2 December 2016

The Beaver Hall Group: 1920s Modernism in Montreal

My last week of vacation time is done and dusted.  I ran some errands, brought the central vacuum unit in for maintenance, had my car looked at, decorated for Christmas, and spent an immense amount of time wiping Kip's paws.  Unless the ground freezes soon our back garden is threatening to rival an impressively muddy farmyard.

Did I mention there's a bookshop beside the vacuum retailer?  Gorgeous books are piled high to tempt Christmas shoppers but this purchase was a gift to myself in lieu of a trip abroad or a cottage rental in Muskoka.  Stop laughing.... 

The library owns an earlier publication on the Beaver Hall Group.  I can't tell you how many times it has caught my eye while I'm supposed to be working.  Down go my pen and holds list as I slide the book from the shelf.  This new collection of art,  published last year, features many of my favourites plus many I've never seen before.

Sisters of Rural Quebec by Prudence Howard

Girl and Cat by Emily Coonan

Saint Denis Street by Adrien Hébert

Looking along Belmont Street by Ethel Seath
about 1925

Miss Mary Macintosh by Randolph S. Hewton
1924 or earlier

Initially I thought this group of painters were entirely female, and that's a popular misconception.  Being contemporaries of the Group of Seven, placing a feminist slant on a few exhibitions and catalogues drove that lasting impression.  This collection focuses on art by all of the members of the Beaver Hall Group, but I enjoyed this paragraph...

'Within the Beaver Hall Group, the social markers that distinguished the early twentieth-century feminist ideal of the 'New Woman' were readily apparent.  The group's female members variously bobbed their hair, drove automobiles and smoked.  Most of them remained unmarried, and some explored options for companionship outside of matrimony.  Some members joined women's rights organizations.  Most importantly, the vast majority of the women carved out careers for themselves, as artists, art educators and illustrators.'

This beautiful collection of art, biography, and social commentary would make an excellent gift for the art lover in your life, or just pick up a copy for yourself, like I did.


  1. Good for you ... the best presents are the ones you buy for yourself! Are you going to wrap it?

    1. It crossed my mind for all of two seconds, Mary. Before I knew it the plastic wrap was coming off...oh the sound of flipping pages that have never been turned before. You understand, don't you.

  2. I saw the exhibition when it was on at the Hamilton Art Gallery a year or so ago - it was wonderful. That book's a great find!

    1. Sadly I missed it but you've reminded me to pay better attention to what's going on there. My husband and I visited the gallery last Christmas while visiting Whitehern but it's such a small collection we haven't been back.

  3. They're very appealing ... and completely new to me.

    1. I wouldn't be surprised if your library has this book on the shelves, Audrey. It's lovely to cosy up with!

  4. Yes, they are truly my cup of tea, and I have the earlier book about them. I too missed the Hamilton Gallery exhibition, perhaps through sheer inertia at the thought of driving down the QEW and back (yes, I know, people do this every day).

    Thanks for showing us these paintings. And the new book.