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Musée Des Beaux-Arts Montréal Comes To Windsor

Prudence Heward, The Immigrants (1928)
Photo by Fortini Spetphen.

Header-image-StephenBy Robert K Stephen

(MONTREAL, QC) – The Colours of Jazz. After visiting just about every major art gallery and museum in Europe and North America over the last 40 years, Canadian art, particularly Québec art, fails to register much excitement. Personally, my home has nothing but Québec art which I have purchased in my trips to the Laurentians, the Eastern Townships, and the Charlevoix region, not to mention the Gordon Peiffer’s inherited along the way.

There is just something about Québec art; particularly the colours and delightful levels of abstractionism. This quality shines through in the Musée Des Beaux-Arts Montreal’s Discover Montreal of the 1920s, featuring many works from the members of the Beaver Hall Group. As a collective, the group had a short life from 1920 to ‘23, which was the length of the lease of their premises in Montréal.

The Beaver Hall Group arguably escaped the rut of landscaping of the contemporary Group of Seven, focusing instead on urban, industrial life and income sustaining portraits, all in a vibrant and seductive colouring.

Sarah Robertson, The Red Sleigh (c.1924)
Photo by Robert Stephen.

The first president of the Beaver Hall Group was Group of Seven artist AY Jackson.

Over half the members of the Beaver Hall Group were women, making this group the first art association to unite professional modernist female artists.

The Beaver Hall Group was considered to be a major agent of modernism in Montréal and Québec in the 1920’s and 30’s, but very few people knew anything about them, instead focusing on the Group of Seven.

The first exhibit of the group was in 1921 but, due to “financial worries”, they disbanded in 1923. Perhaps against it was its Anglophone majority. A plus for the group was its female composition, however.

Detractors of the Beaver Hall Group compared its colours to the cacophony of jazz, but Albert Laberge of La Presse wrote in March 22, 1922, “The aim is not to harmonize tones but to present colours that dazzle like the screech of a trumpet.”

Of course, I could name off a whole retinue of artists, but aside from Jackson you most likely have never seen the art of this group. Well, at least until you see this exhibit.

Thankfully the exhibit will not be stuck in Montréal, but will move on to the Art Gallery of Hamilton, Art Gallery of Windsor (last exhibited in 2001), and the Glenbow Museum in Calgary.

Please pardon me, but you’d be a fool to miss this.

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