Thursday, March 29, 2012

Shaped By the Sea, A View Inside the Provincial Art Gallery of Newfoundland and Labrador

This picture by Christopher Pratt is part of their heritage, permanent collection in the Art Gallery of Newfoundland and Labrador. It was painted in 1965 and is an oil on masonite work. (73x46cm). To be more precise its on the South Wall, and you can wander around this room by clicking here.  Pratt has another work, called Lance Point Rock, sitting beside this work.

And, to add more pleasure to the virtual tour, you will find Another Province in Canada, by Mary Pratt in the same room.  What treaures!
This is all part of a display called Shaped by the Sea

The Gallery Includes this synopsis to go with the display.

The works of art included in this virtual exhibit have been chosen from among those in the Art Gallery of Newfoundland and Labrador's (AGNL) "Permanent Collections," then arranged into a four-walled exhibition to give the viewer an experience similar to that of visiting an art gallery. The exhibition is titled Shaped by the Sea and includes works by some of the many artists represented in the collections. They explore how the Newfoundland and Labrador environment and culture are influenced by the encompassing ocean. Some images, such as those by Pam Hall, are compelling commentaries on the current state of the fishing industry; others are nostalgic reminders of days gone by; still others, like David Blackwood's etchings, are interpretations of specific events in Newfoundland's history. Some works are by established, professional painters and printmakers, while others are by less well-known artists.

While Shaped by the Sea was intended to generate reflections about how Newfoundland and Labrador's traditional lifestyle and maritime environment are affected by the interaction with or dependence on the sea, viewers are offered an additional consideration—how an artist's vision is coloured by his or her relationship with the place, its people and the sea. It is interesting to compare the work of Newfoundlanders who grew up in the province to that of artists who came to Newfoundland and Labrador and chose to stay. Consider the images of David Blackwood or Christopher Pratt, both native Newfoundlanders. Blackwood's depiction of sealing days are sinister yet nostalgic, Pratt offers archetypal images of a Newfoundland past and present—simple, bare, non-specific yet knowable. Then consider the work of Anne Meredith Barry, a native of Ontario, who lives and works in Newfoundland. Her visions of the land and sea are vibrant and celebratory images of strength and joy. Questions arise: how do Newfoundlanders see themselves? And how do others see Newfoundlanders? As long as misleading generalizations about such contrasts are avoided, comparisons like these may lead to fresh perceptions of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The arrangement of the works of art in Shaped by the Sea is thematic. The South Wall focuses on the power of the ocean and the mystery of marine life—a natural preoccupation of seafaring people. For example, Heide Oberheide's Across the Chasm is a whirling pool of water and wind, while Christopher Pratt's Young Girl with Seashells collects and marvels at small wonders from the shore.

The West and North Walls present the past and present of the fishery, the people and their communities. In Reginald Shepherd and Don Wright's works, the sea is rolling and productive, while the still and lonely images of Sid Butt and Frank Lapointe foreshadow the decline of the fishery and its way of life. The East Wall is less literal, dealing with the beliefs and spirituality of a people faced with the hardships of difficult socio-economic circumstances and a relentless environment. For example, Gerald Squires' No More May Gulls Cry at Their Ears can be understood partly as a reaction to the resettlement of Newfoundland outport communities in the 1960s.

Nevertheless, works of art always have many meanings; there is never only one explanation or one message. Viewers bring their own histories when they encounter art, joining with artists in a powerful and unique process of communication. We hope that you discover something of value here—enjoy the Shaped by the Sea exhibition and this glimpse into the Newfoundland experience.

© 1998 AGNL

To be fair, I didn't include works from the other painters.  It must be a little frustrating, for so many people must think that in many minds, Newfoundland and Labrador painting begins and ends with the Pratts.
Other artists include, Pam Hall, David Blackwood, Heidi Oberheide, Reginald Shepherd, Sid Butt, Frank LaPointe, and Gerald Squires.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Provincial Art Gallery of Newfoundland and Labrador

The Provincial Art Gallery of Newfoundland and Labrador, presents visitors with an excellent representative view of this province's art.

