Wednesday, October 31, 2012

And The Winner Is

                                                      Richard Campeau, Golden BC.

Richard correctly identified this work as a sculpture located in the arrivals section of the Calgary airport.
For that Richard's name will be permanently added to our winnner's 'Name the Artwork' list.  After that, Richard receives nothing but our congratulations.

The subject portrayed is Sam Livingston, who is conceded to be Calgary's first citizen.
The work was sculpted by Alan Henderson.

To visit Alan's webpage please click here.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

"Who's That?" A.E. Robillard, Documentary Artist


Although this painting by A.E. Robillard was done in 1900, and is loosely classified as documentary art, it was most likely just a painting. Nothing more. Nothing less. The classification was likely made by others, years later as they sorted through his works. That being said, it's quite likely that it survived the years because of its documentary statement surpassed its artistic qualities.

The work has an overall grey tone. The softly hued shadows effectively interprets the weak northern sunlight.

I wonder if the artist, wondered, how he could turn such a mundane setting into a painting? There isn't much to be seen. There is the fort, the sky, the ground and a few scattered rocks, a tipi and two people.

Its interesting, how far a little imagination can take us.  The person with the big backpack walking towards the fort is an unusual event, The man in the foreground is running towards the open tent and its easy to surmise that he is calling others to tell them of walker's arrival.

The sleeping dog caught my attention.  Anyone who has been to the North West Territories knows that their dogs are as much wolf as canine and if native dogs aren't staked to the ground they run, fast and hard and as far from people as they can possibly get.

Painting:  Fort McPherson, 2,000 miles north of Edmonton
Artist A.E.Robillard
Source: Archives of Canada
watercolour: 35x27cm

Friday, October 26, 2012

Jack Bush, Abstractionist

Jack Bush was born in Toronto in 1909 and died there in 1977. He studied in Montreal and in Toronto, at the Ontario College of Art, before becoming a commercial artist.
While the artist’s style is unique, his use of hard-edged abstraction and brilliant colourization, evident in this acrylic polymer on canvas, reflects the influence of Picasso, Matisse, Borduas and of the American art critic Clement Greenberg.
Bush was a member of Painters Eleven, the Ontario Society of Artists (Vice-Pres., 1943), the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, the Canadian Group of Painters and the Art Director’s Club of Toronto. He was one of two Canadian Painters represented in the Biennial at Sao Paulo, Brazil in 1967.

Province of Ontario, Archives. Please click here

Bush once explained, “I’m inclined to think that we owe it to the public to give them some kind of lead. The difficulty is, in abstract art, the almost impossible task of convincing viewers that all they have to do is look with an open mind and let the artwork work on them.

They may like or dislike, but they can’t help responding one way or the other... My work is solely about colour and colour juxtaposition.”

Artist at work in his studio
Ontario Art Collection
Govt. of Ontario, archives.

Untitled, 1967
Ontario Archives


Untitled: 1967

Monday, October 22, 2012

John Howard: Early Toronto Artist and Documentarian

Mr. T.Tinning, Rescuing the Crew of the Pacific, 1875.
Artist: John Howard

19th Century Canadian documentary watercolouring tends to be pretty dull stuff as far as art goes. That being said, along comes John Howard who was born in 1803, in Bengeo, Hertfertshire, England, and who emigratated to Canada, lived in Toronto, and who was an architect, surveyor, civil engineer, and artist. Howard died in 1890 in Toronto's Colborne Lodge.

'Rescuing the Crew of the Pacific, 1975', not only captures a significant event along the Toronto shoreline but it is in its own right, a substantial painting. Its loaded with colour, drama, and action.

To begin, its a painting of hope. The black storm cloud which hangs over the centre of the work, doesn't dominate the sky. There is a variety of colours and cloud shapes. The shafts of light provide a visual line from the sunlit upper sky down onto the sky brightened, lake surface.

There is even an element of artistic contrast. The black sky contrasts with the colourful waves. The turbulence and drama of the scene contrasts with the idle curiosity of the people who observe from the boardwalk.

Its hard to criticize this work since the painter's primary intent is to document an important event. Its easy to overlook such composition issues as the unnaturally long wave formations and the predictably uniform shoreline and the continuous, unbroken, white line of waves that wash up on the shore from left side to centre.

