Canadian Arts

By | October 12, 2021

Canadian art, the art in the field of Canada.

The prevailing cultural traditions of the Inuit and First Nations up until the colonization of Canada were replaced by European immigrants. Until the middle of the 19th century, according to thefreegeography, works of art were mainly imported from France and England, while their own artistic production was limited to works by self-taught artists and works by European artists who lived in Canada for a short time.


Until 1890: Quebec’s architecture was decisive for the early phase of Canadian architecture in the period from 1600 to around 1759. Stone houses with steep gable roofs, which go back to northern French models (for example Villeneuve House in Charlesbourg, probably 1st half of the 18th century by François de Lajoüe, * 1656, † 1719), became characteristic. Churches and administrative buildings were initially designed in the French Baroque style (Château de Vaudreuil in Montreal, completed in 1726, destroyed in 1803, by Gaspard-Joseph Chaussegros de Léry [* 1682, † 1756]), later in the style of French classicism (facade of the Notre- Dame de Quebec in Quebec City, completed in 1843, by Thomas Baillairgé [* 1791, † 1859]). After the British conquest, the British part of Canada in particular oriented itself towards Palladianism and Georgian style (for example Province House in Halifax, completed in 1819, by John Merrick [* 1756, † 1829]), before historicism prevailed from 1820 onwards. George Browne (* 1811, † 1885) built the neoclassical City Hall in Kingston, Ontario, (1842–44) and William Thomas (* 1799, † 1860) the neo-Gothic Bishop’s Palace in Toronto (completed 1845). Villas and country houses followed the English Regency style (for example Colborne Lodge in Toronto, completed in 1836, by John George Howard [* 1803, † 1890]). The climax of the Victorian Gothic Revival was that of Thomas Fuller (* 1823, † 1898) designed parliament (1859–66) with library (1859–77) in Ottawa. In addition, the second half of the 19th century saw the establishment of new cities according to plan (Victoria, 1843; Calgary, 1875; Vancouver, 1886). Important individual buildings of this phase are the Second Empire Style Hôtel de Ville in Montreal (completed in 1878) by Henri-Maurice Perrault (* 1828, † 1903), the Old Toronto City Hall (1889-99) by the Romanesque Revival Edward James Lennox (* 1855, † 1933) and the Château-Style railway hotel Château-Frontenac (completed 1893) in Quebec City, designed by the American Bruce Price (* 1845, † 1903).

From 1890 to 1945: At the end of the 19th century, the influence of the USA on Canadian architecture increased. The first American-type skyscraper was the New York Life Assurance Company Building in Montreal by Baab, Cook and Willard(completed in 1888). On the west coast of Canada, Samuel Maclure (* 1860, † 1929) contributed significantly to the spread of the Arts and Crafts Movement (Biggerstaff Wilson House in Victoria, completed in 1906); in addition, the French Art Nouveau style (Canadian Bank of Commerce in Winnipeg, completed in 1912, by Frank Darling [* 1850, † 1923]) and the Art Deco style (Marine Building in Vancouver by McCarter and Nairne, Completed in 1930, and Ernest Cormier’s house, completed in Montreal in 1931 [* 1885, † 1980]). In the 1930s, among others, Charles Edward (also called Ned) Pratt (* 1911, † 1996) and Marcel Parizeau (* 1898, † 1945) shaped modern Canadian functionalism.

From 1945 to the present: Since the mid-1950s, in order to put a stop to the uncontrolled growth of cities after 1945, architectural centers such as Toronto, Ottawa, Vancouver and Montreal have been expanded according to a uniform plan. At the same time, new areas in the north of Canada are being developed. The international style in Toronto (1957–64) by John Burnett Parkin (* 1911, † 1975), the City Hall in Toronto (1961–65) designed by the Finnish architect V. Revell, are among the outstanding achievements of the international style that has prevailed since 1950, the terrace house “Habitat 67” designed by M. Safdie for the 1967 World Exhibition in Montreal, and the Scarborough Civic Center (1966–73) in Toronto by Raymond Moriyama (* 1929), the Olympic Stadium in Montreal (1973–87) by Roger Taillibert (* 1926, † 2019), the Eaton Center in Toronto (1973–81) by Eberhard Zeidler (* 1926), the design of Robson Square (Completed 1979) in Vancouver by Arthur Erickson (* 1924, † 2009) and the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Hull (1983-89) by Douglas Cardinal (* 1934). Canadian architects have been building increasingly in Europe since the 1990s: Carlos Ott (* 1946) planned the Opéra de la Bastille in Paris (opened in 1990), KPMB Architects designed the new building for the Canadian embassy in Berlin (1998–2005).

Fine arts

Before 1867: The predominant genres in this early phase were religious painting and wood carving, for example church furnishings by Frère Luc (* 1614, † 1685) in the French Baroque style for the colony of New France. After the British occupation of Canada, topographical depictions of landscapes in the English-Romantic style dominated, among others by Thomas Davies (* 1737, † 1812) and James Pattison Cockburn (* 1779, † 1847), as well as portraits aimed in particular at the middle class, which grew stronger around 1800 published in William Berczy (* 1744, † 1813), François Beaucourt (* 1740, † 1794) and Antoine Plamondon (* 1804, † 1895) found its most important representatives. A specifically Canadian theme was chosen around 1850, first in the genre painting by Cornelius Krieghoff (* 1815, † 1872), in the Indian scenes of Paul Kane (* 1810, † 1871) and in the history paintings by Joseph Légaré (* 1795, † 1855) with depictions of events from the history of Quebec.

