Art at Saskatchewan Fairs prior to 1950

The annual summer fairs received a lot of press in Saskatoon and Regina during “fair week.” While the fairs or exhibitions were primarily about the business of agriculture, they were also an opportunity for the whole community to get together and enjoy themselves, displaying to others the products that they specialized in. Prizes were an incentive in many exhibition categories. Parades, midways, horse racing and other live entertainments added to the festive atmosphere.

I remember attending summer fairs in Regina, Saskatoon and Prince Albert at various times from the 1950s to the 1980s. As a child, the fair was all about the midways for me but I also enjoyed touring the displays and seeing parades and live entertainment. Being a city girl, It was also one of the few times I saw real livestock up close and personal. John McNaughton’s illustrations of fair week between 1912 and 1914 in the Regina Morning Leader are not that much different from what I remember about experiencing the fair as a young child half a century later and I have included a number of them in this post.

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Prior to 1950, the fairs were also an important venue for the display of local art and also for travelling art exhibitions. There were few other occasions or places where local or international art could be seen in Saskatchewan. The prize lists that ran in the newspaper every year provide lists of names of prize-winning exhibitors in numerous categories. Apart from prize lists, there were often descriptions of art exhibitions, particularly exhibitions which were not entered for prizes.  It was here that the work of professional local artists and art from the outside world was commented upon or described.

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I cannot possibly include here every prize list from every fair or, indeed, every description of annual art and craft exhibitions.  However, this blog should give you a taste of art at the summer fairs in Saskatoon and Regina over a long span of years. Once you get an idea of when the summer fair was held (eg. in 1930s and 40s  the third week of July in Saskatoon and the last week of July in Regina), you can make a focused search of Saskatoon and Regina newspapers for the kinds of things which may interest you. You might also notice that there are sometimes reports of fairs in other places in Saskatchewan that appear during the week of the city fair.

As the provincial capital, Regina had a succession of special fairs over the years beginning with the Territorial Exhibition of 1895 (representing the Northwest Territories), the Dominion Exhibition of 1911 (a national fair) and the World Grain Grower’s Exhibition and Conference in 1933 (an international fair). Regina also held a special fair in 1942 celebrating its pioneers and the 50th anniversary of the founding of Regina.  The 1933 World Grain Grower’s Exhibition and Conference has its own post, owing to the amount of material I found on it in the Regina Leader Post, but the other important fairs are dealt with in this one. See also my future post on indigenous art for more focused articles on the participation of indigenous artists at the fairs.

Oct 15 and Oct 22, 1889 Regina Leader includes both a commentary on the art exhibit and a prize list.

Nov. 2, 1893 Leader contains a rather interesting article about the Northwest Territories display at the World’s Columbian Exhibition in Chicago in the summer of 1893.

1895 Territorial Exhibition –  Aug 1, 1895 – A brief editorial on the Fine Arts appears under the banner the Great Fair, Aug. 8, 1895 Sep. 5, 1895 – Review of the territorial fair by a New Brunswick writer.

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Jan. 10 (scroll left) & Jan. 24, 1895 Leader describes the scope of the Territorial Exhibition and illustrates some of the buildings erected for it.  Regina’s fair was primarily a tent exhibition prior to this.

Aug. 22, 1901 ML Prize list for art and handicrafts

1911 Dominion Exhibition – Aug. 21, 1911 ML report on the state of the art exhibit written by William Trant of the Regina Society for the Advancement of Art, Literature and Science.  Aug. 14, 1911 ML, comment on the china exhibit in the Women’s World column. Aug. 3, 1911 ML – report on the gathering of indigenous people at the fair & Aug.8, 1911 (scroll right to next page) prize list for Indian exhibits. Prize list for art and handicrafts: Aug. 9, 1911 ML

Jul 28, 1915 Art Exhibits show talent commentary

Jun 22, 1916 – Report on first National Gallery travelling exhibition of art to be shown in Regina at the fair. Jul 25, 1916 – Commentary on the art exhibit Jul 28, 1916 (scroll down) – Commentary on art exhibit

May 19, 1917 ML – Announcement of special exhibition of Indian curios at the summer fair. Jun 22& 27, 1917 – Announcement and list of travelling exhibition paintings at the fair.  Jul 24 & Jul 27, 1917 – Commentary on the art exhibition.

Apr. 3, 1918 ML – report on exhibition facilities cancels year’s fine art exhibit.

Jun 12, 1926 – A look back at the Territorial exhibition of 1895.

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Jul 31, 1928 – Commentary on a locally organized exhibition of 80 paintings, many by Saskatchewan artists.  commentary on China exhibit.

Photocopy of an undated 1928 Daily Post article on art exhibit.

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Jul 29, 1929 (scroll left) – Editorial on fair week. Aug. 1 (scroll right)& Aug. 2, 1929 – Commentary on National Gallery travelling exhibit

Jul 30, 1930 – Commentary on the art competition at the fair. Jul 30, 1930 – report on china exhibit, Jul 30, 1930 prize list.  Jul 31, 1930 – Review of the travelling exhibition of Old master works from the National Gallery. See also reports on indigenous art in my future post.

