Saskatoon Arts & Literary Society 1913-1915?
Unlike its similarly-named Regina contemporary , this organization was a small women’s club. (Apr.2, 1913, Phoenix) It appears that artist Juliet Burdoin was a central figure in the group which organized papers and lectures on the arts for its meetings (May 7, 1913) and also a couple of exhibitions. It led to the presentation of Saskatoon’s first art exhibition in 1915 (May 21, May24, May 25, May 26) which actually came under the sponsorship of a local IODE chapter that Burdoin belonged to. One outside lecturer who presented to the club (Feb.15, 1915) was Richard A. Wilson, then the principal of the Normal School in Regina and an active member of RSAALS, but soon to become an English professor at the University of Saskatchewan.
Nutana Collegiate Memorial Art Gallery 1919 to present
This was not an art group per se but the existence of the collection and its curators (principals of Nutana, Alfred.J. Pyke before 1924 and Aldis W. Cameron after 1924) led to negotiations with the National Gallery of Canada and other entities for travelling exhibitions. Correspondence between Nutana representatives and the National Gallery exists from 1920, when the National Gallery became aware of the Memorial collection in Saskatoon. Pyke negotiated two exhibitions of Canadian paintings from the National Gallery (1921 &1924, the latter shown at the University) and A. W. Cameron wrote letters inquiring about getting exhibitions of Group of Seven paintings in Saskatoon with little success. He was able to secure a showing of Tom Thomson sketches from them in 1927 (See this season under Saskatoon Art Club for more information.) The University of Saskatchewan collection and the Nutana Collegiate Memorial Collection were the only collecting galleries in Saskatoon, and, as such, were able to independently negotiate some loan collections for exhibition from the National Gallery. For documents related to the Nutana Collection, see my future post on Art Collecting in Saskatchewan prior to 1950.
Saskatoon Art Club/ aka Saskatoon Art Association 1925-1932
The Saskatoon Art Club was the first substantial fine arts group in the city, forming shortly after the organization of the Saskatoon Arts and Crafts Society in 1924. Like Regina’s LCW FAAC, the Club consisted of both artists and non-artists and held regular exhibitions and organized educational sessions. However, it was not a public service women’s club and the programming was largely driven by the educational interests of Aldis W. Cameron as principal of Nutana Collegiate and curator of its Memorial Art Gallery.
Cameron had basically inherited the role of curator from the previous principal of the high school, Alfred J. Pyke, whose keen interest in art had helped to initiate the founding of the Memorial Art Gallery. Alfred J. Pyke went on to become a mathematics professor at the University of Saskatchewan about 1923. He was a close friend of Richard A. Wilson, an English professor at the U of S with a real interest in art appreciation who taught the first art appreciation courses at the University. Both Pyke and Wilson continued to involve themselves with art matters at the university throughout their careers there. Pyke was on the Art Gallery committee at the University from 1935. Prior to their arrival in Saskatoon (c.1915) they had been involved with the Regina Society for the Advancement of Art, Literature and Science.
Proving to be keen on his predecessor’s initiative for the Memorial Art Gallery, Cameron worked diligently to educate himself on Canadian art and expand the collection. He corresponded with such art luminaries as A.Y. Jackson and the story of his eventual understanding of and appreciation for the work of the Group of Seven is a fascinating one, as are his attempts to get the city of Saskatoon to fund art purchases for the school. He became the first and perennial president of the Saskatoon Art Club and he dreamed of creating a Modern Art Gallery in Saskatoon.
The Saskatoon Art Club may have held an exhibition or two in 1925 but there are no available online newspapers to follow this. There was definitely an art show held in April of 1926 at the convention hall in the King George Hotel, as described in the April 1927 newspaper report of the second show, and it likely only featured local art students. But again no newspaper to consult. I suspect that the residence of Sybil Jacobson in Saskatoon in the winter of 1925 as a private art teacher galvanized the formation of this group but there are no newspaper articles to consult for this period online. See my biographical posts Early Women Artists in Saskatoon and Early Men Artists in Saskatchewan for more information about most of the artists mentioned in the shows sponsored by the Saskatoon Art Club
So we begin our look at the activities of the Saskatoon Art Club on November 29, 1926 when the club sponsored an exhibition of the work of three Saskatchewan artists: Sybil Jacobson, Augustus Kenderdine and James Henderson. Work by Kenderdine and Henderson was borrowed for the show and Sybil Jacobson brought along her own paintings to exhibit and gave an illustrated talk on the art of portrait painting. Nov. 27 The club also sponsored a contest on art appreciation for collegiate students by asking them to write an essay on one of two selected paintings by Henderson and Kenderdine. Held at Nutana Collegiate, this show also featured the two latest acquisitions to the Memorial Art Gallery collection.