In the end, its a painting that's nearing the end of an era before the advent of the camera. With that in mind, I can imagine that it would have elicited emotional response from those who viewed it.

John Howard's Biography
Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online
Please click here

Virtual Museum of Toronto, - Historical Collection
Please click here

Saturday, October 20, 2012

A Stunningly Beautiful Story of two Artists Painting in the Footsteps of Tom Thomson, David Milne, and Emily Carr,

If you have a poet's heart and an artist's soul you won't be disappointed spending 13 minutes lost in the beautiful world of two plein aire artists.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Please Let Me In: James O'Donnell designs Montreal's Notre Dame Basillica Before His Death Bed Conversion to Catholicism

It may come as a suprise to many that Notre Dam Basilica of Montreal, is the realization of the architectural work of James O'Donnell, an Irish immigrant.

Wikepedia has the following entry about O'Donnell:
James O’Donnell came from a wealthy family of Anglo-Irish landowners. In 1812 he took up residence in New York City, where he successfully practised as an architect. His major works in that city were the Bloomingdale Insane Asylum, the Fulton Market, and Christ Church (1822–23). O’Donnell took his inspiration for the last building from the neo-Gothic style, which he favoured throughout his career. He had already been elected to the American Academy of the Fine Arts in New York in 1817.
O’Donnell moved to Montreal to build the Notre-Dame Basilica from 1823-1829.[1]
For some years James O’Donnell had suffered from oedema, and from July 1829 his condition worsened. In November he dictated his will; at that point he decided to convert from Protestantism to Catholicism. He died shortly afterwards, on January 28, 1830. He is the only person buried in the church's crypt. O'Donnell converted to Catholicism on his deathbed perhaps due to the realization that he might not be allowed to be buried in his church.[2]
please click here:

The church is recognized for itsdramatically beautiful architecture and  where such notable Canadians as Maurice (The Rocket) Richard, and Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau's funerals were held.  Celine Dione was married in Notre Dame.

Wikipedia writes of its artistic beauty:

The church's Gothic Revival architecture is among the most dramatic in the world; its interior is grand and colourful, its ceiling is coloured deep blue and decorated with golden stars, and the rest of the sanctuary is a polychrome of blues, azures, reds, purples, silver, and gold. It is filled with hundreds of intricate wooden carvings and several religious statues. Unusual for a church, the stained glass windows along the walls of the sanctuary do not depict biblical scenes, but rather scenes from the religious history of Montreal. It also has a Casavant Frères pipe organ, dated 1891, which comprises four keyboards, 92 stops using electropneumatic action and an adjustable combination system, 7000 individual pipes and a pedal board.[1][2] 
 Please click here

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

"Same Song, Hundreth Verse" - Beaverbrook Style

How does that old song go?   Same song, second verse, a little bit louder and a little bit worse. This is the third blog entry on the ongoing Beaverbrook saga. To see the other articles please click here.  The ongoing struggle is assuming almost pathetic overtones. On one hand, the English descendants of the east coast financial magnate Max Aitken, are struggling to regain possession of an extremely expensive collection of paintings and in the other corner the Canadian Beaverbrook Gallery is struggling to hang onto a collection which they believe was permanently bequeathed to them to as an art legacy.

Who isn't surprised that the big winners are the lawyers whose legal costs have eaten up 2.8 million Foundation dollars.

CBC News (online): 
CBC News has obtained details of a proposed settlement that would have ended the eight-year-old legal dispute between the Beaverbrook Art Gallery and the Beaverbrook Canadian at Foundation. 
The two sides would have split the 78 paintings roughly evenly, based on whether they came to the gallery before or after its opening in September 1959, according to foundation documents. 

But the settlement was rejected by the Canadian foundation board, even though it was negotiated by Timothy Aitken, the foundation’s chairman and one of Lord Beaverbrook’s grandsons.
The rejection prompted Aitken to resign from the foundation, the documents show. Aitken confirmed the events in an interview with CBC News, his first on the subject. 
To view the complete news article, please click here.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Death of Sir Isaac Brock - 200 years ago today.

