This lecture, which goes Wednesday Oct. 15 at the MacKenzie Art Gallery, is subtitled “The Great War and the Group of Seven.” It’s being delivered by Estevan-born, England-based novelist and non-fiction writer Ross King. It’s part of the University of Regina’s 1914: A Turning Point in History and Culture lecture series that examines the impact of World War I on various aspects of Western society.
In the case of visual art, the war began during a time of transition when artists were breaking with the tradition of realism and beginning to take the first tentative steps on the road to modernism. One hallmark of that shift was the Armory Show that occurred in New York in 1913, and introduced Americans to avant-garde European art movements such as fauvism, cubism and futurism.
In Canada at around the same time, the Group of Seven was forming in Toronto. In his 2010 book Defiant Spirits: The Modernist Revolution of the Group of Seven (cover image above) King explored that seminal moment in Canadian art history. As a group, they were still pretty wedded to realism, but they were keen to explore the Canadian landscape, and they often did so in an expressionist style where paint was used to convey more than just pictorial detail. It was also used to convey emotional and spiritual attachment to the land.
When WWI broke out, several of the group served as war artists and traveled overseas to record their observations of the conflict and the soldiers and civilians who were struggling to survive on the battlefields of Europe. And in his lecture, King plans to examine the impact that haunting experience had on their art practice once the war ended.
Again, the lecture is tomorrow at the MacKenzie Art Gallery at 7 p.m.