Professor W.G. Worcester of the University’s Ceramic Engineering Department became the new president of the club in November of 1926 and there is a listing of some of the executive, indicating that artists like Ethel Thorpe, Leslie G. Saunders and Madeline Barnett were other early members of the club. Sybil Jacobson, who had only lived in Saskatoon in the winter of 1925, was a founding member of the club and it is likely that these people on the executive were, too.
Announcements and news of the Apr.22-23, 1927 spring show was published in the newspaper. Apr. 20, Apr. 23. Club members May Fox, Mrs. F.J. Parsons and Ethel Thorpe and their students exhibited, along with local area artists Lillian McKenzie, Gordon Griffiths and Sybil Jacobson. Examples of clay modelling were shown by Madeline Barnett and photography by W.E. Knowles Middleton and Leslie Saunders. As well, there was a display of china painting by Mrs. E.H. Trickey and her students. See my biography posts for more information about these artists.
It may have been the notoriety of this show or the club itself which prompted North Battleford artist Richard Lindemere to make contact with them. On May 10, 1927 he brought a selection of his paintings to a regular meeting of the club at the Saskatoon Business College, along with some old watercolours by Edward Low painted in the early 1800s. He talked about his equestrian and human portraits and about art in general. A British immigrant with European art training, Lindemere was particularly interested in interpreting scenes of the history of the old northwest. It is the only time his work was shown in Saskatoon during the 1920s, as he more typically exhibited in Regina. May 11a and May 11b, 1927 Saskatoon Phoenix
On November 12-13, 1927 the Saskatoon Art Club opened an exhibition which featured some paintings from the recent Saskatchewan artists show in Regina by Harriette Keating and James Henderson. Mrs. Henning of Kindersley, and Gus Kenderdine and Arthur Checkley of Saskatoon exhibited, along with Sybil Jacobson. Nov. 9, Nov. 12 But this show focused on 50 oil sketches by Tom Thomson and a couple of paintings by his brother George Thomson. Two of Thomson’s sisters, married to what were probably brothers William and James Henry, lived at Aberdeen, a small community just outside Saskatoon and lent their collection of their brother’s work to the exhibition, which was added to a loan collection of 25 sketches from the National Gallery. Prints from W.J.Phillips and Logan of Winnipeg completed the show, which also featured some contributed older works of art in local collections.
The showing of the Thomson paintings elicited no comment from local reporters but it prompted study sessions within the club, as the Thomson paintings were held by them for about a month. Dec. 7, 1927 (scroll to left) The art reviews from the Nov. 12-13 show were totally centred on Sybil Jacobson’s paintings, quoting at length about her reception in an earlier Regina showing.
The Saskatoon Art Club held two exhibitions of art in the spring of 1928. The first was a very special one, an exhibition long contemplated and attempted by Aldis W. Cameron, the art club’s president that year. Cameron had put Nutana on the list for the show by arduous correspondence with Group of Seven members and their representatives at a time when their work was very much in demand for exhibitions in other places. On April 3, 1928 Nutana Collegiate featured the work of all the members of the Group of Seven for a period of two weeks. Much newspaper coverage was given to this event, primarily in the form of a transcript of the presentation that Cameron gave to the audience on opening night when individual paintings were brought up on the stage one by one and talked about. Apr. 3, Apr.4, Apr. 5
Charles Hill’s book The Group of Seven: Art for a Nation, published as a catalogue for the NGC show with the same name in 1995 briefly describes Nutana Collegiate’s relationship to the Group of Seven and also suggests that A.Y. Jackson may have been the arranger for the show. (pp.229-232).
This particular show went on to be exhibited in Vancouver and Edmonton in the fall. Because it was shown at the same time as a National Gallery travelling exhibition of contemporary Canadian painting, it caused considerable controversy in Vancouver. The controversy was referred to in Edmonton when the show came there and even made the Montreal Gazette. No such controversy arose in Saskatoon, or at least it was not mentioned in the newspaper if there was one (Saskatoon did not host the NGC show). One article describing the controversy is in the Oct. 19, 1928 Phoenix on the front page. However, as it was a Canadian Press report, it doesn’t seem that anyone had connected the Saskatoon angle of this story.
The University of Saskatchewan bought Lismer’s Pines, Georgian Bay from the exhibition. Ironically, Nutana Collegiate Memorial Art Gallery did not have funds to purchase any paintings that year so Cameron could not afford anything for the school. I remember the Lismer painting hanging in Marquis Hall (the University’s dining facility) in the 1970s and 80s.
