Illustration and Design By Canadian Artists 1890-1940 with a
list of books illustrated by Home
| Français | Introduction
members of the Group of Seven
by Sybille Pantazzi, Librarian,
The Art Gallery of Toronto
Pages 1 |
2 | 3
One of the important effects achieved by the publication of
the league's Calendars was that it encouraged Canadian publishers to
employ local illustrators. In 1897, Bernard McEvoy's A way from
Newspaperdom, with illustrations by G. A. Reid, was published by
George N. Morang, who was also the publisher of the Calendars from
1899 to 1902. In 1900, the Applied Art Exhibition held under the
auspices of the Ontario Society of Artists included cover designs
for his books by G. A. Reid, Harriet Ford and Rex Stovel. In 1906,
Duncan Campbell Scott's Via Borealis, illustrated by A. H.
Howard (Fig. 5), was published by William Tyrrell, and, in 1910, R.
G. McLean, printers, published Backwoods Christmas by
Augustus Bridle, with illustrations by Thomas Garland Greene.
Another outcome of the activity of the League was the emergence from
among its members of a group of artists who specialized in book
design. In 1902/3, Thomas Garland Greene, Archibald (A. A.} Martin
(who was A. H. Howard's step-son}, William Wallace and Norman
Price (7) (Fig. 1) went to England where they joined the Carlton
Studio in London, a commercial art firm with which two outstanding
British book designers were connected, A. A. Turbayne (8) and Alfred
Garth Jones. In December 1903, the Canadians were also joined by J.
E. H. MacDonald. Unfortunately there is no surviving written record
of the history of the Carlton Studio - which is said to have been
one of the largest studios of commercial art in London at the time -
and, with two exceptions, it has not been possible to identify any
of the work done by MacDonald and the other Canadians in London in
1903-6. The books that can be identified are a five-volume edition
of Emerson's Works (1904-8} for a series of reprints, The
York Library', published by George Bell & Sons, for which A. A.
Martin designed the covers (which are signed A M) and end-papers;
and an edition of Lamb's Tales from Shakespeare (London, T.
C. & E. C. Jack, 1905}, designed by A. A. Turbayne and
illustrated by Norman Price. (9) The prospectus of a commercial
design course by correspondence commissioned from J. E. H. MacDonald
by the Shaw Business School of Toronto c. 1905, of which only
the title - The Art of Drawing for Profit - is known, as no
copy seems to have survived, states that MacDonald designed book
covers for the following publishers in England during his
association with the Carlton Studio: A. & C. Black, T, C. &
E. C. Jack, Macmillan and Ward Lock. (10)
At about the same time, 1905 to 1908, another member of the former
Toronto Art Students' League, C. W. Jefferys, illustrated three
juvenile thrillers by Marjorie Pickthall. As none of those
illustrations show any promise, Uncle Jim's Canadian Nursery Rhymes
(1908), (11) with its decorative use of stylized Canadian motifs
(which foreshadows the work of the Group of Seven), comes as a
delightful surprise. Jefferys never surpassed those enchanting
coloured illustrations (Fig. 8).
Concurrently but independently, another Canadian, Ernest
Seton-Thompson, was beginning to write and illustrate a series of
books on Canadian animals and outdoor life. As his characteristic
marginal vignettes are so well known, a title-page which shows some
affinity with the work of Jefferys is illustrated instead (Fig. 9).
F. S. Coburn is an artist of this period (Arthur Heming is another)
whose wash drawings suffered from the unattractive shiny greys and
sepias of photogravure. Coburn's illustrations for The Habitant (1897)
(and other books by W. H. Drummond), which consist of small line
sketches and vignettes, lack vigour, but later, on one occasion at
least, Coburn evolved a freer and bolder decorative style as in his
designs for Robert Browning's The Last Ride Together (12) (New
York, G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1906) (Fig.10).
The revival in Canadian book design inaugurated by the Toronto Art
Students' league was continued and amplified in the 1920's by the
Group of Seven. The artist who provided a link between the league
and the Group was J. E. H. MacDonald. All the members of the Group
had some connection with commercial art or illustration but
MacDonald's professional connection with book design was the closest
owing to his work with the Carlton Studio. His first book design was
made in 1900 when he prepared a sample for Elbert Hubbard, the
American printer and disciple of William Morris, whom he had
considered joining at his Roycroft Shop in East Aurora, N.Y. (13) In
the same year some catalogue covers by MacDonald were included in
the exhibit of the Grip Printing & Publishing Co. at the O. S.
Applied Art Exhibition. In 1905 he sent a 'Calendar design'
(probably the design for the month of April which appeared in the
League's Calendar for 1904) to the Canadian Society of Applied Art
exhibition, where it was shown with the contributions of the Carlton Studio. The first books designed and illustrated by MacDonald
for McClelland & Stewart were published in 1922, and a few years
later he also designed some covers for the Ryerson Press. Lorne
Pierce of the Ryerson Press, who himself was one of the leaders of
the revival of book design in Canada, has paid tribute to John
McClelland, who hired MacDonald, and to E. J. Hathaway of Warwick
& Rutter, the Toronto printer in whom MacDonald 'found the
challenge and encouragement that he needed to design outstanding
Between 1922 and 1929, McClelland & Stewart published books
illustrated by Lawren Harris, A. Y. Jackson. Franz Johnston and C.
M. Manly, as well as by J. E. H. MacDonald. In the same period Lorne
Pierce commissioned F. H. Varley (Fig. 25) and C. W. Jefferys to
design and illustrate books for the Ryerson Press, and the covers of
Ryerson's famous series of Poetry Chap Books were designed by J. E.
H. MacDonald and by his son Thoreau, whose long association with
that publisher also began in the 1920's.
Next Page | McClelland
& Stewart and Ryerson Press
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