Ecclesiastic Art in Saskatchewan prior to 1950

There are three known names associated with ecclesiastical art in Saskatchewan. Depending upon where a person lives, Saskatchewan people might have heard of at least one of them: Henry Metzger, Charles Maillard and Berthold von Imhoff (aka Imhoff). The former two are better known in the south of the province and in Regina and Imhoff is better known north of Saskatoon in North Battleford and Lloydminster.

Apart from them, whom I have known about for a long time, I learned a bit more information about ecclesiastical art in Saskatchewan from the newspaper scanning.  I also learned more about these three individuals and a couple of others whose names were unfamiliar to me.  I hesitated about putting their biographies in a post separate from my Some Early Men Artists of Saskatchewan but I think this oft forgotten group of artists deserves a special spotlight.

Father Henry Metzger – (1883-1949)

Saskatchewan Network for Art Collecting includes a short biography of Metzger which I would like to add information to. Read the biography they provide and then see the linked newspaper articles. http://www.sknac.ca/index.php?page=ArtistDetail&id=436 There is a more scholarly biography on the ASKART website:http://www.askart.com/askart/m/henry_metzger/henry_metzger.aspx

See: Leader on Aug. 15 and Aug. 16, 1917 for articles about the initial pilgrimage to the recently built shrine. The later article contains biographical details about Father Henry Metzger who lived with his sister Mme. Simon in Canada. She was a woodcarver and lacemaker. There is a little bit of information about Metzger’s activities in this short article. A 1925 report tells us he painted a portrait of Archbishop Mathieu which was shown in a Regina store window.

See his obituary in the Regina Leader Post, July 16, 1949 and an editorial written by Phan (Dale Phaneuf) in the July 25, 1949 edition

Apart from his paintings of religious imagery, he was also known as an Indian portrait painter and it was in that capacity that he had his only semi-solo show in Regina. In the third week of July, 1950, 45 paintings by James Henderson were shown along with 22 paintings by Metzger at the Regina fair in the Exhibition Grandstand gallery to memorialize the two pioneer painters who had recently died.  Both artists were known for their Indian portraits and landscapes.  Metzger only merits a small paragraph at the end because he was not as well known in Regina as Henderson was. However, Metzger had exhibited his work in annual LCW Saskatchewan artists exhibitions in Regina:  1923, 1924, 1927 & 1928, alongside Henderson. It is likely that he exhibited in other years then but his name is only mentioned in the reviews for these years.  Additionally, he received mention when he exhibited with the WAA in annual Saskatchewan artist exhibitions in 1930 and 1948. His non-ecclesiastical work was collected by individuals and institutions and was probably dispersed in the art market after his death.

For more visual images see the collections mentioned in the ASK ART entry and Canada’s Historic Places for St. Peter’s Church at Kronau: http://www.historicplaces.ca/en/rep-reg/place-lieu.aspx?id=16225

St. Peter’s Church Heritage website for images of Metzger’s work and more about the Grotto and Church   http://www.stpeterskronau.ca/

Ecclesiatical art was usually judged on its adherence to conventional subjects and its academic style.  The work of a contemporary of Metzger’s in southeast Saskatchewan might provide some comparison.

Reverend Charles Maillard (1873-1939)

A short biography written in 1924’s Prominent People of Saskatchewan appears online as follows:

MAILLARD: Reverend Charles,. V.F., parish priest, Gravelbourg. Born at Montreuil, Sur-Mer, France, March 13th, 1873, son of Jules and Clemence (Vidier) Maillard. Educated at Lille University (France) Ottawa University. Parish priest of St. Lazare, Man.; 1904; Wolseley, Sask., 1907. Promoted to Gravelbourg parish, 1917.

However, there was an extra special feature in the Regina Leader of September 20, 1924, which unusually contained photographs, and the fascinating article with it provides many details on Father Maillard’s life and achievements.

??????????????????????????????? One of the photos in the feature with Maillard’s photo superimposed over Gravelbourg Cathedral,  1924.

Then there is a small article in 1933, marking the occasion of his leaving Gravelbourg.