The second exhibition held May 5 at the King George Hotel was, in keeping with previous tradition, a showing of what was termed amateur works by the students of several art teachers in the city including club members Ethel Thorpe, Mrs. F.J. Parsons, Mrs. Madeline Barnett, Professor Worcester of the University and Mrs. E. H. Trickey’s china painting class. Prizes, donated by local photographers, were awarded to winning students in a variety of categories. May 3, May 4, May 7 Saskatoon Phoenix
In May of 1928 Aldis W. Cameron also began his campaign to have an art gallery with a collection of art sponsored by the city. As President of the Northern Musical Festival the previous year, he also lobbied for accommodations large enough to house the festival. 25 May 1927 SSP
I cannot find out what happened in the autumn of 1928 because there are no online newspapers available for me to consult.
But in early April, 1929 the Saskatoon Art Club held its Students show at the auditorium of the Public Library for a week. The one review of the show mentions that there were 160 paintings and drawings by local art students or amateurs. Only a few names were cited, all of them amateur artists, and there is a brief reference to examples of china painting, pillow top painting and clay sculpture in the show. Apr. 3, 1929 SSP. On April 19 the Art Club announced that they would not hold another show in the spring but would have an Ontario Society of Artists show in the fall. So presumably, they had planned to hold two shows in the spring.
The fall show was a special one arranged by A.W. Cameron through correspondence with the Ontario Society of Artists. It opened on Oct. 29 and was shown three times during the following week. At the opening the thirty-two paintings by OSA members were talked about individually. The article on this mentions that the city had provided a small grant to the school allowing them to buy Fred Brigden’s View towards Lake Superior and it also mentions that Nutana hoped to buy another painting from the selection provided in the show. A list of the paintings appears in the Star-Phoenix and the reporter mentioned that 3 of the paintings were by Group of Seven members and 7 of the paintings were by women. Oct. 28, Oct. 30, Nov. 4, 1929
In December a report on the Saskatoon Art Club’s activities appeared. A number of the Saskatoon Art Club’s activities were reported on in early 1930. Jan. 10, Jan. 29, Feb. 12, Feb. 26, Mar. 10, Mar. 12, Mar. 26. All of this press coverage showed that the Art club was also referred to as the Art Association and the Art Society during this time.
Between March 27-29, 1930 the Saskatoon Art Club sponsored a travelling exhibition of Austrian woodcuts made available by the National Gallery of Canada. This exhibition was held in a former downtown store space and attracted large crowds. Mar. 27, Mar. 29 SSP. On Apr. 9, 1930 a report appeared in the Star-Phoenix regarding an address Mr. Cameron had delivered to the club.
The spring show of 1930 occurred on Apr. 21-23 in a vacant downtown store and focused on student art from the collegiate and public schools but individuals also showed their work. The show was held in conjunction with a provincial teacher’s convention. Again, there was a contest for the students and lists of winners in various classes were published. Demonstrations by clay modelling teachers Madeline Barnett and Mr. Phipps of the University of Saskatchewan and a drawing demonstration by Ernest Lindner were featured during the show. Silhouette work by Mrs. E.H. Racey was displayed. Apr. 19, Apr. 22 SSP
At the fifth annual meeting of the art club, Aldis Cameron stressed that the club needed more members to accomplish its goals. A plan to send paintings from Saskatoon to fairs in Edmonton and Calgary was announced, as was a decision to form a sketch club, headed by Ernest Lindner. May 14, 1930
The first Saskatoon Art Club (often referred to as Association now) exhibition of the fall season was held Oct. 20-23 in a store next to the Commodore Cafe. This show featured Saskatchewan artists but also included some never before seen in Saskatoon Tom Thomson sketches exhibited by his sister, Mrs. James Henry. Artists mentioned in the newspaper were Gus Kenderdine, Ernest Lindner, Mrs. H.G. Phillips and her daughter June, Madeline Barnett, Mrs. Henning of Kindersley and James Henderson, David Payne and Margaret Frame of Regina, Illingworth Kerr of Lumsden and Sybil Jacobson of Moose Jaw. Nicholas Grandmaison of Alberta also exhibited. Other locally obtained collections of wood carvings, foil pictures, silhouettes and petit-point pictures were shown. Most of the work was offered for sale. The newspaper reports for this show were quite descriptive of all of the work. Oct. 17, Oct. 20, Oct. 21, 1930 SSP
In December the Saskatoon Art Club hosted at the Memorial Gallery a three week exhibition of paintings by RCA and Group of Seven members sent from the National Gallery of Canada. Aldis Cameron lectured on the subject at the opening. Dec. 9, 1930
As in the previous season, a number of art talks sponsored by the Saskatoon Art Club were reported on by the newspaper. A special lecture occurred in September, 1930 when a visiting Dr. Dengler of Austria spoke on children’s art for the Saskatoon audience. Sep.18, Sep. 25. Cameron addressed the club at meetings on Oct. 7, Nov. 4 and on Oct. 23 there was even a plea for greater membership in the club printed in the newspaper. For its new and old members the Art Club held a California dinner at the Algerian Cafe in November which featured California design elements and themes. Nov. 15. Nov. 19 It was described as a follow up to the 1930 spring Spanish supper which attracted many new members to the club.