From 1867 to 1965: The new national feeling after the political unification of Canada in 1867 was also reflected in the visual arts. In 1879, the first national artists’ association, the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, was founded in Ottawa, from which the National Gallery of Canada emerged in 1880. The generation of artists of the 1860s, including the luminists Lucius O’Brien (* 1832, † 1899) and John Fraser (* 1838, † 1898), primarily represented landscape painting. Inspired by the American Hudson River School they reflected in large-format, detailed representations of nature, for example the Rocky Mountains, the expeditionary urge of the nation expanding to the west. From around 1875 a group of Canadian artists studied academic figure painting in Paris, including Robert Harris (* 1849, † 1919), George Reid (* 1860, † 1947), William Brymner (* 1855, † 1925) and Paul Peel (* 1860, † 1892); The sculptor Louis-Philippe Hébert (* 1850, † 1917) also used French salon art in his monuments to famous Canadian personalities. Homer Watson (* 1855, † 1936) and Horatio Walker (* 1858, † 1938) created paintings in the style of the Barbizon School. Around 1900, the influence of French Impressionism was evident in the work of modern Canadian painters such as James Wilson Morrice (* 1865, † 1924), Maurice Cullen (* 1866, † 1934) and Marc-Aurèle de Foy Suzor-Coté (* 1869, † 1937). The Group of Seven, founded in Toronto in 1920 and coined by Tom Thomson (* 1877, † 1917), paved the way for Canadian landscape painting of the 20th century. She created an independent national art, free from European conventions. In 1933, the Group of Seven expanded to become the Canadian Group of Painters. An outstanding member was Emily Carr (* 1871, † 1945) which, in a Fauvist manner, captured the culture of the First Nations on the west coast of Canada. The sculptor Walter Allward (* 1876, † 1955) designed a war memorial in Arras , France, in 1921. The founding of the Sculptors’ Society of Canada in 1928, among others by Emanuel Hahn (* 1881, † 1957) and Elizabeth Wyn Wood (* 1903, † 1966), showed the increasing importance of Canadian sculpture. In abstract art, important impulses came from P.-É. Borduas and J.-P. Riopelle off. Under her leadership, the group Les Automatistes, influenced by French surrealism, formed in Quebec in the 1940s and published the radical manifesto »Refus Global« in 1948. Jack Bush (* 1909, † 1977) and Guido Molinari (* 1933, † 2004) worked in the 1960s under the influence of abstract expressionism and American color field painting. At the same time, there were realistic tendencies in the painting of Alex Colville (* 1920, † 2013). The Canadian Minimal Art represented in the sculpture Robert Murray (* 1936), in the painting Agnes Martin (* 1912, † 2004).

From 1965 to the present: Canadian contemporary art is based on international art movements, v. a. on Minimal Art and Concept Art. Montreal, Vancouver, Halifax and Toronto have been centers of contemporary art since the 1960s. Artists such as Michael Snow (* 1929), Joyce Wieland (* 1931, † 1998), Ian Baxter (* 1936), Vera Frenkel (* 1938), Lisa Steele (* 1947), Kim Tomczak (* 1952), Jan Peacock (* 1955) and David Rokeby (* 1960) international recognition for her artistic and analytical engagement with the media of film and video. The politically active artist collective General Idea (active from 1968 to 1994) achieved inter alia. with the targeted statement on AIDS policy at the end of the 1980s, great media presence. In allusive actions, performances and multimedia installations, artists such as Betty Rodish Goodwin (* 1923, † 2008), Istvan Kantor (* 1949), Geneviéve Cadieux (* 1955) and Jana Sterbak (* 1955) reflect on topics ranging from autobiographical to socio-political issues. Eleanor Bond (* 1948) and Joey Morgan (* 1951) are representatives of figurative painting. The Vancouver School, which has been internationally known since the late 1980s and includes artists such as Ian Wallace (* 1943), J. Wall, Rodney Graham (* 1949) and S. Douglas, has set new standards in conceptual photography. In their artistic work, these often negotiate the contrast between landscape and urban architecture.

The current art production in Canada is heterogeneous and can hardly be assigned to the classical genres. Reality and fiction are intertwined in the audiovisual installations by Janet Cardiff (* 1957) and George Bures Miller (* 1960). In view of Canada’s ethnic diversity, the question of national identity becomes a central theme for artists such as Ken Lum (* 1956), Germaine Koh (* 1967) and Brian Jungs (* 1970). Inuit and First Nations artists who address their native identity using artistic media include Bill Reid (* 1920, † 1998) and Norval Morrisseau (* 1932, † 2007), Daphne Odjig (* 1919, † 2016), Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun (* 1957) and Zacharias Kunuk (* 1957).

Canadian Arts