The collection is housed in the St. John's Arts and Culture Centre, which was formerly known as the Art Gallery of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The website gives the following information:

The Rooms is located at 9 Bonaventure Avenue and provides 10,000 square feet of gallery space for permanent collections and travelling exhibits. Its design and name pay tribute to the traditional buildings, known as fishing 'rooms,' where the province's fishers once processed their catch and stored nets and other equipment. Alongside the gallery, The Rooms is home to the provincial archives and museum.
Open year-round, the gallery has an annual budget of $1 million and a permanent staff of 12. It shows temporary exhibitions on the third and fourth floors of The Rooms and exhibits works from its permanent collections on the fourth floor. It also maintains a shared exhibit with the museum and archives on the second floor. About 20 exhibitions are presented in St. John's annually, normally balanced between exhibitions produced by the gallery and those borrowed from elsewhere. The gallery's primary exhibition focus is contemporary Canadian art, with a specific commitment to that of Newfoundland and Labrador. Historical art, art from other countries, folk art, and crafts are also sometimes included.
The gallery manages collections of original fine art, including that of Memorial University of Newfoundland, the J. K. Pratt Memorial Collection, the Provincial Art Gallery Permanent Collection, and the Art Procurement Collection of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. Known together as the “Permanent Collections,” they comprise over 7,000 works of art. The collections are primarily of post-1960 Canadian art, but also include historical works. Art with connections to Newfoundland and Labrador is a special focus, with major holdings of such artists as Christopher and Mary Pratt, Gerald Squires, David Blackwood, Reginald and Helen Parsons Shepherd, Don Wright and Anne Meredith Barry. Donations of art are an important aspect of the collections' growth; charitable donation receipts can be provided for these gifts.
Education and outreach goals are important to the gallery. There is an active program of school visits, group tours, talks by artists, children's workshops, public receptions and concerts. Volunteers or 'friends of the gallery' help with these activities, with fundraising and in other ways.
this portion was extracted from the Gallery's website. Please click here

The Gallery sends collection out throughout the province so people can see the art of their province without having to travel to St. John's. And to show the respect that Newfoundland has for Christopher Pratt, they appointed him the gallery's first curator. The Gallery began as a modest collection in the University Library, in 1961. Megan Williams is their current director.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Ivan Wheale, Artist

By |Bill Bradley
Sudbury Northern Life

Mantoulin Island painter Ivan Wheale said the various landscapes around the Sudbury area are an inspiration to artists.  He was at Artists on Elgin, Sunday, hanging up his latest paintings for a month long exhibition.

A reception for the former Sudbury resident will be held October 3rd, 1pm at the gallery.

Wheale, 73 said it is a little known fact that members of the Group of Seven used local sites such as Killarney, Manitoulin Island and the North Channel as backdrops for their work. I met A.Y. Jackson n the 1960's in Toronto and we talked about painting.

Wheale said, Jackson and the other Group of Seven landscape artists created hundreds of paintings and sketches based in the mid north region.

“He (Jackson) was fond of the Willisville and the Killarney area. The area from south of the French River to this side of Sault Ste. Marie is fantastic for artists who like that type of landscape.”

But landscapes may not have all the elements for a good painting, Wheale explained. He said that in one of his works, which was created at a North Channel site, the light was not right, so he changed the time of day.

“I got to this site by boat. Sometimes you cannot be there when you would like because of the weather conditions.

So in this case, I took a photo and made a sketch. Then back at the studio, I added what I thought were the right elements. That is where the creativity of the artist comes into play.”

Before he arrived in Canada, he had been painting at his home in England as a youth. “I was sketching men working on the ships in the shipyard where I used to work. I would do the paintings in the attic of my family’s house.”