Jul 31, 1934 – TV displayed at the fair

Jul 30, 1935 – Report on spinning and weaving master & the large handicraft exhibition at the fair.  Jul 31, 1935 – Report on the sculpture of W.G. Hodgson

Jul 28 & Jul 30, 1936 – Reports on the art exhibit at the fair.

Jul 27 & Jul 28, 1937 – Reports on art exhibit which includes 100 watercolours from the Canadian Watercolour Painters Society and paintings from the Royal Canadian Academy circulated by the National Gallery, as well as paintings by prominent local artists.

Aug 1, Aug 2 & Aug 5, 1938 – Reports on the travelling exhibition of Scottish watercolours circulated by the National Gallery at the summer fair. Aug. 4, 1938 – Report on art exhibit by  Balfour Technical School students and other reports on the same page.

Aug. 1 & 5, 1939 – Description of National Gallery travelling exhibition of English paintings.  Aug. 1, 1939 – Description of photograph exhibition & report on weaving demonstration

Jul 29 & Jul 31, Aug 1, 1940 – Commentary on locally organized art exhibition

1942 Historical commemoration of Regina Pioneers – articles of historical interest appear. Jul 28, 1942 – Description of art display in pioneer house. Jul 28, 1942 – Mrs. L. Dawson tells about pioneer days.  Mrs. Dawson was active in Regina arts organizations and was the mother of Ethel Barr.  Jul 29, 1942 – Article describing a hooked rug which depicted the history of the pioneer Chatwin family of Regina.  This rug sounds absolutely fascinating and I wonder if it still survives. See also a number of other articles on Indian art or painting in this issue which I will link in my post on Indigenous art. Jul 30, 1942 – See whole page for history of Regina fairs and description of artifacts on display at the exhibition. Jul 30, 1942 – description of some of the finer crafts to be seen at the fair.

Jun 14, 1947 – Announcement of the Massey Collection exhibition at the fair. More about this in Jul 22, 1947 and Jul 29, 1947 Leader Post

Jul 29, 1949 – Announcement re: art exhibitions at the fair, including a travelling exhibit of British painting sponsored by the National Gallery and one sponsored by the Alberta Society of Artists.

Jul 20, 1950 – Announcement about a large Henderson/Metzger exhibition at summer fair

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Saskatoon

Aug 6, 1908 (scroll left one column and down) – Discussion of the art exhibit at the fair which included a large display of needlework.

Aug. 4, 1909 –  article mentions the new Industrial Building and a special exhibit by D. Harnett, formerly of the N.Y. Art Students’ League.

Aug.6, 1914 SP – Prize list in art and handicrafts Aug. 5 & 6, 1914 SP Discussions of the art exhibits.

Jul 29, 1916 Morning Leader – announcement of National Gallery show travelling to Saskatoon & Aug. 1, 1916 SP – Article describing exhibits in the Women’s Building briefly mentions the fact that there were 12 modern Canadian paintings on display, sent from the National Gallery of Canada.  This show had merited a lot more comment in Regina.  Aug. 2, 1916 (scroll down one article) a brief editorial mentions the quality of the art show. Aug. 3 & Aug. 5, 1916 contain relevant prize lists.

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Aug. 4, 1917 – Much greater attention is paid to the travelling art exhibition from the National Gallery this year.  It had also visited Regina before coming to Saskatoon.

Jul 17, 1919 – Prominent American home economist praises Saskatoon’s Industrial exhibition.

Jul 19, 1921 – Discussion about the improvement of the art exhibition on many levels. Jul 21, 1921 the china painting exhibit and a couple of prize competitors are singled out for mention on the same page in other articles.

Jul 20, 1922 – Description of the special art exhibition at the fair which included a collection of paintings by Gus Kenderdine and etchings and engravings (artist’s proofs) of prints from the Canadian War Memorial Collection along with some photos of the paintings in that collection.  Also prize lists; Fine Arts and domestic manufactures on same page

Jul 28, 1928 – Announcement of a new gallery and praise for the art exhibition which included work by Regina and Saskatoon artists. Jul 26, 1928 mentions that Norman Mackenzie visited the Saskatoon art exhibition, as did J.H. Lee Grayson of Regina who commented on the show in the newspaper (Jul 28, above). The prize list for the amateur competition is on the same page. Jul 26, 1928 – Commentary and prize list for the china painting section and descriptions of other artistic exhibits.

Jul 24, 1929 (scroll down) – Discussion of small travelling exhibition of historical drawings and paintings from a private company and review of showing of local artists Kenderdine, Lindner and others.  Jul 25, 1929 Prize list for paintings, report on needlework exhibits and other artistic efforts on same page.  Jul 23, 1929 – report on China painting exhibition, Jul 24, 1929 – report on the photography exhibition and other reports on craft exhibitions on same page

Jul 23, 1930 – Editorial praising the art exhibit at the fair and report and prize list for women’s art and handicraft exhibit, also a separate report on paintings sent to Saskatoon from the Women’s Art Association in Regina. Jul 24, 1930 – Report on china painting exhibit and on same page one on photography exhibit. Jul 21, 1930 – Report and prize list for the art exhibition which included the Nutana Memorial Art Gallery collection and Saskatchewan artists. Jul 25, 1930 report on Sybil Jacobson’s contribution to the painting exhibit.

