Between 1860 and 1940, Russia and Canada had radically different cultural and artistic environments. Literature, theatre, music, ballet and the visual arts reached new heights in Russia at the turn of the twentieth century, due to enlightened patronage. In Canada, although there was some emerging activity in the 1860s, the development of the arts was more modest because artists were still marginal figures in a society that was essentially concerned with its economic growth.

Nonetheless, the painters of both countries were driven by the desire to represent the local landscape and to highlight its special characteristics. Their works reflected the importance of landscape in Russian and Canadian identity. Their modes of representation gradually cast off outside influences. The painters focused mainly on rural scenes yet cityscapes sometimes drew their attention, attesting to changing lifestyles and their subsequent effect on the architectural environment.

This "national" affirmation went through a variety of phases. In Russia, from the very first travelling exhibition of itinerant artists known as the Wanderers in 1871, artists asserted their intention Read More
Between 1860 and 1940, Russia and Canada had radically different cultural and artistic environments. Literature, theatre, music, ballet and the visual arts reached new heights in Russia at the turn of the twentieth century, due to enlightened patronage. In Canada, although there was some emerging activity in the 1860s, the development of the arts was more modest because artists were still marginal figures in a society that was essentially concerned with its economic growth.

Nonetheless, the painters of both countries were driven by the desire to represent the local landscape and to highlight its special characteristics. Their works reflected the importance of landscape in Russian and Canadian identity. Their modes of representation gradually cast off outside influences. The painters focused mainly on rural scenes yet cityscapes sometimes drew their attention, attesting to changing lifestyles and their subsequent effect on the architectural environment.

This "national" affirmation went through a variety of phases. In Russia, from the very first travelling exhibition of itinerant artists known as the Wanderers in 1871, artists asserted their intention to reject foreign painting conventions. Later, other painters would draw inspiration from Russian popular culture in order to arrive at a new form of art. In Canada, as early as the 1870s, the Luminist painters adopted a more American perspective on painting. At the end of the nineteenth century, some artists adapted Impressionist techniques to conditions specific to Canada. In the 1920s, the Group of Seven were taken with the uncharted wilderness, leading to a distinctive image of the Canadian landscape.

© 2003, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Painting

Montreal's Harbour, by Adrien Hébert (1890-1967),1924.

Artist: Adrien Hébert, Photo: Jean-Guy Kérouac
Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec
1924
oil on canvas
153 x 122 cm
© Estate of Adrien Hébert


In 1924, Adrien Hébert, a poet of the city, began to paint scenes of the Montreal Harbour, with its heaps of cargo, busy dock workers and enormous grain elevators containing wheat from the Canadian Prairies. This theatrical version of the subject is one of the largest paintings of the harbour by the artist. Here he brilliantly captures an authentic depiction of traffic in the port, showing the dock workers and the movement of machines—even managing to evoke the strident noises of the hectic port. All of these elements are combined in a symphony skilfully orchestrated by the artist’s brush. The painting also demonstrates an equal mastery of composition.
In 1924, Adrien Hébert, a poet of the city, began to paint scenes of the Montreal Harbour, with its heaps of cargo, busy dock workers and enormous grain elevators containing wheat from the Canadian Prairies. This theatrical version of the subject is one of the largest paintings of the harbour by the artist. Here he brilliantly captures an authentic depiction of traffic in the port, showing the dock workers and the movement of machines—even managing to evoke the strident noises of the hectic port. All of these elements are combined in a symphony skilfully orchestrated by the artist’s brush. The painting also demonstrates an equal mastery of composition.

© 2003, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Painting

Indian Grave Houses, Skeena River, by Edwin Headley Holgate (1892-1977), 1926.

Edwin Headley Holgate
The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts - Gift of Mrs. Max Stern
1926
oil on panel
31.8 x 40.6 cm
© The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.


