Canada’s 20th century and today, in the sense

Canada’s Autonomy: Arts and Culture (Painting)Canada distinguishes itself from other nations mainly due to its diversity in people – people admire that Canada has taken it upon themselves to advertise their country as a place for people from all over the world to feel safe. However, this is not all that separates Canada from other countries. In many ways Canada has achieved its autonomy; one of them is through the arts, specifically paintings. Canada has always had wonderful artists but it wasn’t until the turn of the 20th century when Canadian art became distinctive throughout the world. Art has helped Canada show the rest of the world that Canada had something special that was new and original, something fresh that belonged to them. Components such as the Group of Seven, Group of Canadian Painters, The Canadian Council of the Arts and even new artists in this day and age continue to make this statement true. Each one of these artists has made an impact on our country, and made noise around the world. They were significant to the history of Canada and in the next few paragraphs I will explain just how Canadian painters and their artwork have been instrumental in defining a uniquely Canadian identity for the country throughout the 20th century and today, in the sense of historical significance.Confederation & The Group of Seven.World War II was a troubling time for everyone in the world. Once the war was over and things started to settle down, Canada used this opportunity to finally become its own nation. They were determined to create their own cultural identity and did not want colonial or American culture defining theirs anymore. Finally, in 1867, Confederation happened. Canada was free from the shackles of the UK, they began to look into ways to expand their culture when a group of seven aspiring artists came onto the scene. Their main goal was to express Canada’s fascinating landscape within a distinctively “Canadian” style – an art style that would stray from the European tradition. They called themselves the Group of Seven. These artists traveled all throughout The Canadian Shield, capturing its beauty through their paintings. The group of seven consisted of seven members, Franklin Carmichael, Lawren Harris, A. Y. Jackson, Frank Johnston, Arthur Lismer, J. E. H.MacDonald, and Frederick Varley. These men really started the art movement in Canada and were the ones who inspired the next generation to continue the art movement. The group of seven believed that “before a land could truly be a home for its people, it should have its own art. This art should be inspired by the land, and should express people’s experience of the land”. What made their art style so different is that while traversing Canada, they briefly learned how the Aboriginals painted. Some of their most famous paintings came when they were travelling the Canadian Shield, especially in the indigenous areas. They briefly trained in painting with the aboriginals in the ways they painted. The Aboriginal style was unique to the world except for Canada. Aside from Aboriginal paintings they took a liking to Scandinavian painting. One of the members of the Group of Seven ventured out to a small Scandinavian settlement in Alberta.  He was mesmerized by the bright, cheerful colors, simple patterns, and a reduced aesthetic. They combined these painting styles and made a style unique to them, a new Canadian style. After their first exhibit, collectors from America and Europe caught wind of their work and decided to buy their paintings. The world was beginning to acknowledge Canada as the new modern art hub. After their first exhibit, their success kept rising and they came up with brilliant works like serenity, lake by the woods, The lumberjack, Pembina Valley, north of lake superior and many many more. Today the group of seven are now among the most famous artists in Canadian history, too many, their art symbolizes distinct Canadian identity. Their work now sells to the public for 5 to 10 million dollars. It is easy to see that the Group of Seven were a vital force in the Canadian art movement, their dedication to creating a distinctly Canadian style truly proves how Canadian painters helped make a uniquely Canadian identity. Their efforts are best described in this quote, “Through our own creative experience we came to know that the real tradition in art is not housed only in museums and art galleries and in great works of art; it is innate in us and can be galvanized into activity by the power of creative endeavor in our own day, and in our own country, by our own creative individuals in the arts. We also came to realize that we in Canada cannot truly understand the great cultures of the past and of other peoples, until we ourselves commence our own creative life in the arts. Until we do so, we are looking at these from the outside.” (“The Best Of The Group Of Seven Quotes By Joan Murray”)When the group of Seven disbanded in 1933, the Canadian Group of Painters picked up where they left off. Consisting of 28 members, they were the first group of artists to try to cross-country representation of modern artists. For its time, 1/3 of the group was occupied by women. A quote from Lawrence Harris “Art must take to the road and risk all for the glory of adventure.”, (“Lawren Harris Quotes – Art Quotes”) which is why they travelled and brought their art everywhere. The exhibits they