1916 proved to be a dismal year for all of us. With no signs of the Great War abating, nothing worse could happen than Parliament Hill burning down, which it did on February 3, 1916. The after effect was most demoralizing when we heard that the National Gallery was decimated. Its space was taken over by Parliament and its budget taken away.
But the events of Parliament Hill burning down and the National Gallery passing out of existence was nothing compared to the reaction we received at the OSA Spring Exhibition of 1916. The Toronto art-going public, it seemed, were ill-prepared for any colour of paint other than brown. And others were shocked at the lack of cows and windmills.
The reaction by the critics hit us all hard. In the newspapers, there was even a direct strike at me, but I secretly relished the critic’s comment that my “fearless use of violent colour which can be scarcely called pleasing” hit the mark. I was not out to please anyone and my resolve began to galvanize that I would never again participate in the OSA exhibition. The French artists had fled the Salon years ago, I could do the same.
And thus ended my Toronto Spring of 1916. In early spring, I left to go up North, and began to reflect on whether I would ever return to the gray city that so-much loved the colour brown.