In Sudbury, while working for Carrington’s Lumber in the flooring department, he kept up the painting. “I went to Toronto for a Vincent Van Gogh exhibit. I saw that on a Saturday and quit my job on the Monday. My boss said I would never make it. But I have painted professionally ever since.”

He took no courses and is completely self-taught. Though times were tough enough to require harvesting bottles from ditches to feed his family in the early days, he thinks everyone contains an artist within. “I think anyone can paint. You just have to bring out the creativity within.”

Wheale paints every day.

“I get up early and usually paint six to seven hours a day, sometimes up to 12 hours. It is something I love to do,” he said. But he has no time for marketing his work. “I let the galleries do that.”

He calls his style of painting realism. “I differ from the Group of Seven because my work has no abstract elements. It is realism. I used to try abstract painting when I was younger. I even set fire to a canvas to watch the paint bubble,” he laughed.

Wheale has nine original oils and 30 original watercolour miniatures for sale at Artists on Elgin. His paintings can still be purchased after his show.

With the support of the Rainbow and District School Board, he has gone into area schools to work with youth.
“Some of their work is quite good.”

He had some advice for the young painters. “You have to be your own worst critic. I will destroy my work if it is lacking. It may fool some people but it will not fool me.”

Source: Northern Life. ca
Sept. 30. 2009
Written by Bill Bradley
Please click here to see the article at source

Friday, March 23, 2012

Whitlin' Charley's Stand

Go ahead  price this elk.
Was it carved with a jack knife?
Some painters price by the square centimeter.  How does a good carver set his price?

How long did this take whittlin' Charley?

Take a good look at the posture of the man wearing the cardigan to the left of our carver. Does it remind you of the poses men struck when they had group photos taken in the 1800's.  Odd.

My guess is that the carver is Charles  Volrath, who lived from 1870-1952.
When you check the School House museum site by clicking on the link you will find Charles Volrath in some of the other pictures. While I don't know for certain, I suspect that Charley and Charles are one and the same.

year: 1932
Chalk River, Ontario
Please click here.
'Valley Carvers Past and Present.' Produced by the School House Museum, Laurentian Hills, Ontario.

Ivan T. Wheale / Artist

It can be a strange world at times. I was sitting on a Caribbean beach recently, talking about my love of art, when the person I was chatting with asked me if I ever heard of Ivan Wheale.   I admitted that I hadn't heard of Ivan, and returned to my apartment and engaged in some internet research to learn more about this man.
I discovered, to my delight, an outstanding artist, who deserved to be nationally recognized.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

This 'Picturesque' concept of landscape had a pervasive influence upon landscape painting and garden design in England, which endured well into the 19th century. In 1756 it was supplemented by the concept of the 'Sublime' propagated by the statesman and writer Edmund Burke. His Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful argued that both beauty and the awe-inspiring experience of the Sublime were perceived emotionally. Burke conditioned the thinking of a wide range of artists, including Reynolds, but his theory that both beauty and the Sublime were generated by subjective rather than objective criteria became a central tenet of Romanticism.
 After visiting the Grande Chartreuse in the mountains of Savoy in 1739, in company with Horace Walpole, Thomas Gray enthused: 'a monstrous precipice, almost perpendicular, at the bottom of which rolls a torrent…concurs to form one of the most solemn, the most romantic, and the most astonishing scenes I ever beheld’, and continued: 'I do not remember to have gone ten paces without an exclamation, that there was no restraining: Not a precipice, not a torrent, not a cliff, but is pregnant with religion and poetry'.5 Gray was so moved by this sight that he wrote an ode, in Latin, in its honour.
from the V&A website. Please click here 
Author unidentified

The bottom two paintings show how Heriot's  top painting fits into the 'picturesque style'.
The middle work was by Phillipe Jacques De Laoutherbourg. Its Shchaffthausen Falls along the Rhine River. It could be mistaken for an 18th century, Quebec waterfalls.  