Death of Sir Isaac Brock. Battle of Queenston Heights. October 13, 2013.

Battle of Queenston Heights. artist unknown.

above: Push on Brave York Volunteers, by John David Kelly

unidentified artist

It can be argued that successful military battles play a significant role in helping nations define their identity. Canada is no exception, for our history was defined by such campaigns as were staged on the  Plains of Abraham, Queenston Heights, Batoche, and Vimy Ridge. The Battle of Queenston Heights was significant for several reasons, the foremost being that it represented a successful defense of our country  against a foreign invader.

These three depictions of the battle of Queenston Heights focused on the creation of a Canadian Icon - Sir Isaac Brock. Putting aside, the fact that the battle took place in British North America, and Brock was an Englishman leading English troops. While there are certain commonalities in the 3 works, i.e the battle, and the death of Brock, there are notable artistic differences in the way the scene is represented.

C.W. Jeffries, in the upper painting is hero focused.  Brock is the  prominent figure, and he is seen in dramatic posture, taking the bullet. Jeffries has him standing beside a native warrior to the right,  and a defending non military combatant. Its an artistic statement of  Brock, as a representative of the crown standing in the middle between a citizen and a native. The citizen represents the Canadian populace rising alongside the English to defend their country and the native warrior represents the Native Alliance, which was signed several months before with Tecumseh.

In the second painting we see a fallen Brock shouting encouragement to his troops.  But the painting was done long after the battle, and the words, "Push on Brave York Volunteers," became part of a national myth of Canada as a small nation, rising like David to defend itself against an American Goliath.

The third painting  by artist J.D.Kelly,  'Push on Brave York Volunteers,' is interesting in another way. The most likely truth is that Brock is said by a witness to have been shot on his breast, and that he reached up and put his hand where he was shot and then slid silently down to the ground.  If those words were shouted, it would have been most likely made by Brock before he was hit. This painting contrasts vividly with painting two. Painting two shows a well organized battle on a level field.  The reality is that Brock's troops were hurriedly thrown into battle and  they were small in number and were at a major disadvantage with the Americans being well positioned on the heights above them.

Interestingly, all three artists omit the small company of blacks who fought for the Crown. They seem to have been lost in the consciousness of most Canadians, except for the descendants of the early black community. The blacks were either the descendants of American slaves or were slaves who had escaped to Canada via the underground railway. There was a lot at stake for them in maintaining the independence of British North America.

 Its pretty clear from looking at the paintings that CW Jeffries was the better artist of the three. His picture is the most artfully composed. His Brock is the foremost person on the line of English troops and he  stands a the apex of an inverted triangle - the base being the line American militiamen. The soft mid painting violet tonalities dramatizes the red British uniforms.  Notice how Brock appears captured by a beam of sunlight. The grass around him is painted in the lightest of values and a vertical formation of white clouds rise above him.

The second painting presents the entire battlefield as a stage and it comes complete with boats on the Niagara River (top left) and soldiers from both sides locked in conflict. There is lots of action, cannon  and rifle smoke and men fighting, pressing and dying. It looks like the battle of Waterloo being waged in British North America.

The last picture, has a sort of inverted heroism about it.  The English are outnumbered, out positioned and the few we see have taken their share of hits.  The artist, gives us a leader who overcomes all odds. His actions inspire his soldiers to rise above themselves in spite of the formidable odds against them.

Each of the three pictures portray Brock wearing a sash around his waist.  The sash was a gift from Chief Tecumseh, who presented it to Brock after Fort Detroit was turned over to Britain in August 1812.
Brock presented Tecumseh with his sash and pistols andTecumseh in return gave Brock his sash. Brock wore it until the end of his life.

Written in collaboration with editor, Maureen Bayliss.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Another Work from the Portrait's Name the Artwork Series

                                           Name the Artwork Series.

This sculptured work, is conspicuous for its lack of identification.  Two clues: Its in a public place, and its in Canada.

Name the subject.
Name the sculptor. (I would appreciate knowing this...a public work without artist identification is profoundly                     disrespectful to the artist)
Name its location.

The winner gets absolutely nothing, other then  'Portrait' bragging rights.

