Canadian Prints & Drawings
Comprising over 7000 works on paper from the 18th century up to the contemporary period, the collection of Canadian prints and drawings is a window on to the richness and diversity of artistic expression in this country.
Watercolours, prints and botanical studies by Thomas Davies form the beginning of the collection. These are complemented by holdings of ‘garrison’ artists such as John Elliott Woolford, George Heriot and Charles Ramus Forrest, all of whom depicted Quebec City and British North America as recorded on their official travels. Among other important military and topographical artists represented are Augustus Levinge of New Brunswick and Robert Petley in Nova Scotia. Although professional artists were few and far between during the pre-confederation period, the collection contains a series of academic studies by Canadian-born sculptor François Baillairgé as well as drawings and watercolours by accomplished portrait painters of the time, William Berczy, Robert Field and William Eagar.
Post-confederation Canada in the 19th century witnessed a growing number of trained professional artists alongside the expansion of the country. For many, watercolour was the medium of choice and this is reflected in major works by James Duncan, (who specialized in views of Montreal), Lucius O'Brien, John A. Fraser, F.M. Bell-Smith (all of whom undertook sketching trips on the newly built Canadian Pacific Railway), Alan Edson (who explored the landscape of the Eastern Townships) and William G.R. Hind (who travelled extensively from Labrador to British Columbia).
Printmaking by artists in the pre-confederation period was rare yet important examples, such as the remarkable suite of twelve hand-coloured aquatint and etchings by James Pattison Cockburn, are represented in the collection. In the late 19th century artists took up the etcher's needle with enthusiasm and this period is well documented with prints by T. Mower Martin, Wyatt Eaton, John Hammond and Elizabeth Armstrong Forbes.
By the beginning of the 20th century printmaking gained increasing favour among artists. Among the most talented practitioners at this time were Clarence Gagnon, H. Ivan Neilson, Dorothy Stevens and Herbert Raine. As well, the collection has comprehensive holdings of the innovative printmakers of the next generations, many of whom were instrumental in introducing new print techniques to Canadian artists and audiences: among them are David Milne, W.J. Phillips, and Ernst Neumann.
The representation of printmaking in the later 20th century encompasses the activities of artists throughout the country, focusing on individual artists such as Betty Goodwin and Yves Gaucher as well as the development of specific print media and workshops as in the influential Atelier libre de recherches graphiques and the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design Lithography Workshop.
Drawings made during the mid-to-late 20th century, reflecting a multitude of media, continue to be well represented with outstanding works by artists across Canada; from Jack Shadbolt in British Columbia, Paul-Émile Borduas in Quebec to Miller Brittain in New Brunswick, to name only a few. The collection also contains large holdings by ground-breaking artists Greg Curnoe, Joyce Wieland, and Michael Snow. Works on paper made since 1980 comprise an integral part of the collection of Contemporary Art which includes all media.