In 1992, while teaching art history at the University of Saskatchewan, I received a B Grant from the Saskatchewan Arts Board for the purpose of creating an Art Index of early Regina and Saskatoon newspapers. I conducted the research immediately after my grant application was approved by searching microfilm of the Regina Leader Post and its predecessors and the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix and its predecessors the Saskatoon Phoenix and the Saskatoon Daily Star from their beginnings up to the year 1920. This was an arduous process over several long months but resulted in a large file of data in the form of datasheets ready to be entered into a suitable electronic database.
The binders of data have sat for some 22 years waiting for me to have the appropriate software to enter the data into a searchable format and to have the time to do the data entry. Many other projects and life events intervened. Technology has since developed to the point where digitally scanned microfilms for some of the newspapers I looked at using a microfilm reader are available on the Internet through Google Newspaper Archive and other similar resources. Although I no longer live in Saskatchewan, I am once again able to access some of the newspapers I had to go into a library at the U of S to look at over twenty years ago. This has made me excited about making something out of the newspaper index I created so long ago and about adding more to it with the digital material now available.
My original indexing areas included architecture, art associations and organizations, art education, crafts, photography and film, graphic arts, painting and sculpture. I would say the bulk of the material I indexed in 1992 is about architecture (it’s not included in this blog) but there are important nuggets of information about early artists, activities and arts organizations in Saskatchewan before 1920 contained in the datasheets.
What I am currently doing is curating some of the information I have found to create an initial research guide for further study of the early history of Saskatchewan art with short essays, article references and other links. I prefer to spend my time this way rather than trying to type all the data I have accumulated into an electronic database. I researched Saskatchewan art of the first half of the twentieth century for both writing and teaching purposes in the 1980s and 1990s and I think I am probably one of the few people who can deal with the material in a quick and efficient manner. Also, for students, actually seeing the articles themselves is far more interesting than scouring through an index and then looking for microfilm.
In 1994, I obtained substantial files of research material used by Dr. Cheryl Meszaros (1956-2009) for her ground breaking Queen’s University Master’s thesis, Visibility and Representation: Saskatchewan Art Organizations prior to 1945 (1990). Cheryl and I shared an interest in the subject of Saskatchewan art history. Since she was on her way to a distinguished career in museum education and I wasn’t, she offered the material to me (whom she called her fellow Saskwitch) before she left Saskatoon to work in Vancouver in the early 1990s. The files contain photocopies of materials from archives dealing with some early art societies and organizations and have proved to be an additional guide for researching the digitized newspapers I now have access to, allowing me to expand on the material she dealt with in her thesis and the material I had for my initial index.
Additionally, in her usual thorough way, Cheryl had obviously hired a student to go through a range of newspapers for her own purposes in 1988. So I also have photocopies of all newspaper articles that her researcher found in the Saskatoon newspapers between 1930-1939 and some from the Regina Daily Post of the mid 1920s. While the indexer focused on the women’s page reports, this cache of photocopied clippings is a boon to expanding my digital clipping file from Google Newspaper Archive. As a memorial to Cheryl’s abbreviated scholarship career, I want to share some of the information she left in my stewardship. She was an exceptional teacher and communicator and I know she would approve.
Along with my own research files, some used for my Master’s thesis, Emblems of Identity: A history of Indian Portrait Painting in Canada, 1991, Concordia University, http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/obj/thesescanada/vol2/QMG/TC-QMG-3143.pdf I have a good repository of research material at hand to create a substantial guide for future research of early Saskatchewan art. I have not completely indexed thirty more years of the two newspapers but I have found a lot of newspaper material after 1920 relating to early artists and exhibitions in Saskatchewan by using what navigational tools I already have to search strategically. Over the last year I have accumulated a huge file of digital clippings, 1880s-1950s. Although material gathered at archives is problematic to reproduce or publish, I don’t believe clippings from old newspapers have too many copyright problems.
My main interest is getting this information out in some public forum that will assist younger art historical researchers. I know that I would have appreciated having this information when I first started studying Saskatchewan art in the late 1980s. I think that much of the information is still obscure to this day. It’s pretty obvious that few people have read either my thesis or Cheryl’s, both of which shed light on the early art history of Saskatchewan in very different ways. Unfortunately, the most relevant thesis for this project (Cheryl’s) remains undigitized at Library and Archives Canada so I will have to quote from my paper copy of it, where needed.