If you have a piece of publicly seen art that you would like to present, send us  a letter via the 'Contact Us' page. And, if you are in the art business and would like to provide a sponsored T shirt (with your business name on it, of course) for the winner give us a shout.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Notes from, Paul Peel's 'After the Bath', by Bill Tomlinson

I saw this painting about 45 years ago when I was walking down a staircase in Parkwood estate, in Oshawa On, the home of the late Samuel McLaughlin, whose company merged with 2 other automobile manufacturers to create General Motors. 
I was stunned to find myself looking directly towards it.  Its warmth, and tenderness were powerful statements made by a great artist./fw

Notes on Paul Peel's 'After the Bath', by Bill Tomlinson

Peel developed his style in Paris, where he studied. His work was much admired for its sensual warmth; he once declared, “Flesh is never flesh until you feel you can pinch it with your fingers.” 

After the Bath, probably his most famous work, is typical, exhibiting not only sensual warmth, achieved through colouration and texture– see how he contrasts the light of the fire with the cool of the shadows on the children's skin, and the texture of the skin with its surroundings – but more generally a warmth of subject matter, intimate and engaging. Peel enjoyed an empathy with young children, and often painted his own, as here.

Peel was awarded the bronze medal at the Paris salon of 1890 and became a favourite of European collectors. “After the Bath” was bought by the Hungarian government, and later by a Canadian collector.

Peel died of tuberculosis when he was only 31.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Church Art by Ozias Leduc

La Gloire Divine (1944-1947), église Notre-Dame-de-la-Présentation, Shawinigan, Quebec.

To read the Wikipedia article on Ozias Leduc, please click here.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

In Memory of Glenn Gould

October 4th commemorates the 30th anniversary of the death of  Canada's  most celebrated pianist, Glenn Gould.

This wonderful sculpted tribute by Ruth Abernathy sits just outside the CBC Studios on Front Street in Toronto.  You can read about the creation of the works by clicking here.

To read more about Gould's life, accolades, achievements and eccentricities click here.

contributor: Maureen Bayliss

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Quest for Heroes in Art - Jeff Molloy

I was gobsmacked when I found my way onto Jeff Molloy's website.  I gasped, "What is going on here?"
Louis Riel, looking through the bars of an open cell door - which when open reveals the man himself wearing a Montreal Canadiens hockey sweater?  (Not a jersey please and thank you....this is Canspeak).

This is clearly the work of a super nationalist who uses his art to make some pretty big statements. I think Shelagh Rogers was onto something when she called him "one of the most original artists at work in Canada today."

This work is not just original, but its underscored with a deep sense of social and historical commentary, with a light touch of iconoclastic humour thrown into the mix.

Not just that - but its extremely relevant to Canadian life. I was listening to the CBC this evening, and someone turned up recently with some strands of the rope that was used to hang Riel.  So his presence is very much alive in Canada today. And, in case you should think me wrong, ask any member of the Metis community.

And while I am at it I will throw Gabriel Dumont into Jeff's entry.  I don't think I have ever added two works to a single artist critique before, but this one is worth it, for the the Riel equation isn't complete without Gabriel Dumont - and possibly General Middleton?

Hat's off to Jeff.  One thing for sure - this is one artist who makes no bones about standing up for his country, but all the same, I wonder if he sleeps in his old blue Toronto Maple Leaf sweater.

To view this picture and others by Jeff, please click here.

Artist's Comments

“My people will sleep for 100 years and when they awake it will be the artists that give them their spirit back.” This Louis Riel quote has greatly inspired my artistic vision over the past few years. I'm a painter and a sculptor working predominantly in assemblage. My work focuses on culture and cultural traits. I take objects, reassemble them and invoke new ways of seeing by shattering existing associations and giving new meaning to those objects. Art has the power to reach people at a primordial level. I want my audience to be moved by the power and the energy in these pieces and to leave with a different sense of themselves and their place in the world. 

Our education system is designed to produce good workers not critical thinkers. History provides a perspective written from a single viewpoint while art can raise questions and encourage critical thought.

