The Saskatoon Art Appreciation Society 1934 – 1949
In the fall of 1934 the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix announced that a new women’s group had been formed for the purpose of studying art appreciation. One could assume that some of the early members were former members of the first Saskatoon Art Association which had folded in the spring of 1932. This group was initially headed by an artist, Mrs. H. G. (Jessie) Phillips. She was the only member artist who received a show sponsored by the group. Their primary interest was studying art but they also encouraged young artists by establishing a scholarship fund which assisted one young artist per year to attend the Emma Lake Art Camp, which began in 1936.
Their existence indicates that there was still a hunger in Saskatoon for information on art, something that had previously been available through the Saskatoon Art Association and that was not to be available to the public again on a regular basis until 1939 and later when the University of Saskatchewan had Gordon Snelgrove, art historian, give public lectures in Saskatoon. The Saskatoon Art Appreciation Society had regular meetings featuring lectures and demonstrations until at least 1944 when the Saskatoon Art Centre opened.
Because this was a woman’s club, the Saskatoon Star Phoenix reported on their doings in the women’s page. Had they been a mixed club, their activities would have been more obscure since the newspaper appeared to have little to no interest in art during the 1930s and only reported on shows intermittently. The articles I found on the few exhibitions the Art Appreciation Society sponsored indicates that they may have held a display or exhibition every spring at the end of their regular winter study meetings. Those meetings were typically held at the YWCA.
The online Google News Archive does not contain the months of November and December, 1934 from the Star Phoenix but I have copies of articles on the club from November as follows:
Activity reports for the club continue on Jan. 10 and Jan. 24, 1935. And in February there were lectures Feb. 2 and Feb. 28. A report of another meeting, Mar. 28, 1935, announced that they would have a show of members’ handiwork in April. A report on Apr. 2 noted a talk on textiles given by Professor Willmott.
On April 12-13, 1935 the Art Appreciation Society sponsored an exhibition of curios, handicraft and modern art at the Spanish Room of the Hudson’s Bay Co. store. The exhibition was officially opened by Aldis Cameron, indicating that some members of the club were probably former members of the Saskatoon Art Club. A list of contributors to the very successful exhibition is listed in the newspaper. Apr. 13 & Apr. 15, 1935. There is a report of two talks on Apr. 25 and the season ended with elections for the new season May 11, 1935.
On May 1, 1936 the group held a one day tea and display of art and handicraft at the YWCA. A list of contributors to the show appears in the newspaper May 2. On May 14 the results of their annual election of officers was announced.
On Sep. 11, 1936 it was announced that the club was starting up their program. I only found one report for the fall season on Dec. 11, 1936. Their study of Russian art continued as reported on Mar. 12, 1937 and on Feb. 12, 1937.
On Apr. 6, 1937 the Club sent out a call for paintings and on April 10, 1937 the Art Appreciation Society held a tea and needlework display in the Hudson’s Bay Store dining room which also featured other items, including painting. A list of artists is included in the newspaper article on this show. Apr. 12, 1937. They were fundraising for their art scholarship program.
The student chosen as the 1937 winner of the art scholarship was MacGregor Hone. He was given $60.00 to attend the Emma Lake Summer School of Art in summer, 1937. May 18, 1937
In early April, 1938 a tea sponsored by the Saskatoon Art Appreciation Group was held in the home of Mrs. Jessie Phillips who displayed her landscape paintings. Mar. 26. Mar. 28. Talk on art appreciation from J.S. Wood reported on Apr. 14
In the third week of May, 1938 the club sponsored a very novel display at the Hudson’s Bay Store. They arranged two “model” homes, a Victorian era household and a modern one using borrowed and made materials to decorate the rooms of the two households . May 20, 1938
Nov. 12, and Nov. 24, 1938 there were reports on Asian subjects studied by the Art Appreciation Club. I was not able to trace the 1939 annual event although Mac Hone gave the Club a talk on Modern Art as reported on May 11. In the spring of 1939 Mrs. B.J. Tupman was elected president of the club.
The club announced their intention to study Canadian art in the year to come. Sep. 15, 1939. On Oct. 12, 1939 it was reported that Dr. Snelgrove of the University had given an address on art through the ages and as reported on Nov. 9, Ernest Lindner gave a talk on the practical uses of art training.
After 1940 I could find no other instances of organized displays by the Art Appreciation group although the club continued to meet for lectures on a variety of subjects. Few meetings were reported on during the war years but I did find the following: Jan. 10, 1941, Jan. 18, 1943, Nov. 9, 1944. There is a report of their election of officers in 1949 and it appears that the Art Appreciation Group carried on during the period of the Saskatoon Art Centre, possibly as a kind of women’s auxiliary.
Saskatoon Local Council of Women – Arts & Letters Committee (1931-?)
When the Saskatooon Local Council of Women was initially formed in 1921 there had been an Arts and Letters committee but it had transformed into the Saskatoon Arts & Crafts Society by 1924. A new Arts and Letters Committee emerged in the fall of 1931. Unlike its Regina counterpart, It followed the directive of the National Council of Women in being primarily a study group who met to hear lectures on arts and literature. But it is interesting to see a couple of reports on their annual doings in the newspaper because they often mention activities or interests in the visual arts in Saskatoon which were not reported on by the newspaper. Most other annual reports were shortened to be included in an article on all the LCW committee reports but in 1932 and 1934 the full reports of the arts and letters committee were published.
From 1931 to 1939 Mrs. A.G. Irving was the convener of the committee, later Mrs. R. Perriam (1939/40), Mrs. J.B. Mawdsley (1940/41). Mrs. Mawdsley was the wife of a university professor but she was also the daughter of well-known Canadian portrait painter Ernest Fosberry. Feb. 8, 1934.
Mrs. R. G. Perriam reported to the LCW at the annual meeting (Jan.27, 1940) that other clubs in the city were performing the study activities that the Arts & Letters Club were and that the committee itself was fairly inactive.
There should be records in the Archives for the Saskatoon Local Council of Women Arts and Letters Committee, which may give a fuller picture of this group’s activities.
A combination of free public art lectures offered by the University of Saskatchewan’s art department and increasing activity by the Saskatoon Art Association probably made these organizations less active after 1940, as did wartime.
Along with the Saskatoon Arts & Crafts Society, the Saskatoon Art Appreciation Society and the Local Council of Women’s Arts & Letters Committee were women’s organizations and they operated alongside other artist-run organizations like the Saskatoon Art Association which welcomed both women and men into their membership.
©Lisa G. Henderson