Assorted Regina Art Clubs 1920s-1950

Two of the three main art exhibiting clubs of this era in Regina have been dealt with in separate posts: the LCW Arts & Letters Committee, the Women’s Art Association of Saskatchewan and the yet to come post on the Regina Arts & Crafts Club and other craft organizations will shine a light on the third.  However, there were other organizations and groups active during the same time period, one of them very long-lived. Short sketches of each group are provided here. See my post on Photography and Film prior to 1950 for a brief sketch of the Regina Camera Club

Regina Art Club 1918-1923

The first encounter I had with this entity was an announcement in the Jan. 10, 1918 Morning Leader that the Regina Art Club had completed its arrangements for the upcoming year – meeting every Thursday evening in the Regina College art studio.  It seems that its proposed program was educative, including planned lectures.

On Apr. 4, 1918 there is a reference to the Regina Art Club sponsoring an exhibition of student art work at Regina College.

The next mention I came across was in 1923 when the Regina Art Club met in J.H. Lee-Grayson’s studio at Regina College and a list of names of people involved in the club were mentioned in the article. It is known that the Regina Sketch Club, below, initially met in the tower room at Regina College before finding permanent quarters in the Court House attic. Furthermore, this same article mentions that the LCW Fine Arts Committee is preparing for their art exhibition and the Regina Art Club will be contributing,  So I am pretty certain that the term Regina Art Club refers to a group who later became the Sketch Club.

The last mention I found was announcing a meeting of the Regina Art Club on May 30, 1925 at 2930 Albert St.  This was the residence of Susan MacLean, an early member of the Regina Sketch Club and the LCW Arts & Letters Committee, so it is likely this last reference refers to the latter organization which would be more likely to be meeting in a house than the Sketch Club would. But it does show this term was often used as a shorthand for more specific groups.

Regina Sketch Club 1922 – 1961

The first article I came across referring to the Regina Sketch Club was an announcement on Nov. 2, 1927 that the Club was opening its fifth annual season.  By my calculations that means they opened their first annual season in late 1922 and probably got underway in 1923.  Most of the names mentioned in the opening season of the Regina Art Club (above) for that year were known members of the Regina Sketch Club, suggesting that the Regina Art Club was the forerunner of this group. In the 1927 article there is a discussion of what the club was about, what their program was and who was on the executive.

The first announcement of an exhibition I found was on Apr. 30, 1928 when the club planned an exhibit of 75 pictures.  On May 3, 1928 there was a report on the exhibition indicating that if they had annual exhibits, they were usually held in the first week of May. A list of club members appears in this announcement.  On May 2, 1930 there is another exhibition announcement which also lists members. A brief reference to the Regina Sketch Club possibly joining a network of sketch clubs appears in the Leader-Post on Oct. 15, 1930

The first review I found of one of their shows appeared on May 7, 1932. The announcement of their exhibition on May 18, 1933 indicates that the exhibition was moved to mid May for one year at least.  A review of this show appears on May 22, 1933.  But the next announcement of a show appears at their regular time, Apr. 28, 1934, when they held the display in their studio at the court house.  A brief summary of this show appears on Apr. 30, 1934 and a list of members of the club is also provided.

A very poetic description of the Sketch Club appears in the Leader Post on Nov. 27, 1934, an article written by someone with the initials H.A. R.  A review of their 1935 show appears on May 7, 1935 and again a list of members is provided. There is another review on May 9, 1936.  On May 8, 1937 the usual list of members is foregone in favour of a more detailed review of the work in their annual show.

The 1937 showing was the last one that founding member Dorothea Sheldon-Williams exhibited in.  In early March of 1938 there was a short announcement in the newspaper that the club regretted her illness, even though they had had a good sketching model the previous night. On March 11, 1938 there was an announcement that the club had postponed their sketching session owing to her death.

The next announcement comes in Oct. 7, 1940 when the club started their winter activities.  The president at that time was F.H. Portnall.  On Apr. 3, 1941 there was a short update on the club’s progress and then on Apr. 21 and Apr.22 there appeared two separate reviews of their 1941 show.  An article adjacent to the latter also announced that F.H. Portnall was helping Saskatoon’s Art Association with their spring Saskatchewan artists show.

On Apr. 11, 1942 a short “sketch” of the Regina Sketch club was presented by someone with the initials E.A.  The club was described as being 20 years old, indicating a founding date of 1922.  At a going away party for Harriette Keating in May, 1942 a list of founders of the Regina Sketch Club who were attending the party was read.  J.H. Lee-Grayson was on that list, further indicating that the Regina Art Club was the forerunner of the Regina Sketch Club.