Jul 21, 1931 – Report on art exhibition including a brief mention of a travelling exhibit of paintings from the National Gallery. Jul 22, 1931– Report and prize list for china painting exhibition, also a brief report and prize list for handicraft pm same page.  Jul 23, 1931 – Report on the Saskatoon Arts & Crafts Society contribution to the handicraft exhibition.

Jul 27, 1932 – Report on the art exhibition, including mention of a small travelling exhibition from the National Gallery and the place of local sculpture at the fair, also a report on the handicraft exhibition and prize list and an interesting article on a prize winner in the art section. Jul 29, 1932 – Commentary on the Saskatoon Arts & Crafts Society contribution to the fair.

1933 – Saskatoon held a “Golden Jubilee” exhibition celebrating pioneers of the area. Jul 29, 1933  – report on art exhibition at the fair, including mention of a travelling exhibition of Canadian watercolours from the National Gallery. See also the report on the W.G. Hodgson sculpture exhibit above this article on the same page.  Aug. 8, 1933 – A separate report also appears on the Kenderdine exhibit. More reports on the travelling exhibition can be found on Aug 10 and Aug 11, 1933.  Aug. 9, 1933 – report on Saskatchewan art show at exhibition. Aug 11, 1933 (scroll right to next page) – Prize list for handicraft exhibition and reports on two special handicraft exhibits. (1 & 2). Aug. 11, 1933 Leader Post also has a report on the Saskatchewan art exhibit in Saskatoon.

Jul 26, 1934 – Report on art exhibit which includes a travelling exhibit of pictures from Calgary and some art works owned by the University of Saskatchewan, in addition to the work of local professionals.  Significantly, the work of Fred Steiger is mentioned, possibly for the first time. The report also includes a prize list for the amateur competition. Jul 27, 1934 – Commentary on the handicraft exhibition which featured a large Ukrainian display.  Jul 24, 1934 – TV at the fair.

Jul 5, 1935 – Announcement that there will be two travelling art exhibits at the Fair: Contemporary British paintings and the Canadian International Salon of Photography, courtesy of the National Gallery of Canada. Jul 20, 1935 – Discussion of art exhibits in a special supplement devoted to advertising the summer fair. (It is well worth looking at the pages of this supplement as there is more info about an arts and crafts exhibition) Jul 24, 1935 – Review of photography show and art exhibit prize list.  Jul 25, 1935 – Commentary on the Saskatoon Arts & Crafts Society exhibition.

1936 Exhibition billed as Golden Jubilee exhibition. Jul 18, 1936 – Announcement of two special art exhibitions by Gus Kenderdine and L.G. Saunders in a newspaper supplement. Jul 21, 1936 – More about the Kenderdine and Saunders exhibits and a prize list for the art competition (scroll right to next page).  Jul 24, 1936 – Prize list for the handicraft section. Jul 23, 1936 – Commentary on the Indian camp and work by new Canadians at the fair.

Jul 20, 1937 – Discussion of art exhibit which includes work by Kenderdine, James Henderson, Nicholas Grandmaison and notably Tom Thomson oil sketches (probably the ones owned by his sisters, although no source is mentioned). Jul 23, 1937 – Handicraft exhibition prize list

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Jul 23 & Jul 27, 1938 – Commentary on the local art exhibit . Jul 28, 1938- Item on manual training and school arts and another one on the Indian work exhibit. Jul 26, 1938 – Brief commentary on the Saskatoon Technical Collegiate art exhibit. Jul 30, 1938 – Item on the display of locally made TeePee ware.  Jul 29, 1938 – Brief report of a man who weaves straw into art, the craft awards  and the amateur art prize list, continued on Jul 30, 1938.

Jul 26, 1939 – Discussion of art exhibit and amateur prize list.  Jul 29, 1939 – Commentary on the school art exhibit.. Jul. 26, 27, 29, 1939 At the Fair columns describe and comment upon visuals at the fair.

Jul 13, 1940 – Announcement about the variety of craft at the summer fair. Jul 25, 1940 – Description of the handicraft and art display at the fair.

Jul 19, 1941 – Frederick Steiger’s painting “Saskatchewan” was used as the frontispiece for the Exhibition supplement of the Star-Phoenix. It was in the Wheat Pool exhibit at both Saskatoon’s and Regina’s fair that year.  Jul 25, 1941 – Camera Club exhibit, also shown in Regina Jul 29, 1941 Leader Post.

Jul 24, 1945 – First art show since 1940 announced for fair

Jul 21, 1948 –  Description of the photography and art exhibition and At the fair column.

Jul 28, 1950 – Description and comment upon the Saskatchewan Art Board sponsored art show at the fair.

©Lisa G. Henderson

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