The bottom work (Tintern Abbey) is by the English artist JMW Turner.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Lake St. George Quebec by George Heriot

This grand old painting shows an intriguing, classical management of light.  I expect, that its a watercolour, since that was the media that the artist, George Heriot was best known for.  There is a sort of ornate delicacy in the foreground trees. His work has a masterful layering of tonal values, from the immediate darks to the distant hills where the hills blend into the soft sky  The work is patiently executed, and Heriot gives careful attention to small details. You can, for example, see the trunks of the trees along the distant shore of the lake.  Because the painting is relatively small , close examination  suggests that the people in the foreground may be fishing from a boat. Its not often that I see a painting where the artist uses the sky to funnel the eye downward towards his subject.  I'm uncertain who this painting was painted for. Its delicacy and its rolling distant hills and its composition, indicates a controlled and pleasing landscape within which people are comfortably situated. Its far from Tennyson's "Red in fang and claws", world.  It was painted in Quebec between 1796 and 1806 and in my mind it seems a little park like.  A little too, civilized.  And taking this thought a step further, a little too English?  It seems to me that its an example where art tells people what they want to think they see in Canada and not what it actually looks like.  But, all that aside, I am fascinated by the way he paints with the light, and organizes his work.

Heriot came to Canada in 1792, and returned to the UK, where he attended the University of Edinburgh. His ascendency in the colony peaked at him becoming the Postmaster General for British North America, which he obtained through knowing William Pitt.

Wikipedia says that he likely learned to paint in the picturesque style at  Woolwich. Heriot published two books on Canada, The History of Canada, from its first discovery (1804) and Travels Through the Canada, (1807)  The latter book is richly decorated with his pictures

The information in the last few paragraphs came from Wikipedia. Please click here.  Please note the  footnotes giving the sources for the Wikipedia article, at the bottom..

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Orchids by Jeanne d'Arc Gaudet

I have seen a few floral paintings over the years that have impressed me, and Jeanne d'Arc's 'Orchids', belongs in this group. Its painted in oils on canvas and its 18"x 24" in size. And to the regret of many readers, I have to tell you that it has been sold. (it could likely have been sold several times over).

Not being particularly knowledgeable about floral, photo realism, I contacted  Texas artist friend, WF (Bill) Martin who is a premier floral artist  from Glendale Arizona, and who has won many honours for his work including first prize in the Arizona State Fair.

When Bill looked at Jeanne d'Arc's, Orchids he immediately exclaimed, "I really appreciate that painting."

When I invited Bill to comment on the work he was quick to say,"Well, for one thing, I like the dimensionality of it, that has been created by selectively and gradually blurring the background as it recedes from the center of interest--the flower." He went on to say, "I also appreciate the lower-chroma colors, especially in the background", and The flower seems to pop right up from the canvas. There is also a strange, subtle sense of color harmony, created by the careful "scattering" of the lavenders around the painting."
Now these words come from one of the best photo realist floral artists in the States.

Speaking personally, I like the way Jeanne d'Arc, created an out of focus backdrop for her subject.  This compels the viewer to focus upon the subject and the contrast between the two heightens the impact of the work.

No wonder Canadians are taking notice of Jeanne d'Arc Gaudet.  I have a feeling that it won't be long before she is nationally recognized for her art.

Please click here to visit Bills' site.

Please click here to visit Jeanne d'Arc's website and to see her many other works.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Jeanne d'Arc Gaudet of Regina, Saskatchewan.

I have been hoping for some time now to be able to profile a Saskatchewan artist on 'The Portrait'.  But because of a smaller population,  Saskatchewan artists are few in numbers when compared to bigger provinces. But let me share this, 
Jeanne d'Arc doesn't take a back seat to any Canadian painter. She's got the magic touch.

