The Group of Seven had dominated landscape painting through the 1930s, despite the achievements of artists elsewhere in Canada. The first broad challenge to their dominance came in 1939, when painter and art critic John Lyman founded the Montréal-based Contemporary Arts Society (CAS). Lyman had studied in Paris and spent years abroad. Under his leadership, the CAS mounted the first collective opposition to the nationalism of the Group of Seven.
The 26 founding members of the CAS emphasized the belief of modernists internationally that the painter’s individual response to a subject formed the true content of art. CAS painters gave equal value to the landscape, figure, and still-life in their desire to depict ordinary life and experience. Although English-speaking Canadians made up the majority of CAS members, French-language art critics in Montréal became the group’s most vocal supporters.
Key CAS members who advocated expressing the formal concerns of painting through images of anonymous people, places, and things were Goodridge Roberts, Philip Surrey, Marian Scott, and Louis Muhlstock. The association grew to 46 members and lasted for ten years until Montréal art moved from representation to abstraction. Canadian art began to focus on abstract painting in the late 1940s, moving away from representations of the known world to nonrepresentational images drawn from the imagination. The movement began slowly in Toronto, where Lawren Harris of the Group of Seven, Bertram Brooker, and Jock MacDonald sought to project the meaning of the cosmos through abstract, symbolic shapes. Groups in other regions of Canada subsequently took up the challenge of abstraction in various forms. "Canada" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.
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