Historic Art | Arthur Lismer R.C.A.

Forest interior near tofino oc 16
Tangle of the forest bc 1962 oc 16x20 web Sumac and sunshine georgian bay 1944 ob 12

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Forest Interior, Near Tofino

Technique: oil on board

Dimensions: 16.5x21 in.

About the Artist

Arthur Lismer, painter, educator (b at Sheffield, Eng 27 June 1885; d at Montréal 23 Mar 1969). Lismer studied at Sheffield School of Art 1899-1906 and the Académie royale des beaux-arts, Antwerp, 1906-07. He moved to Canada in 1911, seeking work as a commercial illustrator. At the Grip Engraving Co in Toronto, he met J.E.H. MacDonald, Tom Thomson and F.H. JOHNSTON, and, shortly thereafter, Frank CARMICHAEL. In 1912 he returned to England to marry and spoke so highly of Canada that F.H. VARLEY followed him to Toronto.

Lismer began his distinguished career as an art educator as principal of the Victoria School of Art and Design (later Nova Scotia College of Art and Design) in Halifax 1916-19. A prodigious worker, he painted views of Halifax harbour and returning troopships for Canadian War Records in 1918-19. He returned to Toronto to become vice-president of the Ontario College of Art and Design in 1919 and in 1920 became a founding member of the Group of Seven.

Lismer's first Canadian paintings were heavily influenced by John Constable, but during the 1920s he developed a powerful expressionist style of his own, characterized by raw colour, heavy impasto, deliberately coarse brushwork and simplified form. But Lismer devoted most of his time to art education. From 1927 to 1938 he was the educational supervisor at the Art Gallery of Toronto (now Art Gallery of Ontario). In 1932 he undertook a nationwide lecture tour; invitations to conferences in Europe and South Africa followed, and he returned to teach in South Africa in 1936-37. In 1938 he was visiting professor at Teachers' College, Columbia University. He ran the Montreal Children's Art Centre, affiliated with the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts from 1941 to 1967. This activity left Lismer with little time to paint, but he produced many of his most original works after 1930, painting first in the Maritimes and Georgian Bay, and from 1951 at Long Beach, on Vancouver Island, each summer. The lurid, intestinal and claustrophobic qualities of many of these paintings were not to contemporary taste, but have gained acceptance in recent years, for they seem to have developed from a form of deep, personal expressionism.

The Canadian Encyclopedia, by Christopher Varley


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