Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Picturing the Land

Picturing the Land: Narrating Territories in Canadian Landscape Art, 1500-1950

  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Picturing the Land
    Book Description:

    Emphasizing the ways in which social, economic, and political conditions determine representation, Marylin McKay moves beyond canonical images and traditional nationalistic interpretations by analyzing Canadian landscape art in relation to different concepts of territory. Taking an expansive and inclusive perspective on Canadian landscape art, McKay depicts this tradition in all its diversity and draws it into the larger body of Western landscape art, broadening the horizon of future study, appreciation, and criticism. Richly illustrated and filled with sophisticated and innovative commentary, Picturing the Land provides new and distinct histories of the landscape art of French and English Canada.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-9096-0
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-xvi)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-1)
  5. Introduction Canadian Landscape Art, 1500 to 1950
    (pp. 3-14)

    Before the 1980s, most studies of visual representations of the Canadian landscape focused on the fine arts, offered details of the artists’ lives, debated the aesthetic merits of their work, determined its meaning through the identification of imagery, and assessed its position on the progressive road to modernism. Since the 1980s, many art historians, as well as scholars in the newer field of visual studies, have considered such images in a wider variety of media. They have also worked within the frameworks of postmodern theories that demonstrate how dominant social, economic, and political conditions both support and are supported by...

  6. 1 Geographies of the Mind Art-Maps of French and English Canada, 1500 to 1760
    (pp. 15-32)

    About 1500 CE, at the height of what historians would later call the Renaissance period, Europeans began to search for a westerly route to Asia and that continent’s rich supplies of precious metals, gems, and spices. En route, explorers from France and England came to the eastern shores of what is now Canada, noted the country’s natural resources, considered the indigenous populations as potential converts to Christianity, and claimed the land on behalf of their patrons. They explored and mapped some of the country’s coastlines, and provided professional European cartographers with images and information with which to make maps as...

  7. 2 Place and Displacement Drawings and Watercolours in French and English Canada, 1600 to 1830
    (pp. 33-63)

    Until c. 1830, most visual representations of the Canadian landscape, other than maps, were drawings and watercolours by French and English men. They came to Canada as explorers, military officers, settlement leaders, administrators, surveyors, government clerks, members of the Christian clergy, and tourists. Some of the wives, daughters, or sisters who accompanied these men made art too. In other words, this art was made by amateurs.

    Despite their amateur status, however, these artists employed the professional aesthetic language of the imperial centre. As postcolonial theorists Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin have explained, artists in colonies, whether professional or...

  8. 3 Hopes and Promises Resident Artists in English Canada, 1830s to 1860s
    (pp. 64-90)

    The social, economic, and political conditions of English Canada changed significantly between the 1830s and the 1860s. At the beginning of this period, large numbers of immigrants from the British Isles started to arrive in what is now eastern and central Canada. At the same time, significant numbers of British and American immigrants began to settle on the west coast, especially after the discovery of gold in 1858. Modern technology was bringing the same changes to English Canada as to the rest of Western culture; industrialized modes of manufacturing led to, among many other things, the building of railways, steam...

  9. 4 Our Faith, Our Language, Our Institutions Territory and Sédentarisme in French Canada, 1830s to 1880s
    (pp. 91-103)

    In 1760, the British Conquest brought an end to nomadic conceptions of territory within New France. It also prevented the immediate formation of any other clear model. Most of those who had made landscape art left. Those who remained felt that they lacked territory of their own, while any hope they might have had for taking over other parts of the continent were soon eliminated by American expansion. Nor was there any chance that France might return to North America and regain its colony through military force. Indeed, contact with France was reduced as a result of the French Revolution,...

  10. 5 Arcadia, Eden, and Nationalism Farmland in English Canada, 1870 to 1915
    (pp. 104-128)

    In 1867, the British colonies of Canada West, Canada East, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia united in Confederation to form an independent nation. At approximately the same time, a new type of artist appeared in English Canada: one who was born in Canada; attended local as well as and foreign art schools; helped to found and held membership in local art schools, societies, associations, and museums; exhibited and won prizes in juried exhibitions both inside and outside Canada; was familiar with contemporary foreign art through travel, books, and journals; and made a living as a professional artist.

    Many of these...

