Let it snow! Wintery works by Canadian artists
Postcard-pretty weather over the holidays inspired this collection of snow paintings by Canadian artists. Here are a few of my favorites, past and present:
Maud Lewis (1903-1970), Digby County, Nova Scotia. Despite her disabilities and the primitive conditions in the 4.1 x 3.8 m dwelling she shared with her husband Everett, Maud’s folk art paintings are full of joy and free of shadows. Her little painted house is on permanent display at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. Maud’s father was a harness maker and her oxen and horses are always accurately decked out.
William Blair Bruce (1859-1906). Born in Hamilton, Ontario, Bruce studied in Paris and eventually settled in Sweden. The Phantom Hunter was inspired by a poem, “The Walker of the Snow” by C. D. Shanly, about a hunter who senses an apparition, omen of his death by freezing. The costume and snowshoes for the model were sent over to France by Bruce’s parents. Intended to test the marketability of ‘exotic’ North American subjects in Europe, The Phantom Hunter would become a Canadian icon, returned to Canada as part of a gift of 29 paintings from his widow that would lead to the founding of the Art Gallery of Hamilton.
Tom Thomson (1877-1917), grew up in Leith near Owen Sound, Ontario. Thomson was an expert outdoorsman and canoeist who preferred to work as a guide in Algonquin Park where he had the freedom to paint in a wild, natural setting. In his early career, though, Thomson worked at the commercial design firm of Grip Ltd. in Toronto which, at the time, employed many of Canada’s top designers and painters. There Thomson met J.E.H. MacDonald, Arthur Lismer, Frederick Varley, Frank Johnston and Franklin Carmichael. They had the common goal of creating a distinctly Canadian style of art. Thomson’s mysterious death in 1917 meant he didn’t see the birth of the Group of Seven though he became synonymous with the Group. The Group of Seven’s background in commercial design is evident in the importance of surface and patterning.
Gordon Harrison (born in Montréal, lives in Ottawa). An elected member of the Society of Canadian Artists and L’Académies des Beaux-Arts du Québec, Harrison describes his style as Impressionism-Realism. His bold, colourful work invites comparison to the Group of Seven but Harrison goes much bigger. The painting shown below is five feet wide. Visitors to Ottawa can see his work at Gordon Harrison Gallery. If you’re an artist (or would like to be), Harrison conducts summer art retreats at his studio in the Laurentians.
Kenojuak Ashevak (1927-2013). Born in an igloo in an Inuit camp on Baffin Island in Canada’s far north, Kenojuak Ashevak would become a prolific multidisciplinary artist, a Companion of the Order of Canada and inductee into Canada’s Walk of Fame. Kenojuak Ashevak has an exquisite sense of design. The negative space in The Enchanted Owl (1960) is intricate and represents the white Arctic landscape.
Dorothy Knowles (born 1927, Unity, Saskatchewan). A summer art class run by the University of Saskatchewan at Emma Lake in 1948 sparked a passion for painting that Knowles pursued in Saskatoon, Emma Lake and London, England. A turning point in her career came at an Emma Lake Artists Workshop in 1962 when American art critic Clement Greenberg urged her to continue painting from nature, a radical departure from her contemporaries’ preoccupation with abstraction. Knowles was awarded the Saskatchewan Order of Merit in 1987 and the Order of Canada in 2004. A major retrospective of Knowles’ six-decade career was held at the McMichael in 2010.
Catherine Perehudoff, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Catherine studied painting and textile arts at Voss Folkehogskule in Norway, then graduated from the University of Saskatchewan with a B.A. in Art History. Based in Saskatoon on the vast Canadian prairies, she also scuba dives and has a Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do. Her diverse works are based on intimate observation of the landscape, animated by atmospheric conditions. Exhibiting internationally, Catherine Perehudoff is represented in Toronto by Gallery Gevik.
Carole Spandau, (born 1948, Montreal). Carole studied painting at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts under Arthur Lismer, obtained a B.A. in Plastic Arts from the University of Québec à Montréal in 1970, completed a B.A. in Art Education from McGill University and studied Art History at Concordia. Carole’s charming scenes of Montreal neighborhoods are often enlivened by the quintessentially Canadian image of children playing street hockey. Fairmount Bagel is a Montreal institution located in the Mile End district of Plateau Mont-Royal borough.