Photographic book

Canadian visual arts


Gerald Gladstone
Gerald Gladstone

In the mid-20th century and after, official government support became increasingly important for the development and promotion of Canadian visual arts. The Canadian Museums Association, established in 1947, contributed to the professionalism of the country’s public art galleries. Beginning in the 1950s, a network of university art galleries developed across Canada. These university museums and public art galleries quickly became the principal sponsors for publications on Canadian art.

A report of the Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences, issued in 1952, led to the establishment of the Canada Council in 1957. The Canada Council provides funding to contemporary artists and art organizations across the country. In the late 1950s, construction of new government and corporate buildings led to commissions for sculpture and painting and provided more public sites for art.

By the early 1960s, the federal government in Ottawa had created a department to support Canadian museum programs and help sponsor exhibitions of Canadian art in other countries. Art magazines provided new venues for critical writing. They included Vie des Arts, which began publication in 1957, and artscanada. The major event for the promotion of Canadian visual arts during this period was undoubtedly Montréal’s Expo ’67, Canada’s first world’s fair. Its numerous exhibitions celebrated the 100th anniversary of Canada’s confederation.

Modernism brought other changes to Canadian art. When the concepts of abstraction influenced sculpture, as they had painting, sculpture gained importance and assumed a more equal footing with painting. Museums rapidly increased their collections of sculpture and held more exhibitions solely dedicated to the medium.

Some sculptors of the 1950s and 1960s interwove abstract shapes into structures that retained sculpture’s traditional concern for mass and solidity, but they gave their works a new freedom of movement that seemed to defy gravity. These sculptors included Kosso Eloul, Sorel Etrog, and Hugh LeRoy in Toronto and Henry Saxe and Armand Vaillancourt in Montréal. Several painters in Canada also made three-dimensional objects of layered abstract forms that functioned as floor or wall sculpture. Among these artists were Gerald Gladstone and Michael Snow in Toronto and Ulysse Comtois and Françoise Sullivan in Montréal. Carving by First Nations artists, such as Bill Reid from British Columbia, began to receive wider public attention in the 1960s. The government of Canada set up a federal agency to publicize the art of contemporary native painters and assist them in selling their sculpture and prints across the country. "Canada" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.

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