Before, I present one of Jeanne d'Arc's works in a following posting, one is able to note that this lady is in a class of her own. Her website reveals that she has caught the attention judges in the past decade.  She has won 5 people's choice awards in art shows, and a solid representation of first place finishes in art shows.

Jeanne d'Arc lives with her husband Emile in Regina, but her roots can be traced back to the small French farming community of St. Denis, Saskatchewan where she was born and raised.  She and husband Emile, left Saskatchewan and moved to Vancouver where they stayed for many years, after which they moved back to their native province and recreated their life closer to their ancestral roots. This is where she lives today, doing what she loves best to do - creating beautiful art.

Jeanne d'Arc and her husband are surrounded by an abundance of relatives, (she and her husband count between them, 26 brothers and sisters). Jeanne d'Arc and Emile, have 4 adult children and 8 grandchildren. And somehow during the past decade she has managed to find time for her other great life passion - painting!

When it comes to painting, Jeanne d'Arc is the first to admit that orchids and children are her favourite subjects. And when the muse descends and she is in the groove she says that she is so happy that she feels like dancing.  Talk about a liberated spirit!

Jeanne d'Arc is inspired by such great artists as Van Gogh, Sargent, Degas, Renoir and Vermeer with whom she appreciates along with the old masters.

I admire Jeanne d'Arc's generosity of spirit, for she identifies artists such as  Canadian Harley Brown, and American artists Jeff Legg and William Whitaker along with the legion of new painters who she believes should find their place of fame in the art scene. Speaking personally, when you check out Jeanne d'Arc's website, you will find the kind of outstanding works that are earning her a solid reputation and presence in the Canadian painting community.  Please click here

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Charles Lewton-Brain, Artist-goldsmith

I will be the first to admit that I have been remiss in failing to acknowledge the skills of our many skilled crafts people as visual artists. This can be attributed to my myopic vision as a painter.  With this in mind its with much appreciation that I thank reader Dina Britt from from Pasadena, California, USA, who directed me to this Canada Council video highlighting the work of Charles Lewton-Brain, recipient of the Governor Generals Award for his contribution to the arts.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

2012 Governor General Awards Winners

“Throughout their careers, the 2012 winners of the Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts have surprised, touched and inspired us,” stated His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada. “Let us celebrate these Canadian artists whose creativity and talent we can all be proud of.”

“Artists are alchemists, and the 2012 Governor General’s Visual and Media Arts laureates are masters at transforming everyday experience into gold,” said Robert Sirman, Director and CEO of the Canada Council for the Arts. “These awards celebrate artists who have played a key role in shaping the Canada of today, and who continue to have a lasting and positive impact on our culture.

Charles Lewton-Brain, artist-goldsmith. (Saidye Bronfman award)
Ron Martin, visual artist
Diana Nemiroff, art gallery director and curator (outstanding contribution)
Jan Peacock, artist - media and installation
Roydan Rapanowitch, sculptor
Jana Sterbak, visual artist
Geoffrey James, photographer
Margaret Dragu, performing artist

Please click here to visit the Canada Council Arts Council website to view the official announcement.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Vincent Comes to Canada

Vincent is coming to the National Gallery of Canada.  There will be more then 40 of his paintings from private and public collections around the world. The showing is organized by the National Gallery of Canada, and the Philadelphia  Museum of Art. 
May 25-Sept. 3rd.

To read more please click here.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Ken Phillips and Marie Guard 3

As for my father, when he retired he was alarmed to realize that his life had raced past him. In his agony he found only one place where he could paint. Within walking distance of his home was a ruined orchard, soon to be bulldozed to make way for yet another housing development. Even in the bare autumnal branches of the decaying trees he found a few blackbirds or a waning moon to take joy in. And as he captured these, he found his way through to some of the finest work of his career. “The landscape,” said C├ęzanne, “thinks itself in me, and I am its consciousness.” And it was exactly this kind of
symbiosis to which my father came in his last years. Having travelled beyond the snares of hope, he would have said, as Giacometti did, that he “lived only in order to see and draw, and drew in order to see better.” In spite of the lurking warning of his deteriorating health, at this time my father sprung back to life with a final purpose. Rejection had helped him articulate his philosophy for himself, and now his crisis of faith forced him to
gather still more closely to himself the values that upheld him. Now, in his urgency to achieve at last the expression he felt he had been born for, he moved beyond consciousness to work from a deep inner well.

