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1920s Modernism in Montreal: The Beaver Hall Group

Authors: Jacques Des Rochers and Brian Foss
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in association with Black Dog Publishing, London, 2015
hardcover, 352 pages

The Beaver Hall Group represented one of the most original manifestations of pictorial modernity in Canada in the 1920s. On the surface, the role it played in Montreal may seem analogous to that of the Group of Seven in Toronto, but it is the group’s work that sets it apart: rather than offering an image of Canadian identity through depictions of a northern country, the Montreal artists infused the inhabited landscapes of a northern culture as well as their many portraits with modern colour. The male-female parity of the group could also be seen as a resolutely modern trait.

The first major study on the Beaver Hall Group, this book outlines the urban and cultural context in which this unique association of artists emerged. The group’s activities are traced over the course of the three years its artists worked and exhibited in the Beaver Hall Hill studios, from 1920 to 1923. The narrative then follows the continuity of the group above and beyond its dissolution, until its rediscovery in the 1960s through a feminist lens. This re-reading ultimately shows how the question of gender today goes hand in hand with the idea that the group’s diversity fuelled rich and fruitful artistic exchanges.

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