On a trip to Western Canada with painter A.Y. Jackson and anthropologist Marius Barbeau, Holgate sought to document Native traditions by painting the Tsimshian tombs on the Skeena River. In his journal, Holgate wrote that he “felt we were witnessing the rapid decline of a splendid race of creative and well-organized people.” Traces of this feeling are detectable in the painting, which is imbued with the tranquility and nostalgia of early evening. This atmosphere is achieved by the long shadows in the foreground and the relationship between the shapes of the tombs and the mountains in the background.
On a trip to Western Canada with painter A.Y. Jackson and anthropologist Marius Barbeau, Holgate sought to document Native traditions by painting the Tsimshian tombs on the Skeena River. In his journal, Holgate wrote that he “felt we were witnessing the rapid decline of a splendid race of creative and well-organized people.” Traces of this feeling are detectable in the painting, which is imbued with the tranquility and nostalgia of early evening. This atmosphere is achieved by the long shadows in the foreground and the relationship between the shapes of the tombs and the mountains in the background.

© 2003, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Painting

Green Elm In Autumn, by David Brown Milne (1882-1953), 1929.

David Brown Milne
Edmonton Art Gallery
1929
oil on canvas
31.1 x 41.3 cm
© Edmonton Art Gallery


In this late summer scene, an imposing overcast sky dominates a landscape with a majestic towering tree. While its composition and subject are not unlike those of Homer Watson’s Red Oak from ten years earlier, this work points to a new era in Canadian landscape painting. A contemporary of the Group of Seven, David Milne maintained a very distinct landscape style through his introspective, personal approach to art. He made strong use of modernist techniques such as patterning, the reduction of forms and attention to surface. The exposed brown canvas support that punctuates this painting both provides colour interest and asserts the two-dimensional nature of the painting.
In this late summer scene, an imposing overcast sky dominates a landscape with a majestic towering tree. While its composition and subject are not unlike those of Homer Watson’s Red Oak from ten years earlier, this work points to a new era in Canadian landscape painting. A contemporary of the Group of Seven, David Milne maintained a very distinct landscape style through his introspective, personal approach to art. He made strong use of modernist techniques such as patterning, the reduction of forms and attention to surface. The exposed brown canvas support that punctuates this painting both provides colour interest and asserts the two-dimensional nature of the painting.

© 2003, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Painting

The Plough, by Anne Savage (1896-1971), 1931 and 1933.

Anne Savage
The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts - Gift of Arthur B. Gill
1931-1933
oil on canvas
76.4 x 102.3 cm
© The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.


This harmonious landscape evokes not only life in the countryside but also rural labour, symbolized here by the plough in the foreground and the furrowed fields in the background. Anne Savage, a member of the Beaver Hall Group, contrasts the rhythmic undulations of the hills and clouds (to the left) with the lines of the abandoned plough. The artist alternates areas of dark and light so as to create a strong sense of depth. The viewer’s gaze travels from ground level, to a close-up of the plough, and finally, upwards to the space above the fields.
This harmonious landscape evokes not only life in the countryside but also rural labour, symbolized here by the plough in the foreground and the furrowed fields in the background. Anne Savage, a member of the Beaver Hall Group, contrasts the rhythmic undulations of the hills and clouds (to the left) with the lines of the abandoned plough. The artist alternates areas of dark and light so as to create a strong sense of depth. The viewer’s gaze travels from ground level, to a close-up of the plough, and finally, upwards to the space above the fields.

© 2003, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Grain Elevators, Halifax,by Marion Bond (1900-1965), around 1930.