This digital project I am embarked on will highlight some of the early art organizations Cheryl analyzed in her thesis, like the Western Art Association – 1910-1915, the Regina Society for the Advancement of Art, Literature and Science (RSAALS), 1910-1914, the Regina Local Council of Women- Fine and Applied Arts Committee aka later Arts & Letters Committee, 1920-1950, the Saskatchewan Women’s Art Association, 1929-1957, the Saskatoon Arts & Crafts Society (1922-1945) and the Saskatoon Art Club (1925-1932) and its successor, the Saskatoon Art Association (1937-1963). There are also other organizations and topics which I am creating a new space for in the history of the arts of the province.
The stars of my project so far are two chronological Exhibitions Lists I have created for Regina and Saskatoon from the earliest days to 1950, separated into group and solo show categories in each city. I hope that this can be a starting point for others to add to in the future. I have retrieved biographical information about artists whose reputations have fallen into obscurity. I have a paper on the writers about art in the newspapers of the day and plan on providing the first biographical treatment of Canada’s first PHD art historian, the amazing Gordon Snelgrove, whose name graces the University of Saskatchewan’s Department of Art & Art History gallery but who is otherwise not very well known. Newspaper accounts and other newly digitized sources and my collaboration with Louise Barak, Visual Resource Curator of the University of Saskatchewan’s Department of Art and Art History on a Snelgrove research project have made this possible for the first time. I also have a list of organizations, educational institutions, collections, etc., which figured large in the art history of Saskatchewan in the first fifty years of the twentieth century.
I expect to create short items on interesting stories covered in the newspapers of those days. Although my focus is on settler culture, I have tried to gather as many articles and reports as I could about indigenous art in order to facilitate study in that area, as well. I am also interested in the history of art education in the province and will provide a post which includes information about art training in schools. The one subject I have deliberately avoided researching post 1920 is architecture. I will have a small post on the subject here but the topic is just too vast for me to follow through with another 30 years or, indeed, handle in this blog format.
I am a great admirer of the wonderful early art history of the province that has been created and/or nurtured by curators Dan Ring (retired) of the Mendel Art Gallery and Tim Long of the Norman Mackenzie Art Gallery in the past couple of decades. I also appreciate the books written on such artists as Robert Hurley, Ernest Lindner and James Henderson which go into great detail about their time and context. However, it is difficult for curators, students and teaching historians to have the time to retrieve new items of information by spending time browsing newspapers so I hope what I have developed will help expand the research base for early Saskatchewan art history in many areas. My model for study is the historical research done on early Manitoba art in publications by Virginia Berry at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.
As a historian of Canadian art who spent most of her life in Saskatchewan, I am very aware of the dearth of published material and the mostly unacknowledged history of art in Saskatchewan prior to 1950. Some of the more notorious male artists of the early period have been researched. James Henderson, Inglis Sheldon-Williams, Ernest Lindner, Augustus Kenderdine and even Illingworth Kerr, an early Saskatchewan born artist, are rather well documented characters in the narrative of early Saskatchewan art. However, there are a number of other male artists and throngs of female artists whose work and careers are barely known at all. There is also a long history of art appreciation and exhibition activities that took place before the foundation of the province’s two public art galleries and major art educational institutions. My focus in Early Saskatchewan Art in the News and on the Internet will be turned towards the events and people that few people now know about.
For the past several years I have been training myself to be an amateur genealogist and I am bringing those skills to bear in constructing biographies of artists who should be better known. I realize that Marketa Newman wrote biographical dictionaries on Saskatchewan women and men artists in the 1990s but I no longer have access to those books and believe that most of what I will supply will be new information to add to her wonderful work. It has been many years since I looked at these now unattainable books but I know she did not have access to vast genealogical data websites like researchers do today.
Having spent a good portion of 30 years of my life in academic libraries, I miss no longer having access to one. I now live in a small B.C. city which contains no library of substance on the subject of Canadian art. I cannot write a new history of Saskatchewan art, but I can bring forward the information younger scholars will need in order to construct one. It has to be done with the information found in the newspapers of the time. As a trained journalist, I realize that, whatever may be wrong with articles written for the daily consumption of readers, they are the beginnings of history writing and the information they contain is vital. Any writer treating this period resorts to them as a primary source and I’m offering a banquet to students, curators, registrars and cultural historians.
