallery, with John Hassall among the exhibitors; and finally American Illustrations with Will Bradley, Harry Fenn, Harrison Fisher, Jessie Willcox Smith, and A. B. Frost represented - all names which are still familiar to collectors of illustrated books today.

In 1913, the Gallery's European representative, Dibdin, referred to the graphic section in his notes at the end of the catalogue, but the works exhibited were not listed. He mentions Jessie M. King, Kate Cameron, and Edmond Dulac among the British illustrators, and adds that jewellery, book-bindings, and embroidery by British craftsmen were also shown. In that same year, for the first time, a section was devoted to work by members of the Royal Society of Miniature Painters (England).

After the appointment in 1920 of F. S. Haines, the painter and etcher, as secretary of the Department of Graphic Art, a more practical exhibition formula was found and all the graphic art, foreign and Canadian, was grouped together in the first International Graphic Art exhibition (with a separate catalogue which also included photography. A separate catalogue was issued only once again in 1922).

In the international graphic shows of 1921-1923 and 1927-1929, the vast majority of the exhibitors were Canadian, British, and American, with only a sprinkling of French and other nationalities represented. Among the British, the names which recur most often were those of established painter-etchers in the traditional style: Muirhead Bone, D. Y. Cameron, Lee-Hankie, W. Russell Flint, E. Blampied, Ernest Roth, Sir Frank Short, William Rothenstein, E. L. Griggs, Malcolm Osborne, James McBey, Gerald Brockhurst, and Frank Armington. Among the painters who also contributed engraved work regularly were Sickert, Augustus John, Dame Laura Knight, and Frank Brangwyn. Well-known British illustrators who figured in these exhibitions included Arthur Rackham, George Sheringham, G. W. Rhead, John Austen, and Alastair (the pseudonym of a German artist, Hans Henning Baron Voigt); Austen and Alastair were imitators of Beardsley. Three women artists belonging to the Glasgow school, in which there is a current revival of interest, were also contributors: Kate Cameron, Annie French (one of her watercolours, fig. 21, was purchased by the C. N. E.), and Jessie M. King (an exhibition of whose work was shown in Scotland and London in 1971-1972). Many of the outstanding British wood-engravers of the next generation were represented in the C. N. E. graphic section in the 1920s and 1930s: Robert Gibbings, Paul Nash, C. R. W. Nevinson, Gertrude Hermes, Blair Hughes-Stanton, John Buckland Wright, Eric Gill, Eric Ravilious, Clare Leighton, and Gwen Raverat. The Americans John Sloan, George Bellows, Edward Hopper, Childe Hassam, John Marin, and William Zorach also sent their work regularly - as did John Taylor Arms and Arthur Heintzelman. Popular artists whose illustrations appeared in magazines and children's books were well represented: N. G. Wyeth, John Held Jr., Norman Rockwell, and Maxfield Parrish among them. In 1932, the Lakeside Press Gallery of Chicago sent fifty engravers' proofs by a distinguished trio of illustrators and book-designers: W. A. Dwiggins, Rudolf Ruczika, and Rockwell Kent.

Finally, among the French, the following names stand out: Henri Matisse, J. E. Laboureur, and Dunoyer de Segonzac (all three exhibited in 1937), while Paul Helleu, Steinlen, and Henri Rivière also exhibited on several occasions, and fifty etchings by Bernard Boutet de Monvel (son of Maurice, the illustrator of children's books) were shown in 1928.

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