Artist: Marion Bond, Photo: G.N. Hilfiker
Art Gallery of Nova Scotia - Gift of Allan Green, Halifax, Nova Scotia, 1989
c. 1930
oil on canvas
57.3 x 61.8 cm
© Art Gallery of Nova Scotia


Nova Scotia-born Marion Bond furthered her initial art training from the Victoria School of Art and Design with graduate studies in the United States. Bond worked primarily as a landscape painter, employing a distinctive dry brush technique used by her teacher Stanley Royle and sketching partner Marjorie Tozer. She placed structure and form above the reproduction of detail, an approach which can be seen in Grain Elevators, Halifax. The grain elevators are presented from behind, and we see them rising above backyards and the backs of houses transformed into boxes whose chimney pipes catch the light and echo their form through the composition.
Nova Scotia-born Marion Bond furthered her initial art training from the Victoria School of Art and Design with graduate studies in the United States. Bond worked primarily as a landscape painter, employing a distinctive dry brush technique used by her teacher Stanley Royle and sketching partner Marjorie Tozer. She placed structure and form above the reproduction of detail, an approach which can be seen in Grain Elevators, Halifax. The grain elevators are presented from behind, and we see them rising above backyards and the backs of houses transformed into boxes whose chimney pipes catch the light and echo their form through the composition.

© 2003, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Painting

Coldwell, Lake Superior, by Alfred Joseph Casson (1898-1992), 1928.

Alfred Joseph Casson
Edmonton Art Gallery
1928
oil on masonite
23.8 x 28.6 cm
© 2003, Margaret J. Hall


A. J. Casson joined fellow members of the Group of Seven in painting the striking landscape of Lake Superior’s north shore. Just as A.Y. Jackson had in Autumn, Lake Superior, his sketch of 1922, Casson focused inland from the shore. Both artists chose to represent the rough, craggy landscape in an assertive style that suited the subject matter, using a similar palette of earthy hues. Distinctive to the area, the standing trunks of dead trees, or snags, that line the shore appear as well in Lawren Harris’s representation of Lake Superior.
A. J. Casson joined fellow members of the Group of Seven in painting the striking landscape of Lake Superior’s north shore. Just as A.Y. Jackson had in Autumn, Lake Superior, his sketch of 1922, Casson focused inland from the shore. Both artists chose to represent the rough, craggy landscape in an assertive style that suited the subject matter, using a similar palette of earthy hues. Distinctive to the area, the standing trunks of dead trees, or snags, that line the shore appear as well in Lawren Harris’s representation of Lake Superior.

© 2003, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Painting

Fire Swept, by Edith Grace Coombs (1890-1986), the 1930s.

Edith Grace Coombs
Art Gallery of Hamilton - Gift of Dr. J.S. Lawson, 1949
c. 1930
oil on masonite
71.5 x 91.5 cm
© Art Gallery of Hamilton


Edith Grace Coombs was a Hamilton-born artist who came to artistic maturity at a time when the Group of Seven was a dominant force in the arts, their approach to the landscape a considerable influence on a generation of painters. While Coombs showed great skill as a painter of floral subjects and lyrical abstract compositions, many of her canvases show the impact of the Group’s aesthetic. Her contact with Group member J.E.H. MacDonald certainly played a role in how she approached the landscape. Fire Swept, in its ambitious approach, strong design and bold colouration applied in full sweeping strokes, speaks directly of this tradition.
Edith Grace Coombs was a Hamilton-born artist who came to artistic maturity at a time when the Group of Seven was a dominant force in the arts, their approach to the landscape a considerable influence on a generation of painters. While Coombs showed great skill as a painter of floral subjects and lyrical abstract compositions, many of her canvases show the impact of the Group’s aesthetic. Her contact with Group member J.E.H. MacDonald certainly played a role in how she approached the landscape. Fire Swept, in its ambitious approach, strong design and bold colouration applied in full sweeping strokes, speaks directly of this tradition.

© 2003, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Painting

Paddy’s Head, by Mabel Killam Day (1884-1961), circa 1928.