I have long been fascinated with Canadian history and culture. This thread can be traced  back to my 1999 solo show in Toronto titled FIBRE OF A NATION that featured point blankets and hockey sweaters. After more than thirty years on the prairies and on the westcoast my work has embraced a strong First Nations and Metis influence. Mia Johnson of Preview Magazine aptly describes me as a Canadian artist whose work “focuses on the cultural symbols of Canada.” 

I want to create work that tells our story, our history. And I think it's important to speak the truth, as I see it.

Below is the text that accompanied the Louis Riel inspired piece featured in this blog.

The mixed media cabinet is titled “Two Minutes for Interference, Five Minutes for Fighting and Death for Unsporsmanlike Conduct”

In 1885 the Dominion of Canada had a railway to build and land to give away, even if it wasn't theirs. Gloating  Louis Riel into rebellion gave Sir John A Macdonald the grounds for military action. Macdonalds response was the creation of the Northwest Mounted Police and  he promptly dispatched the force to deal with Louis Riel, Gabriel Dumont and their pack of half breeds. 

"These impulsive half-breeds have got spoiled by this emeute (uprising) and must be kept down by a strong hand until they are swamped by the influx of settlers." 
Sir John A. MacDonald Feb. 23, 1870 

Enclosed within this work is soil retrieved from Batochè Saskatchewan where the Metis made their last stand. This is the earth that cost Louis Riel his life.

Out numbered and running out of amunition, the Metis fought to protect their land.

"You tell Middleton... that I am in the woods and that I still have 90 cartridges to use on his men." 
 Gabriel Dumont, 1885

Greatly outnumbered and short on supplies it was just a matter of time before the inevidable. On May 16th 1885 Louis Riel wandered into the Northwest Mounted Police camp and gave himself up. One hundred and eighty four days later in Regina, on  November 16th, 1885, after a lopsided trial, Louis David Riel  wore his moccasins to the gallows. Below is the written account of the hanging in the Regina newspaper. 

“The hangman's work had been well done; the neck was broken; and in the short space of two minutes the heart had ceased to beat. The legs were drawn upward two or three times in this space of time, and then the body was still. After hanging half an hour the body was cut down and placed in a coffin beneath the scaffold.” 

Shortly before his execution Riel stated  “In a little while it will be over. We may fail. But the rights for which we contend will never die.“ 

Was Riel a mad man or a prophet? We may never know for sure but the rights that Louis Riel, Gabriel Dumont and the Metis people fought to preserve are alive and well and as Louis predicted it is the artists that are bringing back his sprit.

A word on my process.

In 1995 encouraged by a photograph of Jasper Johns’ famous encaustic work, Flag, I  began to experiment with encaustic. I recognized in Johns’ piece a number of aspects that have become paramount in my own work. The impact, power and inherent meaning of cultural artifacts such as flags and how they can be used to evoke emotion and memory...I wanted my work to mimic the real thing but, as an art piece, be more interesting than the motif itself. I  achieve this by tapping into these emotions and memories and presenting them as highly articulated works of art. 
I employ a wide variety of distinctive techniques, tools, and personal processes that result in truly unique, instantly recognizable work. I am driven by curiosity as my creativity shifts and twists in response to the materials. Beeswax, tar, pigments, remnants of human civilization – all react differently to the tools and techniques I employ.  Carving, painting, sculpting, applying heat and blunt force all contribute to objects that may resemble paintings, yet may just as easily be mechanical and functional in nature. 
To me line is a physical thing, something that is cut and gouged. My surfaces are built up and scraped away. Using homemade tools I draw, paint, carve and burnish my surfaces of wax and tar until they reflect their own history. 

“I've always believed that experimentation, not technical skill, is at the core of creativity. Artists eshould be explorers, and the world of art should remain a place without rules or boundaries.” 

Jeff welcomes you to visit his website. Please click here.

Fredericks-Artworks Blog, copying policy

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//

Mission Statement
A Portrait of the Visual Arts in Canada, is intended to celebrate the richness of Canada's visual arts, and to promote the arts in Canada.

Statement of Intent
I make every effort to credit the sources of information used in this blog and to obtain the permission and cooperation of all the works presented by living artists. I try, as much as possible to use works from public sources eg. national and provincial collections, of deceased artists. If for any reason, any artist disapproves of anything written about them or their work the artist is encouraged to request withdrawal of the content.