Canadian Art Club

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The Canadian Art Club was an artists' collective established in Toronto in 1907 to advance the standards of Canadian art exhibitions and to exhibit the work of Canadian expatriate artists at home. It was disbanded after the death of its co-founder Edmund Montague Morris in 1913.


The Canadian Art Club originated in Toronto from 1907 and had a membership of 20 artists. The Club, modeled on Whistler's International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers, encouraged achievement of individuals and was nationalist in persuading expatriates to exhibit at home, but defined nationality in only the broadest terms. Its eight exhibitions hoped to establish a high standard for other artists and concentrated on small, carefully hung groups of works by leading Canadian artists.

The annual exhibitions organized in Toronto, and in Montreal in 1910, included the finest work being produced by Canadian artists. Membership included painters and sculptors and was by invitation only. Edmund Morris ( 1871 – 1913 ) and Homer Watson ( 1855 – 1936 ) were key figures in its formation and the first exhibition included work by Horatio Walker ( 1858 – 1938 ), working in New York since 1885, and James Wilson Morrice ( 1865 – 1924 ) of Paris (since 1890 ). Later expatriate exhibitors included Ernest Lawson ( 1873 – 1939 ), James Kerr-Lawson ( 1862 – 1939 ), and the sculptor Phimister Proctor ( 1860 – 1950 ). Montreal members included Clarence Gagnon ( 1881 – 1942 ), W. H. Clapp ( 1879 – 1954 ), Marc-Aurèle de Foy Suzor-Coté ( 1869 – 1937 ), and Henri Hébert ( 1884 – 1950 ).

The main instigators of the Club were the painters Edmund Montague Morris (1871–1913) and Curtis Williamson (1867–1944), who were "deeply disturbed by the tired, old-fashioned look of Canadian art as seen in the various annual exhibitions"[1] and attempted to establish higher standards through small, carefully hung shows. Membership of the Club was by invitation only. Homer Watson was the first president, and other members included the Scottish-born William Brymner (1855–1925), who had been the first Canadian painter to study in Paris (at the Académie Julian), Maurice Cullen, J. W. Morrice, and Horatio Walker. The work of these artists was varied in style and subject, but generally it showed influence from Impressionism and Whistler. Their eight exhibitions were well received, but the Club disbanded in 1915, having lost some of its momentum because of the death (by drowning) of Morris in 1913 and because of the distractions of the First World War (there were also personality clashes among some of the members). However, the Club helped to prepare the way for the Group of Seven.

After the death of Edmund Morris in 1913, and with the distractions of World War I, the Club disbanded due to a small amount of finance and personal issues, leaving the membership with little to no enthusiasm to remain keeping the Club alive.


The members of the Club who exhibited their work were highly influenced by the Hague school, Barbizon school and British plein-air painting, by Whistler and the Impressionists. Works by the members were very well received by critics, and the Club's activists played the roles of important catalysts for both artistic and institutional change. The influence of its Quebec Impressionist members on the emerging Group of Seven was major.

Notable members[edit]


  1. ^ Reid (1989) p. 123
  • The Canadian Art Club. Retrieved 1 June 2012
  • Linteau, Paul-André; Durocher, René; Robert, Jean-Claude; and Chodos, Robert (1983). Quebec, A History. James Lorimer & Company. ISBN 0888626045
  • Murray, Joan (1999). Canadian Art in the Twentieth Century. Dundurn Press Ltd. ISBN 155488120X
  • Reid, Dennis (1989). A concise history of Canadian painting, 2nd edition. Oxford University Press. ISBN 019540663X