Mabel Killam Day
Art Gallery of Nova Scotia - Gift of Dr. Robert and Mary Martha Creighton, Tantallon, Nova Scotia, 1993
c. 1928
oil on canvas
50,7 x 61,0 cm
© Estate of Mabel Killam Day


Mabel Killam Day’s method of working was to make sketches and colour notes from nature, focussing her attention on the major forms within the landscape. She would then return to the quiet of her studio to paint the scene from memory, free from any type of distraction. Leroy Zwicker, describing her 1936 exhibition at his gallery in Halifax wrote, “Mabel Killam Day is undoubtedly the leading woman painter exhibiting this year. Her work is not the product of a manufacturer of pictures, but rather she makes one share some of the pleasure she felt at being in certain delightful places and above all the pleasure derived from just painting.”
Mabel Killam Day’s method of working was to make sketches and colour notes from nature, focussing her attention on the major forms within the landscape. She would then return to the quiet of her studio to paint the scene from memory, free from any type of distraction. Leroy Zwicker, describing her 1936 exhibition at his gallery in Halifax wrote, “Mabel Killam Day is undoubtedly the leading woman painter exhibiting this year. Her work is not the product of a manufacturer of pictures, but rather she makes one share some of the pleasure she felt at being in certain delightful places and above all the pleasure derived from just painting.”

© 2003, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Painting

Elm Tree at Pont-Viau, by Marc-Aurèle Fortin (1888-1970), between 1925 and 1930.

Artist: Marc-Aurèle Fortin, Photo: Patrick Altman
Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec
1925 - 1930
oil on canvas
137 x 166.4 cm
© Musée Marc-Aurèle Fortin/ SODART (Montréal) 2003


Marc-Aurèle Fortin, a painter who could be described, for the most part, as self-taught, was interested in picturesque Quebec landscapes that combined elements from nature with his interest in traditional architecture. In the course of his career, the artist frequently included trees in his works. In this canvas, he has painted an enormous elm tree, magnified in a style reminiscent of Art Nouveau. The small scale of the figures on the shore of the des Prairies River on Montreal Island accentuates the spectacular impact of this majestic tree, which takes on mythic dimensions. At the time Fortin painted this canvas, Quebec had many of these gigantic trees, although they largely disappeared a few decades later, decimated by Dutch elm disease. The artist’s poetic vision has thus enriched our collective memory.
Marc-Aurèle Fortin, a painter who could be described, for the most part, as self-taught, was interested in picturesque Quebec landscapes that combined elements from nature with his interest in traditional architecture. In the course of his career, the artist frequently included trees in his works. In this canvas, he has painted an enormous elm tree, magnified in a style reminiscent of Art Nouveau. The small scale of the figures on the shore of the des Prairies River on Montreal Island accentuates the spectacular impact of this majestic tree, which takes on mythic dimensions. At the time Fortin painted this canvas, Quebec had many of these gigantic trees, although they largely disappeared a few decades later, decimated by Dutch elm disease. The artist’s poetic vision has thus enriched our collective memory.

© 2003, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Painting

Grange Park, Toronto, by Yvonne McKague Housser (1898-1996), between 1925 and 1930.

Artist: Yvonne McKague Housser, Photo: Jean-Guy Kérouac
Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec
1925 - 1930
oil on canvas
76.2 x 91.4 cm
© Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec


Following her studies at the Ontario College of Art in Toronto, Yvonne McKague Housser continued her artistic development in Paris between 1921 and 1922. When she returned to France in 1924, she studied with Maurice Denis. She was linked to the Group of Seven artists in the 1930s, but became a convert to abstraction in the early 1950s. Grange Park is near the current site of the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto. The various groups of figures enjoying the peaceful park are somewhat isolated from one another by the rather schematic layout of the trees. The artist was also able to render the warm summer light through dappled backlighting. This backlighting contrasts with the bright spots of colour harmoniously spread over the whole surface of the canvas.
Following her studies at the Ontario College of Art in Toronto, Yvonne McKague Housser continued her artistic development in Paris between 1921 and 1922. When she returned to France in 1924, she studied with Maurice Denis. She was linked to the Group of Seven artists in the 1930s, but became a convert to abstraction in the early 1950s. Grange Park is near the current site of the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto. The various groups of figures enjoying the peaceful park are somewhat isolated from one another by the rather schematic layout of the trees. The artist was also able to render the warm summer light through dappled backlighting. This backlighting contrasts with the bright spots of colour harmoniously spread over the whole surface of the canvas.