The next article on the club I found was on Oct. 11, 1945 when mention was made of their recent model, a tennis player, and Adam Grainger being named as the president of the club.  Another mention of a model appears in Jan. 24, 1946 and another on Jan. 31. On May 4 and May 22, 1946 there are very brief mentions of the Sketch Club’s annual show at the Public Library.  It seems that the group was showing several members in rotation over several weeks.

A very useful article with accompanying photographs showing club members at work in their quarters in the court house attic appears in March 3 of 1947 entitled “25 Years of Sketching.” So it seems that the club considered their beginnings in 1922.  There is also another historical article about the club entitled “Artists look for Quarters after 40 years” in the Apr. 15, 1961 edition of the Regina Leader Post.  Three long-time members appear in a photograph at a time when the club was facing eviction because the law court, their host, was being moved to a new building.

Courthouse,_2002_Victoria_Avenue

The old Regina courthouse was demolished in 1961. The Regina Sketch Club made its attic their home when Dorothea Sheldon-Williams, a stenographer for the judges, arranged the rent-free space. 

The Regina Sketch Club was the only truly artist-centred group in Regina for many years.  Its raison d’être was artistic companionship and self-improvement. The club was a place where artists could gather to sketch models or plan sketching trips. They also assisted each other with critiques.                                                         

Saskatchewan Art Association 1928-1936

This is a little known organization which chartered itself in 1928.  The central person in this organization was Norman Mackenzie, art collector and trustee of the National Gallery of Canada. Another person was George H. Barr, Mackenzie’s lawyer friend and a well-known patron and supporter of the arts in Regina. There were never any artists in this organization and most did not know of its existence.  In Visibility and Representation: Saskatchewan Art Organizations prior to 1945 (Queen’s University Master’s Thesis, 1990), author Cheryl Meszaros delves into the purpose and lack of success of this organization in the province’s art history ( pp. 64-75) by contrasting this organization with a proposed Saskatchewan Artist Association that Ernie Lindner of Saskatoon was trying to get off the ground. The organizations had completely different aims and stakeholders but Lindner’s efforts were thwarted by the pre-existence of the SAA who didn’t seem at all interested in supporting the needs of Saskatchewan artists. The SAA had a larger agenda related to art collecting, the construction of art galleries and schools of art, all centred in Regina.

Although Meszaros stated that the SAA put forth no effort at all, hence the low profile, I have found one example of the SAA sponsoring a National Gallery organized travelling art exhibition in the Leader-Post.  Oct.20, Oct. 28, Nov.3a, Nov.3b, Nov.4, Nov.7 It is well worth looking at the press coverage this art show got, which clearly indicates that Mackenzie and the social heavyweights of the Saskatchewan Art Association were trying to prove something to his fellow trustees in Ottawa. The press coverage is also interesting because of its placement in the newspaper.  Only two of the articles noted above are in the Women’s pages, the site where art exhibitions were normally announced and reviewed. This event was given special treatment.

No previous travelling exhibition or local exhibition had ever rated the detailed coverage this exhibition got.  The man had a lot of pull in the city because it is the only time I have seen a 1200 person guest register for a large art exhibition completely printed in the newspaper.  It took up an entire page Nov. 12, 1930, Nov. 12. But it certainly must have given him something concrete to prove a point with in his dealings with the National Gallery.  It was always a goal of his to attract blockbuster art exhibitions to the city.

The Saskatchewan Art Association became totally moribund when Mackenzie died in 1936, although George H. Barr was nominally his successor.  Barr continued the aims of this organization in a lone crusade until the end of his life. See my future posts on Art Collectors in Saskatchewan prior to 1950 and Art Patrons in Saskatchewan prior to 1950.

The Junior Art League – 1931 – The Junior Sketch Club 1930s

This group held an exhibition in the fall of 1931 (Oct.7 & 13 announcements) The reviews of what appears to be their first and their only exhibition appears in the Oct 15, Oct 16 (scroll right to next page) & Oct. 17, 1931 RLP.  I noticed that there were at least 3 members of this group who were members of the Regina Sketch Club and Harriette Keating, a founding member of the Sketch Club, was described as the vice-president of the Junior Art League.  While it is tempting to think of this as a junior arm of the Sketch Club, most of the exhibitors were described as students.  David Payne is described as the instructor and Joseph H. Lee-Grayson is described as having been very helpful with the arrangements for the exhibition which was held at the Hotel Saskatchewan.

It is likely that these students were associated with either Regina College or Balfour Technical School and that they were showing their work after a summer of classes and sketching.  Perhaps Harriette Keating or J.H. Lee-Grayson had been teaching them.  This group is a conundrum because I never saw a mention of it again but in 1939 (Mar. 30) at a showing of the Regina Arts and Crafts Club a reference is made to the Junior Sketch Club in passing.  The Women’s Art Association  also mentioned an associated Junior Sketch club in one of their reports.  I am not certain if these were all the same organization but they may have been.

©Lisa G. Henderson

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