To find out more about his achievements I recommend: http://gravelbourgcocathedral.com/fmaillard.html and the images on http://www.gravelbourgcocathedral.com/and http://musee.societehisto.com/charles-maillard-n372-t809.html

Some essays are in French but your browser will translate them. The latter essay has footnotes and even more detailed material can be found in those sources.  More photos of the interior decoration of this cathedral can be found on a Flickr page https://www.flickr.com/photos/dallasbohun/3204859563/

Father Maillard died in Quebec at the home of his sister in 1939.  He, like Metzger, received mention in the newspaper for exhibiting in Saskatchewan art shows,  in 1923 and 1924 with the LCW Saskatchewan Artists show in Regina and may have shown there without being mentioned in the newspaper. (See my post on LCW exhibitions)  Unlike Metzger, Father Maillard’s artwork doesn’t seem to be on the art market and it is likely that any non-ecclesiastical art he made, he took with him when he left Saskatchewan.

The third “big name” is a man who was not a priest.

 Berthold von Imhoff (1868 – 1939)

Berthold von Imhoff, however, painted the interior schemes of many churches in north-central Saskatchewan and in other places. Watch this short video at North Dakota Studies for an introduction to the artist and views of his ecclesiastic painting. http://www.ndstudies.org/media/prairie_churches_immigrant_church_artist

In the company of a friend over 25 years ago I visited a church I can’t remember the name of and went to interview the Imhoff family and visit Imhoff’s studio at St. Walburg, a very small town in the vicinity of North Battleford. We also made a trip to Lloydminster where a large collection of Imhoff paintings are held in the Barr Colony Museum.  His studio and home were delightful and I remember the experience as being quite singular – the family were determined to keep his work together as a collection and to maintain his home and studio as it was, then almost 50 years after his death.  As a result he has no presence on the art market and his work is not circulated in shows very often.

The articles I found about him were mainly posthumous although it was interesting to find out that in 1933 he painted a portrait of Liberal leader and former premier James C. Gardiner for the Liberal party headquarters in the Crown Building in Regina and that he painted portraits of a couple from Richard in 1937 who were being fêted for their pioneer status, Mr. and Mrs. Emile Richard, the founders of the town.

Imhoff can also be found on my exhibition list for the WAA as an artist who was mentioned in a 1932 report of their annual Saskatchewan artists exhibition in Regina.  The Star-Phoenix obituary (below) mentioned that Imhoff exhibited a couple of times in Saskatoon at the Eaton’s store and at the Hudson’s Bay Company but no years were given and it took me some time to come up with this announcement tucked into an Eaton’s ad in the 1934 Star-Phoenix (scroll up from title in link). No report or review was published that I can find.  He didn’t exhibit with any Saskatoon art organizations so these must have been solo shows.

Both the Star-Phoenix and the Leader-Post marked his passing in 1939 with separately written obituaries:  SP Dec. 20, 1939 and RLP Dec. 21, 1939.

Just a few months before his death he was still working when the RLP wrote a profile of him in Oct. 1939. I enjoyed reading  about the experience of the profiler going to visit his studio.  I experienced much the same thing fifty years later. An earlier profile written in 1936 in the Star-Phoenix also is very descriptive of his home and studio at St. Walburg when he was in residence.

Other profiles date from much later. In Mar. 31, 1958 an editorial in the SSP discussed the fate of the paintings, noting their significance. Since Google News Archive also has the Reading Eagle (Pennsylvania), you can look at another perspective on Imhoff and his work from a Mar. 15, 1972 article. He did the decorative work for a lot of churches there before moving to Saskatchewan.

I know that people have published some research about all three of these artists but I don’t think any proper study putting them in their Saskatchewan context has been done.  All of them were clearly accomplished artists in terms of their technical training, certainly better trained than most Saskatchewan artists of the time, yet they don’t really ever figure in discussions of Saskatchewan art history.  There is, of course, a modern prejudice against anyone who wasn’t carrying forward the tradition of the new on canvas.  It is quite true that none of them advanced the cause of modern art but that’s not what they were about.  They deserve a study which places them in their own context.

A long time ago, I found it interesting that Metzger and Imhoff, both of German extraction, were so drawn to representing the indigenous people around them in Indian portraits. For more about this see my Image of the Indian post.

Another ecclesiastical painter I only found out about through newspaper scanning was Emile Mayeur (b. 1880, Valenciennes, France) who apparently was living in Dumas, Saskatchewan when he brought some of his paintings into Regina for a showing at St. Mary’s Church hall. He was announced in the newspaper as a French artist although he had been living in Canada since 1911. The second article says he painted a portrait of Sir Wilfred Laurier but doesn’t mention who it was for.  Since this is the only writing I found on him, I am not sure he stayed there but he seems to have lived in Saskatchewan long enough to qualify as a Saskatchewan artist.