© 2003, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Painting

After Grand Mass, Berthier-en-haut, by Kathleen Moir Morris (1893-1986), 1927.

Kathleen Moir Morris
The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts - Gift of William James Morrice
1927
oil on canvas
61 x 71 cm
© The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts


Like some other Anglo-Protestant artists, Kathleen Moir Morris was interested in the religious practices of Catholic French-Canadians. Here, in a rural parish near Montréal, she shows the parishioners leaving mass on a winter Sunday morning during the late 1920s. In front of the imposing stone church that fills the composition, the parishioners return to their horse-drawn sleighs. Covered in blankets, the brave horses wait outside for the duration of the ceremony.
Like some other Anglo-Protestant artists, Kathleen Moir Morris was interested in the religious practices of Catholic French-Canadians. Here, in a rural parish near Montréal, she shows the parishioners leaving mass on a winter Sunday morning during the late 1920s. In front of the imposing stone church that fills the composition, the parishioners return to their horse-drawn sleighs. Covered in blankets, the brave horses wait outside for the duration of the ceremony.

© 2003, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Painting

Winter, Northwest Arm, Halifax, by Elizabeth Styring Nutt (1870-1946), 1927.

Elizabeth Styring Nutt
Art Gallery of Nova Scotia - Gift of Robert L. Stanfield, Ottawa, Ontario, in memory of Mary Hall Stanfield, 1979
1927
oil on canvas
63,6 x 76,1 cm
© Art Gallery of Nova Scotia


Elizabeth Styring Nutt arrived in Halifax in 1919 to take the position of principal of the Victoria School of Art and Design—a post she would hold until 1943. She was recommended for the job by outgoing principal Arthur Lismer, who had been a classmate of Nutt’s in their native Sheffield. In contrast to Lismer, Elizabeth Nutt maintained strong connections to English Academic traditions, which she endeavoured to instill in her students. Elizabeth Nutt painted en plein air and only rarely referred to preliminary sketches. She painted on the Northwest Arm, a scenic inlet off Halifax Habour, in all seasons. This scene captures the crisp light and bright snow of winter.
Elizabeth Styring Nutt arrived in Halifax in 1919 to take the position of principal of the Victoria School of Art and Design—a post she would hold until 1943. She was recommended for the job by outgoing principal Arthur Lismer, who had been a classmate of Nutt’s in their native Sheffield. In contrast to Lismer, Elizabeth Nutt maintained strong connections to English Academic traditions, which she endeavoured to instill in her students. Elizabeth Nutt painted en plein air and only rarely referred to preliminary sketches. She painted on the Northwest Arm, a scenic inlet off Halifax Habour, in all seasons. This scene captures the crisp light and bright snow of winter.

© 2003, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Painting

Spring Breakup, Albert Henry Robinson (1881-1956), in 1928.

Albert Henry Robinson
Edmonton Art Gallery
1928
oil on canvas
69 x 84.3 cm
© 2003, J. Keith Russell


Albert Henry Robinson was working mostly in drawing when his brother urged him to “get out your oils and see what you can do with your own Canadian countryside.” Acting on his brother’s advice, the artist took up oil painting and went on to earn a reputation as an innovative colourist. For 12 years he turned his attention to the Quebec landscape, painting the themes of snow, icebound rivers, homes, farm buildings, sleighs and ships. He was invited to exhibit with the Group of Seven, but never joined them. He would, however, make many trips with A.Y. Jackson down Quebec’s St. Lawrence River in the late winter, producing sketches such as this in his stylistic approach.
Albert Henry Robinson was working mostly in drawing when his brother urged him to “get out your oils and see what you can do with your own Canadian countryside.” Acting on his brother’s advice, the artist took up oil painting and went on to earn a reputation as an innovative colourist. For 12 years he turned his attention to the Quebec landscape, painting the themes of snow, icebound rivers, homes, farm buildings, sleighs and ships. He was invited to exhibit with the Group of Seven, but never joined them. He would, however, make many trips with A.Y. Jackson down Quebec’s St. Lawrence River in the late winter, producing sketches such as this in his stylistic approach.