held were held all over the US and Canada, where they would bring up issues about the arts, usually about the state of the arts and the culture in Canada. Unlike the group of seven, their work was of all sorts of things such as abstract and realism. The subject matter had a great variety and included figurative works, landscapes, abstraction, and realism. What made the group such a vital force was its engagement with modern life—in subject matter, artistic approach and social activity—against the background of the Depression, World War II, and postwar reconstruction. Their first exhibition of “nationalist art” was held in Atlantic City, New Jersey in November 1933. They showcased 57 works at the Heinz Art Salon, which proved to be a great international venue to showcase their brand. However, the pieces that gained the most recognition and press were still the Group of Seven works. The first CGP exhibition in Canada was held in November 1933. The exhibit was less restrictive in style and featured a wider range of works that fell outside of the Canadian landscape style As active painters and as a group they continued to produce and influence Canadian art for many years. The Canadian Group of Painters organized exhibitions of the works of the Beaver Halle Group. Near the end of their career The CGP brought together many of Canada’s most recognized artists like, B.C. Binning, Jack Bush, Emily Carr, Charles Comfort, Paraskeva Clark, Prudence Heward, Yvonne McKague Housser, Jock Macdonald, Pegi Nicol MacLeod, and Isabel McLaughlin, among others, who presented powerful works for a national audience. These group of painters helped define Canadian identity by travelling throughout Canada as well as America sharing with each exhibition they did just exactly Canadian art was. The question of financial aid for universities and the role of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) had been growing concerns for the Liberal government of Louis St- Laurent as well as growing concern over the anemic state of Canadian culture and the influence of American culture here in Canada. So in 1949, to deal with these issues officials at St- Laurent asked The university of Toronto’s chancellor, William Massey to lead the royal commision on the development of the arts. Later on to be called “The Massey Commission” was the movement that brought the Canada Council for the Arts. Massey was a big believer of the arts and even said, ” This will allow our students to take craft to the next level.”(“William Massey Quotes”) It was the federal government’s main way of supporting the arts. They  provided grants and services to professional Canadian artists and arts organizations in dance, interdisciplinary art, media arts, music, opera, theatre, writing, publishing and the visual arts. The creation of this council was everything that the Group Of Seven worked towards – their biggest dream was to establish an art movement in Canada, and with this creation their work was complete. Canada has recognized that art was an important part of our culture and decided to contribute to Canadian identity and help training the next artists that will contribute to their dream. Fast forward to today, Canadian identity is still changing. The artists of now are living the same dream as their predecessors did before them. Artist John Player states, “Through my painting practice, I seek to question the normalization of a detached, calculative and militaristic view of the world. In this new body of work, I reference virtual diagrams, maquettes and the seduction of simulations, referring to modes of technology that further an alienating and predatory worldview.”(“RBC Canadian Painting Competition – RBC”)  Also artists such as Claire Scherzinger whose work stems from her own personal experiences, “I am attempting to reconcile the fact that I have witnessed injustices in the world around me while I continue to make work that is enshrined in a canon influenced by the relics of Modernism and the 20th century. This sense of non-resolution in my work is made evident when I reference Modernist artists I admire through colour, patterns and motifs and twist these ideas into new forms. I consider my paintings to be ‘beautiful moments of impasse,’ in which my original reactions of anger and horror at injustice and inequality are tamed and distilled into simple, unifying images.”(RBC Canadian Painting Competition – RBC”) These two and many others are winners of the RBC painting competition, a competition that awards its winners a large amount of money. The  national winner receives $25,000 while the two honourable mentions receive $15,000 and the Top 12 receive $12,000 each. The top three works become part of the RBC Corporate Art Collection which holds more than 4,500 works of art collected over the past century. These artists will go on to be inspirations for other children and future painters and ultimately contribute to the everchanging Canadian art movement. In conclusion, Canadian painters and their artwork have been instrumental in defining a uniquely Canadian identity for the country throughout the 20th century and today. I dare say that it was crucial in obtaining a Canadian identity at all. We as a people needed the Canadian art movement to start to expand our own identity in other areas. In conclusion, the arts in Canada had and will continue to actively shape our nation’s identity.

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