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Canadian modernist painters


Canadian Group of Painters
Canadian Group of Painters

Two important Canadian modernist painters worked from the 1920s on outside the burst of activity occurring in Toronto as a result of the Group of Seven. Emily Carr painted landscapes and First Nations peoples in British Columbia, and David Milne produced watercolors in upstate New York and rural Ontario. Carr’s approach comes closer than Milne’s to that of the Group of Seven, yet her work also conveys her deep belief in the spiritual forces of nature. Carr’s dramatic compositions, somber color, and swirling, dense forms express the energy and vitality of British Columbia’s land, its forests, and its native peoples.

Milne chose to investigate the world in terms of the timeless concerns of the picture-maker. Thus, he transferred his empathy for the landscape, the human figure, and the still-life into compositions with elegant simple forms, delicate color, and gentle light, so that the play of visual motifs becomes his primary subject matter. Although Milne had a great reverence for nature, he did not share Carr’s emphasis on its supernatural power. Nor did he have any interest in the Group of Seven’s desire to send a nationalist message through art.

A focus on landscape painting continued under the Canadian Group of Painters, which formed in Toronto in 1933. This group had a broader definition of what constituted Canadian subject matter than the Group of Seven had, and its primary purpose was to exhibit work by its members from across the country.

A number of the artists in the Canadian Group of Painters either distanced themselves from the Group of Seven’s approach to painting or reworked the group’s pictorial concerns in ways more appropriate to their own experiences. For example, landscapes by Lionel LeMoine FitzGerald in Winnipeg and Carl Schaefer in Hanover, Ontario, referred to the familiar and the domestic, rather than to the distant and untamed. Clarence Gagnon and André Bieler had a similar emphasis in their pictures of villages in Québec. Adrien Hébert, on the other hand, represented the energy of a Canadian metropolis in his paintings of Montréal. "Canada" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.

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