Representational painting lost its dominance in Canadian art during the 1950s and 1960s, yet it was never abandoned. Abstraction helped revitalize it as representational artists adopted many of the formal devices and emotional content they found in abstraction. Figure painting was reinvented in vastly different types of images by Jean-Paul Lemieux in Québec, Dennis Burton in Toronto, and Greg Curnoe in London, Ontario. Lemieux placed solitary figures in desolate landscapes; Burton drew women in underwear in a series dubbed garterbeltmania; and Curnoe derived his brightly colored images from popular culture.
Other painters integrated abstraction in subjects drawn from the landscape and the city. They included John Fox in Montréal, Ivan Eyre in Winnipeg, and Dorothy Knowles in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. In eastern Canada, Alex Colville, Christopher Pratt, and Mary Pratt, as well as Jack Chambers in London, produced sharply focused and detailed paintings of people and places. The quiet, haunting images of these painters relate to an international style known as magic realism.
Abstract painting developed in the Canadian Prairies during the 1950s as a result of the Regina Five, a group of painters in Saskatchewan that included Kenneth Lochhead, Ronald Bloore, and Ted Godwin. In 1955 Lochhead established the Emma Lake Artists’ Workshops in northern Saskatchewan and invited American guest artists and critics to visit annually.
Color-field painting produced in the United States and championed by Greenberg had a strong influence on those who attended these summer workshops. Stimulated by the color-field painters’ use of broad, flat areas of intense color, Western Canadian painters were quick to respond. The Regina Five took its name from an exhibition held in 1961 at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa entitled Five Painters from Regina.
Abstract painting took different forms on the two coasts of Canada. In Vancouver, abstract painting was influenced less by American practices than by the spiritual resonance of west coast landscape. The major painters of the 1950s and 1960s in Vancouver were Jack Shadbolt, Gordon Smith, Roy Kiyooka, and Takao Tanabe. At the eastern end of the country, artists had less interest in abstraction, although Ruth Wainwright, LeRoy Zwicker, and Carol Fraser in Halifax, Nova Scotia, incorporated abstract forms into their landscape and urban images. "Canada" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.
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