© 2003, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Painting

Windswept, by Marjorie Hughson Tozer (1900-1959), 1929.

Marjorie Hughson Tozer
Art Gallery of Nova Scotia - Purchase, 1938
c. 1927
oil on canvas
76,6 x 91,7 cm
© Estate of Marjorie Hughson Tozer


Born in Halifax, Marjorie Hughson Tozer took private art classes from Edith Smith and went on to study at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design under Elizabeth Nutt, as well as at the Ontario College of Art. In 1927, Tozer taught a summer school at Memorial University in Newfoundland, and it is thought that Windswept may have derived from her experience there. The dramatic effects of light, the dark, looming clouds and the rough seas convey the sense of an impending storm. The human element, seen in the fishing houses perched on the rocky coast, seems dwarfed by the scale of the landscape.
Born in Halifax, Marjorie Hughson Tozer took private art classes from Edith Smith and went on to study at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design under Elizabeth Nutt, as well as at the Ontario College of Art. In 1927, Tozer taught a summer school at Memorial University in Newfoundland, and it is thought that Windswept may have derived from her experience there. The dramatic effects of light, the dark, looming clouds and the rough seas convey the sense of an impending storm. The human element, seen in the fishing houses perched on the rocky coast, seems dwarfed by the scale of the landscape.

© 2003, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Painting

Andante Cantabile (Howe Sound), Vancouver, by Frederick Horsman Varley (1881-1969), around 1929.

Frederick Horsman Varley
Edmonton Art Gallery
c. 1929
oil on panel
33.0 x 37.8 cm
© 2003, Estate of Kathleen G. McKay


Searching for new directions in his art, Frederick Horsman Varley headed west from Toronto to accept a teaching position in Vancouver in 1926. He was completely captivated by the area’s mild climate and exotic setting, and spent the next ten years exploring its coastal landscape. This painting shows Varley’s work at the height of his career. Titled after a musical movement that progresses in a freely moving, song-like manner, Andante Cantabile resonates with the artist’s sense of awe toward his new environment. In this meditative sketch of the Howe Sound landscape, Varley applies paint in lyrical swirls to convey the organic qualities of his subject. The muted palette of the canvas touches upon the artist’s preference for green hues, which was informed by his interests in colour theory and Buddhist teachings.
Searching for new directions in his art, Frederick Horsman Varley headed west from Toronto to accept a teaching position in Vancouver in 1926. He was completely captivated by the area’s mild climate and exotic setting, and spent the next ten years exploring its coastal landscape. This painting shows Varley’s work at the height of his career. Titled after a musical movement that progresses in a freely moving, song-like manner, Andante Cantabile resonates with the artist’s sense of awe toward his new environment. In this meditative sketch of the Howe Sound landscape, Varley applies paint in lyrical swirls to convey the organic qualities of his subject. The muted palette of the canvas touches upon the artist’s preference for green hues, which was informed by his interests in colour theory and Buddhist teachings.

© 2003, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • Develop an understanding of the geographic influences on culture
  • Understand that art can represent the experience of people
  • Examine how major dominant European art movements influenced the interpretation of the landscape in Canadian painting
  • Be aware of similarities and differences in landscape painting between Russia and Canada prior to 1940
  • Appreciate the development of a distinctly Canadian style of landscape painting
  • Respond critically to a variety of art styles
  • Recognize the emotional impact of art

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