In 1978 my parents left their woodland home and moved to a pastoral setting in eastern Ontario where they would be closer to my sister and me. But in 1983, a few weeks after one last ill-considered trip to England, where he collapsed outside Canterbury Cathedral, my father died suddenly from a heart attack. For twenty more years my mother continued valiantly living alone, painting and drawing, keeping faith for as long as she could, although she often found it hard to find her artistic way without my father’s passionate conviction.


This unusual artist couple had a long-lasting marriage which greatly influenced their work. Although my father’s quixotic, difficult temperament sometimes made my mother’s life hard, their generally sustaining relationship was built on respect. Nobody else understood so well, nor shared their excitement as well. In terms of their art, they relied on each other's criticism to guide their paintings and thoughts.

In many ways, my father was a feminist before his time, believing that his wife was his equal and should be free to pursue her chosen work. He willingly helped with chores and child-minding when he could seize time from his long hours of work in the Art Advertising Department at Simpson's and the ongoing house building. My mother's beauty, intelligence and conviction were steadying for him as he confronted a mechanised world where he was unable to share his lifework widely. Troubled by her husband’s great sacrifice in going out to work, my mother always put my father’s work first, which sometimes hampered her own chances of success. But this was a sacrifice my father never demanded of her.

As for my mother, for most of the other women who attended the College of Art at that time, there were only two life choices available. Some married, gave up their art and restricted themselves to homemaking. Others, like Marie’s friend, Eugenia (Betty) McNaught of the Peace River Country, chose to live single and pursue their art unimpeded. Marie Cecilia Guard found a middle path. Unable to paint and draw full- time, but supported and encouraged by Ken, she was a lifelong artist.

In spite of the loss of her life partner, macular degeneration and serious arthritis, she continued to paint impressionistic sketches, and, in her nineties, asked for a pencil to draw the hundred year old lady in the hospital bed next to her.

In 1993 there was a handsomely mounted and well-received retrospective exhibition of her figure work of the thirties and forties at Kingston’s Agnes Etherington Art Centre. And with this exhibition came the hope that perhaps at long last opportunities might come for people to see and appreciate her and my father's lifework. At that time, near the end of a shakily written journal entry she said: “My subject is color and light giving joy.”

                                                            Peri with Violets


My parents’ styles evolved over their long artistic careers. Although the influence of each on the other is interesting to trace, each preserved a distinctly individual approach.Unlike so many other artists of the time, rather than making occasional trips to the exotic north country, my parents lived deeply with the Ontario landscapes they portrayed. For Marie Cecilia Guard and Ken Phillips, a life without art would have lost its meaning. Perhaps the most important gift my parents gave me was the ability to see beauty everywhere and take joy in it.

To view the Ken Phillips webpage, please click here.
To view the Marie Cecilia Guard webpage, please click here
To view Peri McQuay's website please click here.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Ken Phillip and Marie Guard 2

My mother, MARIE CECILIA GUARD, had been convinced that she would be a figure artist since she was thirteen. When she saw a full-sized reproduction of Botticelli's ‘Birth of Venus’ in an Eaton's window she was lastingly impressed by the power of its large dimensions. Above all, though, she continued to be deeply inspired by the paintings of Raphael. The intertwining composition of ‘The Three Graces’ haunted her.

