Transformations: A.Y. Jackson and Otto Dix

By Mark Skeffington A.Y. Jackson spent most of his 91 years acquainting Canadians with their own landscape. His bold landscapes progress through the calendar of the 20th century, marching in step with Canadian history. A.Y. Jackson’s artistic trek is linearly laid out in the Canadian War Museum’s 2014 exhibit: A.Y. Jackson and Otto Dix, Art Shaped by War. The exhibit marked the 100th centenary of the beginning of the First World War, which A.Y. Jackson fought and painted … [Read more...]

Forbes Family Painted Prime Ministers

Canada has a rich history of artists following in the footsteps of their artist parents. This is one of a series of blog posts telling their stories. Father-and-son artists John Forbes and Kenneth Forbes painted Canadian prime ministers, spanning decades of our country’s history. John Colin Forbes (1846-1925) is considered one of Canada’s leading portrait painters. Among his subjects were prime ministers Sir John A. MacDonald and Alexander Mackenzie, but he also painted leading … [Read more...]

Canadian Artists: Witnesses to War

The First World War was a horror, destroying millions of lives in epic proportion. Yet, as the irony of human nature would have it, the Great War also led to the creation of great art, including monumental and moving works by many of Canada’s best painters of the day. That art has been deservedly and proudly put on display at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. Witness – Canadian Art of the First World War is one of two art exhibits front and centre at the Museum (the other being … [Read more...]

J.E.H. and Thoreau MacDonald: Father & Son Artists

Canada has a rich history of artists following in the footsteps of their artist parents. This is one of a series of blog posts telling their stories. J.E.H. MacDonald and his son, Thoreau, may arguably be Canada's best known father-and-son artists. James Edward Hervey MacDonald (1873-1932) was a member of the Group of Seven, helping forge Canada’s distinct artistic identity through his bold and colourful paintings of our landscape. Thoreau MacDonald (1901-1989), the only son of J.E.H. … [Read more...]

Sampson-Matthews Silkscreen Story

By Mark Skeffington When is a print more than just a print? The answer: When it’s a Sampson-Matthews silkscreen. Prints aren’t as valued or sought-after by art collectors. However, Canadian art silkscreens produced by the Sampson-Matthews Ltd. company of Toronto from 1942-1963 hold a special place in the homes of many art collectors. The silkscreens also hold a special place in the history of Canadian art and Canada. The story is familiar to some, but not to … [Read more...]

Group of Seven inspires artist John Leonard

By Mark Skeffington With hundreds of exhibits to his credit, artist John C. Leonard doesn’t worry about self-promotion or seek out publicity. “I’ve had more than 350 shows. I don’t need the promotion,” the 69-year-old Canadian artist says, explaining his relatively low profile, especially online. Stories and bios about John Leonard are hard to find, even though he has exhibited since the late 1960s in Canada and abroad, and his works are held in dozens of public and corporate … [Read more...]

Repatriating Conrad Furey’s art

Newfoundland-born Conrad Furey was a quintessential Canadian artist, so it seems strange to discover his artworks sitting in Hawaii. Conrad Furey is perhaps best known for his colourful, simply-rendered paintings depicting everyday life on the land and waters of Newfoundland: fishers fishing, mummers mummering, people dancing, etc. The largely self-taught artist also painted Canadians enjoying everyday life: people playing music, sports, going for balloon rides, even taking a bath. But … [Read more...]

The Longevity of Canadian Artists

The death of Alex Colville at age 92 in July 2013 was a reminder of the amazing longevity of many Canadian artists. Imagine an artistic career encompassing six or seven decades, plenty of time to explore different and sometimes ever-changing dreams, impulses, inspirations, influences, styles, mediums. Of course, not all Canadian artists had lives and creative careers spanning decades.  Some, sadly, left us too soon  – Tom Thomson at age 40, George Kulmala at 44 – before sharing all their … [Read more...]

Museum celebrates art collecting

Tucked away in historic Queenston, Ontario is a small public art museum that celebrates art collecting and collectors. RiverBrink Art Museum houses the eclectic collection of Samuel E. Weir, an Ontario lawyer who had a passion for collecting paintings, sculpture, books, stamps, clocks and decorative arts – a collection of about 1,400 pieces. The love of collecting is stamped all over this little gem of a museum, which backs onto the picturesque Niagara River and is surrounded by beautiful … [Read more...]

J.W. Beatty: Deserves the Spotlight

During his lifetime (1869-1941), John William Beatty’s artistic status was often overshadowed by that of his contemporaries. Being overshadowed seems to be a recurring theme in the story of J.W. Beatty, both during his life and even now, some 70 years after his death. Although a friend, painting buddy and acknowledged influencer of Group of Seven members, including Tom Thomson, J.W. Beatty’s paintings never soared to the same heights in popularity or price, then or now (although his Canoe … [Read more...]