The McGill Visual Arts Collection holds an extensive selection of Canadian artworks, including works by members of the Group of Seven, The Canadian Group of Painters, the Royal Canadian Academy, the Painters Eleven, The Beaver Hall Group, and the Automatistes.
Arthur Lismer, Georgian Bay, 1931, oil on canvas
British-Canadian painter Arthur Lismer (1885-1969) was one of the original members of the Group of Seven, a collective of painters of the early 20th century which sought to give a distinctive national voice to Canadian painting.
After studying art at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp in Belgium, Lismer immigrated to Canada. His depictions of ships and waterscapes of wartime Halifax, Nova Scotia brought him recognition as an artist. In the 1920s, he moved on to the unique style of the Group of Seven, which consisted of painting the rugged wilderness regions of Canada in a dynamic, bright, tactile, and expressionistic manner. Lismer taught at the McGill School of Architecture from 1943 to 1955. The Visual Arts Collection holds a number of landscapes, portraits, and sketches by him.
The subject of this painting, Georgian Bay –a large bay of Lake Huron, located within the province of Ontario– was a popular subject amongst members of the Group of Seven. In this painting, Lismer captures the drama and stoicism of the rock formations and subtly contrasts it with the permeability and movement of the water.
Marian Dale Scott, Endocrinology, 1943, oil on plaster wall
Marian Dale Scott (1906-1993) was a Canadian painter from Montreal. She studied at the École des beaux-arts de Montréal as well as at the Slade School of Fine Art of University College London and was a member of the Canadian Group of Painters. In 1973, Scott was elected to the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.
Endocrinology was specifically created for the Strathcona Anatomy and Dentistry Building here at McGill. It offers a look into endocrinological research by depicting a male figure –likely a researcher– reaching toward the nucleus of a radiating spiral surrounded by various organisms, namely bodies and abstract cell-like organic forms. The piece, a first step towards abstraction, marked a turning point in Scott’s practice. In 2017, Endocrinology was part of the virtual exhibition 150 Years | 150 Works: Canadian Art as Historical Act, which presented art as an integral part of Canada’s social and political history.
Marcel Barbeau, Fenêtre sur l’avenir, 1992, painted steel
Marcel Barbeau (1925-2016) was a multidisciplinary artist from Montréal whose work was characterized by non-figuration as well as by motion in its various forms: movement, the passing of time, and the future. He was one of the original signatories of the political manifesto Refus global as well as an active member of the group the Automatistes, a collective of Québécois artists who believed in the communication of subconscious emotions through sensory experiences. Barbeau was awarded the title of Officer of the Order of Canada in 1995.
Fenêtre sur l’avenir was commissioned by General Electric Canada in 1992 for the 350th anniversary of the city of Montreal. The painted steel sculpture is composed of both angular and curvaceous lines. It forms a set of three nearly trapezoidal shapes that resemble windows. In 2018, the sculpture moved temporarily to the Musée National des Beaux Arts du Québec, where it was displayed for a retrospective exhibit on Marcel Barbeau. Today, it can be admired on the downtown campus, in the James Sculpture Garden. The Visual Arts Collection also holds a number of abstract paintings by Marcel Barbeau, four of which are displayed on the 4th floor of the McLennan Library.
Maurice Cullen, Davie Shipyard at Levis, c. 1908, oil on canvas
Born in St. John’s, Newfoundland and raised in Montreal, Quebec, landscape painter Maurice Cullen (1866-1934) devoted his artistic practice to the depiction of the Canadian landscape – its unique northern terrain, luminosity, and hues. His work, characterised by an innovative and impressionistic use of colour, is inspired by the next generation of Canadian painters, including the Group of Seven. Cullen trained at the Institut national des Beaux-Arts et des Sciences in Montreal as well as at the École des Beaux-Arts de Paris. He later taught at the Art Association of Montreal. An internationally acclaimed artist, he was the first Canadian to be elected associate member of the Société nationale des Beaux-Arts in Paris, an elected member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, and the first vice-president of the Montreal Arts Club, founded in 1912. Cullen’s winter landscapes were especially admired. Most of them, including Davie Shipyard at Levis, were painted in Quebec City.
John Lyman, Hamilton Harbour, Bermuda, 1958, oil on canvas
Artist, theorist, and professor John Lyman (1886-1967) was a pioneer of modern art in Canada. Born in Biddeford, Maine in the United States and trained at the the Académie Julian and the Académie Matisse in Paris, he moved permanently to Montreal in 1931 and sought to improve the artistic conditions in Canada. As a professional painter, his practice was influenced by his contacts with French expressionist painter Henri Matisse (1869-1954) and Canadian landscape painter James Wilson Morrice (1865-1924). Lyman also wrote as an art columnist for The Montrealer, founded Montreal’s Contemporary Arts Society, and directed the Fine Arts Department at McGill.
Lyman spent some time in Bermuda during the Great War and was inspired by the scenery there. Hamilton Harbour is the primary port of the island.
Jean-Paul Mousseau, Espace temps modulations demi-rouge, 1963, oil on wood
Jean-Paul Mousseau (1927-1991), member of the Automatistes and signatory of the Refus Global, was a sculptor and painter best known for his integration of visual art into urban environments. Mousseau studied at the École du meuble de Montreal under Paul-Émile Borduas (1905-1960) and founded the Association des artistes non-figuratifs de Montréal. This work, with its circular form and warm colour palette, is reminiscent of his tiled mural work inside the Peel metro station in Montreal.
The artwork is currently on view in the lobby of McLennan Library.