The club was experiencing membership problems as early as 1929 and then again in early spring 1930. However, they managed to purchase a piano to use at their regular meetings and talks which frequently featured a musical component. Some reports of talks in 1931 include Feb. 3, Mar. 3,
On Mar. 7, 1931 the Saskatoon Art Club co-hosted an exhibition of European etchings for one week at the Ross Block with the University of Saskatchewan. This was an exhibition sent out for circulation by the American College Art Association. Mar. 9, 1931. A week later the exhibition expanded with an exhibition of Winnipeg art students being included. Mar. 12, Mar. 17
A month later, a collection of paintings from the New York College of Art was shown at the same place along with the annual student exhibition, including an competition for public school art students. Work by the pupils of Mrs. Barnett, Miss Thorpe, Mrs. F.J. Parsons, Miss McKenzie and Mr. Kenderdine was also featured. Mrs. Trickey and her china painting students had a display and May Fox showed some of her work in this show. Apr.6, Apr. 7, Apr.8 1931
The fall season started with a Nov. 5 announcement of The Saskatoon Art Club’s program for the year, On Nov. 10 a report of the first meeting appeared in the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix. Late in 1931 the Art Club had a dinner in the Algerian room in which the activities for the future were outlined. The theme of the evening was New Mexico and school principal W.H. Holliston spoke on the crafts of that region. Aldis Cameron spoke on the need for a civic art gallery and announced a Dec. 14 exhibit of the block prints of Clare Leighton (Alberta?) at the new Technical Collegiate which would also feature Claude Lewis’ talk on Art and its place in Life. Dec. 5, 1931, Dec. 12, Dec. 15
There were a number of papers read at meetings in the early part of 1932 with such topics as the History of Canadian Art, Northern Art and Titian. Jan. 4, Jan. 19, Feb.2. On Feb. 15, 1932 Gus Kenderdine addressed the club and gave a showing of his charcoal drawings at his studio in the Administration building on the university campus. He discussed his philosophy of art and Claude Lewis and A.W. Cameron read papers on the Group of Seven. Feb. 16
At their 1932 spring meeting of Apr. 4, Aldis Cameron announced that he was resigning as president, a position he had held in all but one of the past seven years the Art Club had existed. No new president was installed at the meeting. Professor Worcester gave a talk on pottery making and his assistant Mr. Phipps gave a demonstration. Members of the club were given souvenir pieces made from Saskatchewan clay at the meeting. An exhibition of the photography of Leslie Saunders was also presented to members. Apr.5, 1932
It appears that the society did not really recover from Cameron’s resignation and held only a spring exhibition for teachers and students in the first week of April at the Technical Collegiate to coincide with the teacher’s convention. Students of public school teacher Ethel Thorpe, judged by art teacher Mrs. F.J. Parsons, received awards in competition. Miss Wadleigh’s and Miss Margaret McKenzie’s students also showed work. In addition china painting students of Mrs. E.H. Trickey and several individual artists G. Lambert, Mr. F.W. Wry, Miss L. Campbell, Miss McQueen and Mr. T. F. Boyd, presumably all teachers, showed their own work. Apr. 1, 1932. While not strictly labelled as a Saskatoon Art Club endeavour, this exhibition repeated the format of previous years and can be seen as a punctuation mark to the demise of the first Saskatoon Art Club. No exhibition like it was held for some time.
Two weeks later, the newly operating Saskatoon Technical Collegiate had its own exhibition of student work at which art instructor Ernie Lindner spoke about the problems of the Saskatoon Art Club. He was in sympathy with the Saskatoon Art Club’s aims but brought out the point that the apathy that Cameron complained about was brought about because the Club really didn’t serve local artists by holding shows featuring them. Apr. 15, 1932.