She had been taught to search for a truth and beauty which lies behind
appearance, a deeper truth which is to be found through a knowledge of structure. From classical times, art teachers have often dictated that “The shape of the human body is the most complicated and subtle thing in the whole world.....The student who has learned to draw the nude can draw anything.” (Even in her nineties, my mother used to astonish medical professionals with her understanding of anatomy.) In figure study she had been taught to construct her subjects by first studying their structure, that is, by reading the body of bone and sinew under its skin. A quest for the fundamentals both of design and the deepest essence of her subject meant for her a return to studying the nude. In the thirties, at this early, important stage in her career, my mother would have agreed wit  Matisse: “[What ]I am after above all is expression. What interests me most is neither still life nor landscape, but the human figure. It is that which best permits me to express my almost religious awe towards life.”


During the thirties, Marie’s pictures became astonishing. Frequently as large as (or larger than) life, these portraits and figure studies in oil were suffused with light; they reflected a radiant sense of possibility and promise. Throughout this period, her nudes revealed eros, harmony, energy and ecstasy. She examined woman in many aspects: closed and remote or open and daring. In keeping with her classical upbringing, these are women larger than life, women as goddesses. This was work that obeyed Renoir's challenge: “Paint with joy, with the same joy with which you make love.”

During the war years, and even into the sixties, censorship became a problem in Toronto. Moreover, portraits in general were banned from the exhibitions, largely because too many paintings of pompous dignitaries had been submitted. Suddenly Marie’s exhibition career came to a halt. Crippled by arthritis, shut off from Toronto and her friends, my mother faced the challenges of raising two daughters with very little money.

In spite of all her troubles, my mother maintained her spirit and determination. She posed without clothes in her frigid unheated studio to paint her masterpiece, “I Ascend From the Night”. She, too, drew always. Sketches of the poses made by birds and squirrels, glimpsed through the windows, or of the swaying pines which hovered over the house, lay on the tables throughout the house. Even shopping lists were blended with studies of the curving line of an antique chair back, or a child's hands. Paints were always
at the ready--just in case. In 1957 she painted in oil one further defiantly whimsical, but symbolic nude. This was ‘Caprice’ (35" X 25")--a blithe figure in warmest flesh tones, stepping lightly through a forest world of newly fallen snow. Beauty created in a cold climate.

Just as my father was finding the truest expression of himself in his Toronto drawing, my mother was returning to exploring portraits, the genre which always attracted her most. My sister and I were her most available, if often reluctant sitters. However, she also accepted commissions, discovering, as most portrait artists do, how difficult it can be to please a subject. In her portraiture my mother strove to evoke a
balance of character and resemblance while also creating a picture which rested on its own merit. She tried to reveal character through pose and clothing, as well as through the expressive qualities of face. Whenever possible, her preference was to integrate her subject into nature. The stalking of personality she found to be very exciting, but it was also quite tense, she said.

Later, in the sixties, my parents at last were able to afford a yearly sketching trip to Britain or Europe, expeditions which opened up another world to them. For both of them, travel was the heady opportunity to study superb collections of art in Paris and London. In London, they were particularly affected by Turner's treatment of light and the diaphanous grace of the Elgin marbles. In Paris they feasted on the overwhelming wealth of classical works, but it was the Impressionists that had a lasting effect on their own art after this trip. However, for all their delight in their explorations, my parents missed

Canada's wide open spaces when they went abroad. Always, my father, especially, rejoiced in returning to the landscape of home.At the same time they were exploring overseas, my parents discovered an exotic world much closer to home. Over the next few years, they searched out circuses for their subjects. My mother loved the movement, light, costumes and big tents. The paintings she created at this time became her way of preserving a threatened form of performance, just as my father's theater pictures had been for him.

 Using pastels she caught a madder- colored big top billowing in the wind, but turned to oils for her other works, evoking a sideshow barker and his girls, gorgeously costumed performers spilling out of a van, elephants sheltering from sun under a slender tree (or swaying majestically before the tent), twilight with the crowds clustered, waiting to go in, and also the dustily-lit interior with its aerial artists. These circus pictures were for her the culmination of her career.

