________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 13 . . . . February 22, 2008


Canadian Paintings, Prints and Drawings.

Anne Newlands.
Richmond Hill, ON: Firefly Books, 2007.
366 pp., hardcover, $69.95.
ISBN 978-1-55407-290-3.

Subject Headings:
Paintings, Canadian.
Prints, Canadian.
Drawings, Canadian.
Artists, Canadian.

Grades 9 and up / Ages 14 and up.

Review by Ann Stinner.

**** /4

Ottawa-based author Anne Newlands, who has already given us a number of books on Canadian artists, has now tackled an updated overview of Canadian painting, prints and drawings from the early 17th century to the early 21st century. This hefty book - 366 pages long - is a treat. A first impression might be that Canadian Painting, Prints and Drawings is the essential Canadian coffee table book. However, it is much more than that.

     Looking through the book, the reader/viewer is presented with beautifully-reproduced images of art works by 164 artists on the right-hand pages (one work for each artist) and succinct commentaries on the left. The large images are surrounded by ample white space which reminds us of the way we might view the works in a well-lit, white-walled gallery and which enables us to consider each work without distractions. Each accompanying page of text identifies the work (date, size, medium and current location), provides the immediate context in which the work was created, and supplies a brief biographical summary of the artist with details of education and influences. Often short quotations or anecdotes are included for punch. The individual artworks are arranged alphabetically according to artist, rather than in the more common chronological or thematic manner encountered in many art history books. This format - detaching each work from its larger context - enables us to focus on the unique visual qualities of each piece (such as colours, surface textures, the play of light). The format also allows us to dip into the book whenever we need some visual inspiration, a work or two at a time.

     One can imagine the challenge of choosing the artists to be included in this book - and then only one work by each artist. In a short Introduction, Newlands explains her rationale for her selections and for the way she has organized the images. It is clear that Newlands made an great effort to represent the diversity of Canadian art. As she explains,

I was interested in the regional and ethnic diversity across the country, from the past and the present. I have also sought to present the vast artistic imagination brought to the timeless themes of the figure, portraits, landscapes, beliefs, abstraction, fears and dreams. Preference has also been given to works in public collections in the hope that readers may someday have the opportunity to encounter the original works. (p. 11)

The Introduction also provides a broad chronological overview of Canadian art in order to supply a framework for the reader's appreciation of the individual works. Newlands writes

The story of painting in Canada could perhaps be thought of as a spiral, opening, enlarging and unfolding in time as other artists and new imported traditions appeared on the scene. (p. 12)

     Sadly, sculpture, crafts (like glass, textiles, ceramics) and technologically-influenced works (like photography, film, video) had to be excluded from this collection for reasons of space. And for this reader/viewer, the selection of prints and drawings seems a little thin. It will be left to other writers and other books to fill these gaps. The strength of this beautiful book lies in the excitement it will generate in viewers and readers having a range of ages and interests. We are left wanting more. Luckily, at the end of the book, Newlands supplies us with a selected Glossary of art terms and "isms," a Further Reading section, and a list of the Museums and Galleries from which the artworks were selected, with websites and actual addresses included.

     Canadian Paintings, Prints and Drawings is an excellent springboard for further explorations in Canadian art.

Highly Recommended.

Ann Stinner is a former art education instructor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
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