While Lindner’s gentle criticism of the Art Club was quite true, it must be remembered that Cameron was a teacher dedicated to educating the public about art and institutionalizing it in the community, while Saskatoon artists were primarily looking for opportunities to grow and have their work shown and appreciated. This dichotomy between the aims of educators and artists is evident in Saskatoon’s art history. The Saskatoon Art Club played a crucial role in bringing the larger world of art to Saskatoon and providing cultural history lessons to its members but its activities and efforts for the local art scene were aimed more at public school students than practicing local artists.
Had Walter Murray not instituted art as a discipline in the University in the 1920s, there may have been better opportunities for artist training in the new technical schools of the 1930s. As it was the training in either venue was not adequate for turning out professional artists, nor were there many opportunities for local artists to show their work. Apart from a ‘good bye Kenderdine show’ in 1936, sponsored by the Saskatoon Arts & Crafts Society, no solo shows of Saskatoon artists were sponsored by the Saskatoon Art Club or any other Saskatoon organization in the early 1930s and most artists basically had to beat their own drum to develop a profile in the community by having exhibitions of their work in store windows.
In 1937 it was artists who revived the Saskatoon Art Association, re-orienting its focus to include more exhibition opportunities for local artists. The new Saskatoon Art Association (1937-63) has its own post.
Saskatoon Sketch Club 1930-1932 & Saskatoon Art Students 1932-33
A sketch club was formed by practising artists in the summer of 1930, seemingly at the instigation of the Saskatoon Art Club and Ernest Lindner. Jul 11, 1930. (Scroll to right of page) I didn’t come across this entity again until June of 1932 when it was announced that the Saskatoon Sketching Club was having their first exhibit under the auspices of a newly formed group called the Saskatoon Art Students in Tyrie’s Art and Picture Framing Shop on Third Avenue. This latter group had as its president A.W. Davey, who apparently was a student of Ernie Lindner, the conductor of the sketching classes. So I presume this was the same group of people who had started making sketching excursions in Saskatoon two years earlier. May 14, 1932
The window exhibition featured the work of two pupils, A.W. Davey and Reg Sayers. A bust produced by Madeline Barnett and some sketches drawn by Ernest Lindner were also on display. The article mentions that it was expected that displays by various artists in the group would appear in the window during subsequent weeks of the summer. Jun 7, 1932. A further report about the sketching group appeared Jun. 23, 1932
In January of 1933 the Saskatoon Art Students sponsored an exhibition of student work from the Winnipeg Art School at Thams Photo Studio for several days. Jan. 21, 1933
I can find no other articles about this informal group, which was probably short-lived. However, it shows that the artists of Saskatoon were responding to the demise of the original Saskatoon Art Club/Association by generating opportunities for themselves.
Academy of Fine Art – September, 1934
In September of 1934 there was a flurry of activity surrounding a new teaching institution founded on the idea of providing art instruction to all at a low cost. The announced staff consisted of a lot of music teachers and a few possible visual art instructors, notably Ernest Lindner. The opening week was very active, premised on the idea that they would attract enough students to get the Academy off the ground. The plan was to include public talks every Tuesday evening on a variety of artistic subjects. The idea seems to have sunk like a stone despite the fact that a good crowd turned out for the opening night and the press provided coverage of its first few efforts. Sep. 12, Sep. 15, Sep. 19, Sep. 26 1934 SSP
Ernest Lindner was becoming an activist during these years, attempting to form associations of artists across the province. He had sympathy from other artists for his desire to form a provincial body of professional artists but no one had the time or the money to really take this on in the heart of the Depression. Existing societies and institutions prevailed, which meant that Saskatchewan remained the only province that did not have such a provincial body. Lindner continued his activism with the help of the newly formed Saskatoon Art Association in 1937.
Ernie Lindner’s ‘At Homes’ 1930s-1950s
Prior to the re-formation of the Saskatoon Art Association, Ernie Lindner began to have gatherings in his home, which continued into the 1950s and 1960s in a less regular form. Dissatisfied with the organizations and institutions that dominated the arts in Saskatoon and craving stimulating conversation and criticism, he invited artists and university types into his home, usually on Saturday nights to discuss the arts in a broad-ranging forum.
For a good discussion of Lindner’s career and the character of these Saturday nights see the book: Uprooted: The Life and Art of Ernest Lindner by Terence Heath, 1983
Art Appreciation Society – begun 1934. See my separate post on this organization
Saskatoon Arts & Crafts Society – begun 1924. See my separate post on this organization.
Saskatoon Camera Club – see my brief sketch of its early history in the late 1930s in the post on Photography and Film.
©Lisa G. Henderson