Toronto in Art from the 1830s to the 1980s
Toronto in Art is the name of a book that was published in 1983 to mark the City of Toronto's 150th anniversary the following year. I had no idea that such a book existed until I was rummaging through some local offerings at BMV the other day, and came upon it. My copy has a badly warped dustcover, more than a few stains on its actual cover and the wonderful but also awful smell that books acquire when they've been put into storage. In other words, it's quickly become a treasured addition to my collection of Toronto-specific texts.
Originally published by the City of Toronto (in conjunction with Fitzhenry & Whiteside), Toronto in Art is still relatively easy to come by if you're willing to order it through a used bookseller online. Given the fact that it's unlikely to be sitting on the shelves of your local store (unless you get lucky), I thought I'd share a glimpse of what's contained in its pages. Think of it as the painterly companion to the historical photo posts I'm so fond of.
And a history text it is. Written by Edith G. Firth, the purpose of the book is twofold: one, to establish that Toronto does, indeed, have a rich artistic heritage, and two, to tell the story of the city's development "through artists' eyes." It succeeds on both accounts, even if there is a certain artistic conservatism on display throughout its pages.
Some of the artists featured will be familiar to most readers â people like Lawren Harris and J.E.H. MacDonald of the Group of Seven, the members of which met while working at the Toronto design firm Grip near the turn of the century. Others will be less so, but in some ways, their work is all the more remarkable for that feeling of first time discovery.
Here's a brief sample of Toronto in Art: 150 Years Through Artists' Eyes. It would be nice to share more of the artists' work, but digital copies aren't always easy to come by. Think of this as more of an introduction than an overview.
John Howard - "Third Parliament Building" 1834
Unknown Artist - "Jackes Residence, The Elms" Ca. 1875
J.E. Usher - "University College Fire" 1890
Frederic M. Bell - "Lights of a City Street" 1894
J.E.H MacDonald - "Tracks and Traffic" 1912
Robert F. Gagen - "Temples of Commerce" 1914
Lawren Harris - "Houses St. Patrick Street" 1922
Nicholas Hornyansky - "St. Lawrence Market" 1943
Tom Roberts - "City Lights" 1945
Eric Freifeld - "Subway Construction" 1952
Albert Franck - "Backyard Baldwin Street" 1964
Clark McDougal - "A & A" 1969
Kim Ondaatje - "The Hearn" 1974
Walter Coucill - "Eaton Centre Excavation" 1975
Les Tait " 1182 Bloor Street West" 1982
Rayka Kupesic - "Winter Nathan Phillips Square" 1982
Lead painting by Michel Binette. "Brush Strokes on Dundas Street" 1979.
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