I do know that there is a Saskatchewan News Index already in existence, available digitally through the University of Saskatchewan, but its art coverage is idiosyncratic and spotty. While my index is not definitive, it is far more wide-ranging and complete than what is to be found in that index.
My roots are in Saskatchewan. I was born in Regina and lived in Regina, Saskatoon and Prince Albert prior to my marriage. Saskatoon was my home for most of my adult life, before moving to B.C. My paternal great grandfather was a pioneer dentist in Moose Jaw and his father-in-law was a pioneer tailor in Saskatoon. A maternal great grandfather was a taxi driver in Regina and another was a blacksmith in Radville and Bapaume. Both of my parents’ families had long histories on the prairies and my own children and two of my grandchildren were born in Saskatchewan. I taught Canadian art history continuously between 1989 – 2000 at the University of Saskatchewan and in 2003-2005 at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops. I now have time to return to a topic I spent a lot of time on long ago.
I have always been concerned about the way the general history of settled Saskatchewan is written. While agriculture was a large factor in the history of the province, it certainly wasn’t the only one. Many people, like me, do not have farming pioneers in their prairie background. There were workers and professionals in small towns and in the cities and there were city cultures, equal in importance to their rural counterparts. Many of the first generation of settlers in Saskatchewan were from large and small cities in Canada, the United States and Europe. They brought their ideas of culture with them and transplanted them into the societies they built in Saskatchewan prior to and after 1900. Art, like economics and politics was a component of prairie life from the beginning and this project will show that. I’m sure many art enthusiasts will be completely fascinated by what I have to present and be encouraged to do follow up studies by looking at other newspapers in addition to the online articles I reference here.
My first post will feature the subject of the Regina Society for the Advancement of Art, Literature and Science (RSAALS). Rather appropriately, it is the 100th anniversary of Regina’s first contemporary exhibition of local artists sponsored by this organization. It is time RSAALS got its due.
Other topics and links to posts can be found on the page I have labelled Table of Contents.
A few notes about the newspaper articles…
This blog presents an attempt to outline the history of early Saskatchewan art using links and occasionally actual digital clippings from some of the newspapers in Regina and Saskatoon that I have retrieved from Google Newspaper Archive. This archive of old newspaper images from microfilm doesn’t appear to be very searchable under Google’s control and browsing has become my default method of finding things. But if you don’t know what you are looking for, you can’t really search for it using a few key words anyway.
When these newspapers were originally microfilmed, numerous issues were missing, I noticed that when I used to scan them on a microfilm reader in the 1990s. For example, a whole year or range of months might be missing or an issue might only exist in part. The photographic images are often hard to read because the whole image didn’t show up on the microfilm or it is cut off or blurred. Compounding the problems with the microfilm, Google has not done an expert job of ordering the digitized microfilms – sometimes multiple issues are filed under one date, making it look like there are missing issues when there are not.
Changing titles of the same newspapers over the years means that later issues are usually under a different banner, requiring some jumping around in the archive. You will not encounter the frustrations I endured through this because my list below is going to help you navigate. And if you have access to better or different microfilms, you may be able to find things that are not in the badly microfilmed copies of the Saskatoon Star Phoenix or the Regina Leader Post that Google provides digital copies of and which I used to find articles.
The following Regina and Saskatoon newspaper titles are available for perusal at: http://news.google.com/newspapers Despite my criticisms of its lack of organization, I am very glad that the material is available for the public to use. It has reconnected me with what I love to do, research. I just wish the linking function, connected to individual headlines, worked better for the purposes of this blog.
Saskatoon Phoenix 1902 – 1928 (see under Phoenix and Daily Phoenix for other papers in this range) Note that 1922-26 are in very bad condition and most articles are unreadable. Many issues are missing.
Saskatoon Star Phoenix 1929-1967
Phoenix 1906 & 1968-1988 (very intermittent)
Daily Phoenix June 1907-Sep 1912
Regina Leader 1887-1890
Regina Standard 1905-1906
Morning Leader 1907-1930
Leader Post 1930-1987
©Lisa G. Henderson