CM Archive
CM Archive Book Review line

John Davenall Turner.

Edmonton, University of Alberta Press, c1982.
128pp, cloth, $24.95.
ISBN 0-88864-029-3.

Grades 7 and up.
Reviewed by J. E. Simpson.

Volume 11 Number 3.
1983 May.

This is a most beguiling book. It is that rare thing, the work of a first-rate amateur plainly in love with what he has decided to make of his life, and unashamedly determined to share his pleasure with others. In spite of (or perhaps because of) the occasional lapse into pedantry, Sunfield Painter is as ingenuous as the collected letters of a wittily observant relative or an early radio script by W. O. Mitchell. For anyone who cares what the West was like before the advent of oil and hype, the book is a gold-mine. John Davenall Turner came from England as a child of six to a sod shack south of , Vegreville, Alberta. Sixty years later he was the undisputed doyen of western Canadian art dealers, whose Canadian Art Galleries in Calgary was the principal outlet for the work of A.Y. Jackson, Althur Lismer, Walter J. Phillips, H.G. Clyde and A. C. Leighton.

The years between, in eleven crisply readable chapters, supply the affectionate details: of prairie fires and stone-heated cutters, of coming to manhood in frontier Edmonton, of peddling sketches of the Rockies to finance a career-seeking trip to Toronto with a wife and two young daughters in an overheating Chevrolet during the thirties, of service during the war, of the impertinence of attempting to see original Canadian art in post-World War II Alberta.

Sunfield Painter is illuminated by the author's wryly plosive line drawings that supply pictorial footnotes to the text and by thirty-one colour pages of the Group of Seven members he admired and represented, landscapes of uneven quality but unvarying honesty. Their colour is fresh, their form is crisp; their stance provides a certain running commentary on the growth of artistic sensibility in Canada mid-twentieth century.

But that is not what recommends the book. What makes it worth having is its account of being part of what we are.

J. E. Simpson, Edmonton Public School Board, Edmonton, AB.
line indexes


1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995


The materials in this archive are copyright © The Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission Copyright information for reviewers

Young Canada Works