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

Bulletin 7 (IV:1), 1966

Annual Index
Author & Subject

Click figure 9 here for an enlarged image

Click figure 15 here for an enlarged image

Book Illustration and Design By Canadian Artists 1890-1940 with a list of books illustrated by 
members of the Group of Seven

by Sybille Pantazzi, Librarian,
The Art Gallery of Toronto

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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. A. 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 books'.

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 PageMcClelland & Stewart and Ryerson Press

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