  11. 6 Promises of Survival Territory and Sédentarisme in French Canada, 1880s to 1940s
    (pp. 129-146)

    The new type of artist that emerged in post-Confederation English Canada appeared in French Canada too. Now French Canadian artists were studying in well established foreign schools; teaching in local art schools; founding and joining artists’ organizations and taking membership in foreign ones. They were also exhibiting in professional venues both within and outside Canada; keeping themselves informed about contemporary foreign art through journals and travel; and earning a living by making art.¹ And from the 1880s on, many were making landscape art in fully Romanticized modes.

    However, in contrast with their English Canadian contemporaries, these artists were almost always...

  12. 7 Man Hath Dominion Wilderness Landscapes in English Canada, 1870 to 1913
    (pp. 147-168)

    From the time of Confederation in 1867 until the early twentieth century, many English Canadian artists represented both farmland and wilderness in a fully Romantic way. As chapter 5 demonstrates, some believed that images of farmland could best evoke patriotic sentiment, but others were convinced that depicting the wilderness would be more likely to fulfill that goal, because it looked different from the landscapes of other countries. It was unique, and such uniqueness was a prerequisite of a great nation. Furthermore, the wilderness was still being explored and settled, so it remained an exciting place. The nomadic hero could document...

  13. 8 A Canadian School for Sure Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven, 1913 to 1930
    (pp. 169-183)

    In 1913, eight English Canadian artists who lived in Toronto – Franklin Carmichael, Lawren S. Harris, A.Y. Jackson, Franz Johnston, Arthur Lismer, J.E.H. MacDonald, Tom Thomson, and Frederick Varley – began to make wilderness paintings in bolder styles and colours than had been used before. They claimed this style of art would evoke nationalistic sentiment and thereby support material and cultural progress. In other words, it would inspire the development of a great nation. Earlier English Canadian artists had made similar claims for their landscapes (see chapters 5 and 7), but “the eight” and their supporters did not believe their predecessors’ work...

  14. 9 “Oh God, What Have I Seen?” The Cult of the Group of Seven, 1920 to 1931
    (pp. 184-210)

    During the 1920s, a cult developed around the landscape art of Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven: Franklin Carmichael, Lawren S. Harris, A.Y. Jackson, Franz Johnston, Arthur Lismer, J.E.H. MacDonald, and F.H. Varley. Its strength depended on a number of interrelated phenomena. First, Thomson and the Group members came together in Toronto: the city with the wealthiest, largest, and best educated English-speaking population in Canada. Consequently it had a critical mass of people interested in art. Many of them belonged to the Arts and Letters Club, where they met Group of Seven members and frequently became their supporters.¹ In...

  15. 10 Into Humanity instead of the Woods The 1930s in French and English Canada
    (pp. 211-235)

    Canadians were as adversely affected by the economic depression of the 1930s as anyone else. They were also as deeply disturbed by mounting military aggression in Europe and Asia.¹ Given this context, it would be reasonable to assume that a significant number of Canadian artists would use their art to critique the social, economic, and political troubles of this decade. One might also expect French Canadian artists to stop producing idealized representations of rural life and depict instead the hardships Quebec farmers were experiencing. Similarly, English Canadian artists might be expected to turn away from uninhabited wilderness scenes in favour...

  16. 11 Where Do We Go from Here? Modernism versus Landscape at Mid-Century
    (pp. 236-273)

    While a significant number of Canadian artists began to devote themselves to abstraction in the 1940s, most continued to work with recognizable subject matter, including landscape. From the 1960s to the 1980s, art historians paid more attention to the abstract work, since it seemed to bring Canadian art into line with the international avant-garde. For example, in his 1966 study, Painting in Canada: A History, J. Russell Harper discussed mid-century work in two chapters: “Towards Non-Objectivity,” is concerned with “the road to abstraction,” and “Reawakening in Montreal” examines the emergence of a strong body of abstract art in that city....

  17. Epilogue
    (pp. 274-280)

    If this book had considered Canadian landscape art after 1950 as well as before that date, it would have been unreasonable to entitle it Narrating Territories. The word “territory” in English, or “territoire” in French, refers to particular space or geography. It is also inextricably linked with ideas of ownership and occupation. Between 1500 and 1760, both the French and the English came to Canada with the idea of territory/territoire in mind. They wanted to occupy, rule, and benefit in a number of ways from the land that is now Canada. They also wanted to conquer and assimilate indigenous people...

  18. Notes
    (pp. 281-310)
  19. Bibliography
    (pp. 311-346)
  20. Index
    (pp. 347-359)