To view the Ken Phillips webpage, please click here.
To view the Marie Cecelia Guard webpage, please click here.
To view Peri McQuay's website, please click here.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Ken Phillips and Marie Guard by Peri Phillips McQuay

My parents, Ken Phillips (1909-1983) and Marie Cecilia Guard (1908-2003),
were that rare entity, a Canadian artist couple. They attended the Ontario College of Art during the dynamic years of 1928 to 1935 (when Marie completed a post-graduate year), as well as the Grand Central School of Design in New York in 1930. Their teachers included Arthur Lismer, J.W. Beatty, J.E.H. Macdonald, and Emanuel Hahn. By 1936 they had every reason to look forward to a brilliant future. In spite of the difficult economic climate of the Depression era and alhough they were only twenty- eight, my parents were exhibiting regularly in the prestigious O.S.A. (Ontario Society of Artists) and R.C.A. (Royal Canadian Academy) shows. Indeed, my parent's powerful, full-length female nudes were given pride-of-place in these shows. One of her paintings had travelled across Canada, and one of my father's wood engravings had been acquired by the Art Gallery of Toronto. Very much in love with each other and with art, they were at the beginning of a lifelong adventure together, a quest to convey in pictures the spirit which lay deep within all things.

The advent of the Second World War, poverty, ill health and changing taste forced the couple to stop marketing their art. All the same, they devoted their lifetimes to painting and drawing.

When it became impossible to afford to live in Toronto my parents moved to land in what is now Mississauga, where they camped and then built a house in the woods. Passionate about his art, my father, KEN PHILLIPS, made the best of commuting to his job in Simpson’s advertising department. Perhaps inspired by his favorite teacher, Arthur Lismer’s, caricatures, he drew everywhere. In his noon hour he would sketch swift glimpses of tramps playing cards in Grange Park, then, while on the commuter train,
he would whip off a few lines to capture a slumped stock broker, or the fleeting clouds out the train window. The fresh, unretouched quality of drawing was particularly suited to his impetuous style. In a vivid shorthand, he was able to interpret          character, light, atmosphere, and tone. Once he was home, in  whatever minutes he could spare, he painted his new country      surroundings.

                                                            Marie by Ken Phillips

In the sudden prosperity after the stagnation of the Depression and World War II, development in Toronto was burgeoning. Everywhere buildings were being torn down to make way for the new. Within a decade there appeared a new city hall, provincial court house, conservatory of music and a host of parking lots to serve the expanding population. My father's love of early Toronto architecture ran deep in his blood. Now,
realizing that the beloved city of his youth was dying, he became vigilant, going out almost every noon hour to capture the last moments of the old buildings that had enriched his life. Although he had a great feeling for the structure and solidity of buildings, it was the complex layering of life and surroundings as well as the architecture, which compelled him. Needing to balance Toronto's concentration on growth and change, he was drawn ever deeper in search of his city with a tangible soul.

The climax was his sequence of elegiac studies of the demolition of the grand old theaters of Toronto. He worked breathlessly, accompanied by the harsh thud of the wrecking ball and the shrieking wrench of the bar and chain. Clouds of dust smothered him as he sat hunched on his stool, whipping his pen across the paper while walls folded inwards and crumbled.

upper unidentified panting: Ken Phillips by Marie Cecile Guard. 1933

To view the Ken Phillips webpage, please click here.
To view the Marie Cecila Guard webpage, please click here.
To visit Peri McQuay's webpage, please click here.

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The Canadian Copyright act, section 29 reports on fairdealing, that it is not an infringement to reproduce someone else's work for research, study, criticism, review or to report. Which pretty much sums up what this site is about. All content sources, be they artists, printed references, and website url's are respectfully identified on this site. http://http//

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