For more information about the ghost town of Dumas see the Francophone virtual Museum of Saskatchewan: http://musee.societehisto.com/dumas-et-high-view-n381-t728.html

Emile Mayeur may have moved on or succumbed to his illness. While these people are conventionally what we think of when ecclesiastical art is mentioned, painting is only one kind of decoration that was used in churches, and even then in Saskatchewan, only in various types of Catholic churches.

I have only found one article on a Ukrainian church painter, designer and sculptor.  In 1940 the Saskatoon Arts & Crafts Society was introduced to George Bryck, at the Ukrainian Hall on Avenue G. Born in Ukraine in 1899, this artist had been in Saskatoon since 1931.  Details about his life, training and career to 1940 can be found in the report on the club’s visit.  Bryck had to be one of the most well-trained and versatile artists in Saskatoon during this era but he doesn’t appear to have participated in local shows or in art groups and so far, I have been unable to find anything about him online but surely there must be some remnants of his work in Saskatoon. See a brief mention of his work in the 1939 fair’s art exhibition.

2016 update on Bryck: I was going through my old files and found a clipping I’d made from the Saskatoon Sun, Apr. 27, 1997 of an article written by Bob Kowaluk for the Municipal Heritage Society Advisory Committee which  featured a couple of photographs of the interior of the Ukrainian National Federation Hall at 228 Ave. G. South in Saskatoon.  According to the author Yurko Bryk was a graphic artist for New Pathway Publishers while in Saskatoon. Bryk moved to Ontario in the 1940s where he did decorative work and paintings and sculpture in churches in Oshawa and Windsor. He died in Toronto in 1960.

Ukrainian National Hall built in 1932, Saskatoon Sun Apr. 27, 1997, p. B15

Ukrainian National Hall built in 1932, Saskatoon Sun Apr. 27, 1997, p. B15

1997 Ukrainian Hall Stoon Bryk2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is usually documentary evidence to be found about the decoration of large cathedrals or parish churches in Saskatchewan.  You only have to look to find another article like the one on Mathieu (above).  But there is less and less information on small Protestant churches, Jewish synagogues and other religious buildings as time goes by.

I don’t believe there has been an exhibition dedicated to ecclesiastical art in Saskatchewan since the women of the Western Art Association held one in June, 1911.  They gathered together needlework of all kinds and other valuable objects made for or brought to the pioneer Anglican churches of Saskatchewan.  It is worth reading the description of the exhibition to find out what they thought was important (See link under Western Art Association post).  In an article written about a year later we find out that there was a Qu’appelle Association in England who had been supplying the new churches in the Diocese of Qu’appelle with all kinds of furnishings, including embroidered cloths for sacral use.  It might be a project for someone to start researching  where this Qu’appelle Association was based and see what records they have in order to start to make an inventory of this branch of art in Saskatchewan. I found one other mention of the local Qu’Appelle association in this brief report.

Additionally, someone might want to survey churches where sacred objects were made locally or known to be imported. I found a couple of examples of this while scanning. Sept. 3, 1921 Morning Leader about a stained glass window design and July 23, 1949 Leader Post about a 600 year old statue from France in Ponteix.

I know that the ladies of Cannington Manor supplied most of the decoration for their little Anglican church in the 19th Century.  There are many other vintage churches in Saskatchewan which must have stories about who made the objects and furnishings in their keeping, stories that, if known, are usually confined to small local museums.  As these buildings are continually being abandoned, it is time to do this now.  As I have found out, there is precious little information in the old newspapers on this subject so it can’t wait until later.

Having said that, you can find lots of articles on old churches in the newspapers.  I was lucky enough to come across a Jan. 28,1933 RLP photograph of an 1884 painting of St. Paul’s Anglican Church, the first Anglican church in Regina, built in 1883.

1884 image of St. Paul cropped

The above photo was featured in the Leader Post to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the church which had been rebuilt in 1894. The second version of the church looked like this in 1933.  Then in 1943 I ran across an article about the contemporary existence of the first church, which featured a photograph of how the church in the 1884 painting looked then. Perhaps St. Paul’s still owns the old painting. See Wikipedia on St. Paul’s Cathedral for photographs of the church as it looks today.

©Lisa G. Henderson

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One thought on “Ecclesiastic Art in Saskatchewan prior to 1950

  1. David Kalynowski

    George Bryck did mural paintings for various Ukrainian halls in Sask. I may have access to one mural on canvas in decent shape but needs restoration Are there any Ukrainian cultural groups that would be interested if so please contact me.

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    Reply

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