GOING GRAPHIC, GOING OVERSEAS
Sir Edmund Walker’s eloquent case for graphic arts—in which “so much of the greatest artistic accomplishment of the ages has been made”—prompts the prime minister to fund a print department. During a major Gallery exhibition in London, a British critic predicts that Canada will spawn “one of the greatest schools of landscape painting.”
The National Gallery Library begins assembling Canadian art documentation files, and subscriptions for Christie's and Sotheby's auction catalogues soon follow.
The National Gallery of Canada returns to the Victoria Memorial Museum building when the Parliament buildings re-open in February.
Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden grants a request from Sir Edmund Walker to establish a print department within the National Gallery, along with funding for a full-time curator. “So much of the greatest artistic accomplishment of the ages has been made in the domain of graphic arts that no general collection of fine art, such as that of the National Gallery of Canada, can afford to neglect it or even to treat it indifferently,” says Walker, a long-time advocate of making prints available to the public. “The development of the department is, therefore, one of the Board’s particular cares at the present time in order that it may be placed on a sound footing and produce a wide understanding of this particular branch of the Fine Arts.”
Eric Brown implements the Ottawa exhibition programme, or Special Exhibitions program. The newly created Prints and Drawings Department organizes short-term installations in the manner of small exhibitions. These concise and thematic selections comprise the bulk of the Gallery’s early programme.
The National Gallery of Canada is invited to supervise the selection of contemporary Canadian art for the upcoming British Empire Exhibition at Wembley. A specially selected jury chooses 270 works by 108 contemporary artists, including 20 works by Tom Thomson and members of the Group of Seven. A critic for London’s Morning Post writes that the Canadian section landscapes represent “the foundation of what may become one of the greatest schools of landscape painting.”
Vincent Massey (1887–1967)
The Oxford-educated former Governor General of Canada served as chair of the Gallery’s Board of Trustees from 1948–1952. During that time, the new National Gallery Act was passed and a competition announced for the construction of a new building. Later, Massey laid the cornerstone for that structure, the Lorne Building.
The Gallery is invited by the French Ministry of Fine Arts to select works for a major exhibition of Canadian art, the Exposition d’art Canadien, at the Musée du Jeu de Paume in Paris. Retrospective exhibitions by James Wilson Morrice and Tom Thomson are chosen, along with a small collection of masks and carvings by Aboriginal artists.
The 268 chosen works fill the entire five galleries of the Jeu de Paume, and the show is considered to be the most important and comprehensive exhibition of Canadian art ever brought together outside Canada.