The Beaver Hall Group, although initially considered to be a Montreal counterpart to Toronto’s Group of Seven, stood apart through their work: rather than offering an image of Canadian identity through depictions of the untamed landscapes of a northern country, the Montreal artists imbued the inhabited landscapes of a northern culture with the colours of modernity.
They also painted many portraits that convey this same quest for modernism; these works rank among the most remarkable in the history of Canadian art. The male-female parity within the group — a first in Quebec as in Canada — is another resolutely modern trait.
The exhibition shows how the question of gender goes hand in hand with the idea that the group’s diversity fuelled rich and fruitful exchanges. Although short-lived, the Beaver Hall Group provided rich soil for abundant and substantial art-making, now inextricably linked with the history of art in Montreal, Quebec and Canada.
The exhibition 1920s Modernism in Montreal: The Beaver Hall Group presents works by its official members as well as by artists associated with them through friendship and solidarity: Nora Collyer, Emily Coonan, Adrien and Henri Hébert, Prudence Heward, Randolph S. Hewton, Edwin Holgate, A. Y. Jackson, John Y. Johnstone, Mabel Lockerby, Mabel May, Hal Ross Perrigard, Robert W. Pilot, Sarah Robertson, Anne Savage, Adam Sherriff Scott, Regina Seiden and Lilias Torrance Newton, as well as André Biéler, Ethel Seath, Kathleen Morris and Albert Robinson.
IMAGE CREDIT: Prudence Heward, ‘Femme sur une colline,’ 1928, huile sur toile. Ottawa, Musée des beaux-arts du Canada. Photo © MBAC.