Paul Kane, who painted Native Americans, and Cornelius Krieghoff, who depicted the life of the settlers, were the earliest genre painters. Thomas Davies produced vibrant landscapes in watercolor in the second half of the 18th cent. J. A. Fraser, known for his scenes of the Rockies, was instrumental in founding the Ontario College of Art at Toronto in 1875. Five years later the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts (at Montreal) and the National Gallery of Canada (at Ottawa) were founded. Since 1910 the National Gallery has played an active part in Canadian life through its traveling exhibits. Its collection is the finest in Canada. Today there are art schools and galleries in all the major Canadian cities.
In the late 19th cent. the outstanding artists were the landscapists Daniel Fowler, F. M. Bell-Smith, and Robert Gagen; the portrait painters Robert Harris, Antoine Palamondon, and Théophile Hamel; and two great cartoonists, J. W. Bengough and Henri Julien. They were followed by a number of celebrated painters, including George A. Reid, Franklin Brownell, Florence Carlyle, F. McG. Knowles, Horatio Walker, M. A. de Foy Suzor-Côté, William Brymner, Maurice Cullen, and Tom Thomson. J. W. Morrice, who worked chiefly outside Canada, is perhaps the most celebrated of Canadian landscapists.
In 1920 Franklin Carmichael, Lawren Harris, A. Y. Jackson, Franz H. Johnston, Arthur Lismer, J. E. H. MacDonald, and F. Horsman Varley formed the Group of Seven, dedicated to painting the Canadian landscape. Traveling and working all over the dominion, they did much to awaken the interest of the country at large. Their approach, which emphasized flat, strongly colored design, tended toward a poster style. The cultural center of the Seven was Toronto. In Montreal toward the end of World War II a new, radical group was formed, including Alfred Pellan, John Lyman, P. E. Borduas, and J. P. Riopelle. They evolved the automatiste movement, influenced by Matisse, Picasso, and surrealism.
Other major painters, working in a wide variety of styles, include David Milne, Emily Carr, Pegi Nicol MacLeod, B. C. Binning, J. L. Shadbolt, and Harold Town. In the late 1960s the op art movement flourished in Montreal. Canadian painters currently at work employ a variety of postmodern styles and cannot be grouped as a school.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.