March 14, 1917 After the OSA Meeting

March 14, 1917

It’s getting later in the afternoon but the sun is still strong. It’s not yet the spring Equinox, but spring is certainly arriving and the winter is waning.

It was the Ontario Society of Artists Annual Meeting yesterday evening. I’m a member so I was obliged to attend. The meeting was held at the Public Reference Library in the art gallery after the Spring Exhibition had closed for the day. I arrived shortly after 6:00pm and helped set up the chairs and lectern in the gallery, in and amongst the paintings, prints and sculptures. As we were setting up, the members came in. There was about 40 people in total. I took a seat in the back, and when Florence arrived (a few minutes late) she sat beside me.

Sitting in the front row were George Reid and his wife Mrs. (Mary) Reid. George is the principal of the School of Art, a man of much public stature, so I keep my distance from him. Also seated in the front from was Charles Jefferys, Robert Gagen and Jim MacDonald. Fred Varley was in the second row with Mary Wrinch

Overall, the meeting was a series of dry formalities, interrupted by coughing and the scraping of chairs. I could barely hear Jefferys read his report (he mumbles) but I did hear that the Ontario Government did not make any purchases, but the National Gallery in Ottawa was still making purchases. He also lamented that the Canadian National Exhibition seems to be stuck on French and Belgian works almost to the exclusion of anything North American. It’s my feeling that this selection of art is still a reaction against reciprocity with the Americans, and that we were fighting in the War and the Americans weren’t.

The exciting part of the meeting came at the end when the new OSA members were voted on. Both Frank Carmichael and Francis Johnston got a unanimous vote for membership. As for Florence (she was sitting beside me, gripping my hand during the vote), the show of hands was not nearly as strong. About ten members abstained and another four voted against. It seems that some are still not ready to have women in the Society, despite a third of the membership is women. I couldn’t quite see to the front during the vote, but I’m sure that Mary Wrinch voted against Florence’s membership.

The meeting finished up about eight o’clock and afterward, I walked Florence back to the room at the house she was staying. I told her I’d be going up North soon, and she said that she would very much like to visit me in the Park. She plans to visit friends Ottawa this spring and could make the connections through the Park and stay for a few days. I said I would make arrangements with Shannon. I doubted that the Mowat Lodge would be fully occupied until well into the summer months (if at all).

I walked back to the Shack and looked at my canvas on the easel. I’m sure this will be my last canvas before going North.



March 14, 1917 Lawren Harris Likes Van Gogh

March 14, 1917

Lawren Harris likes Van Gogh.

He spoke of Van Gogh during his time in Berlin. If I hadn’t known otherwise, it seemed like Lawren had actually met Vincent himself. If it were case, I’m sure that he would have given Vincent a few dollars and a bottle of whisky to make it to month’s end. Truthfully, I am also fascinated by Van Gogh. I learned what I could from the books at the library, but Lawren gave me the real tips he learned in Europe.

Lawren was part of our group of painters. Lawren and Jim MacDonald, always close friends since I’ve known them, originally conspired to form the “Canadian Vision” as Jim called it. I last saw Lawren when he visited me last spring, just before he enlisted. He was supposed to go for active duty, but something happened and he was turned down and now he is a gunnery officer in the camp in Barrie.

I remember Jim and Lawren talking about their trip to Hunstville and Burk’s Falls. It would have been the “Canadian Tragedy” were it not for Jim’s aunt doing the cooking for them. Her house was in Burk’s Falls and served as a base for their winter painting expeditions in 1912. It was a ways from the grandiose estates on the Muskoka Lakes, the distance being a hardship to those not used to being more than a finger’s distance from a bellhop ring. I’m teasing. Both Jim and Lawren are tough boys, but it can be hard to paint in the hinterland in February. The woodsman in me had enough sense to come back to the city for colder months of the year.

More importantly, Lawren became my banker. He ended up managing my financial affairs, because I never really had the disposition to put my money on account – I would leave it lying around in bills, and it would disappear faster than I reckoned. Lack of money really wasn’t an issue, except when I needed more paint. Then Lawren would say to go to the shop and put the paint on his account. He’d knew I’d be good for the obligation, in kind or in cash.

As for painting, Lawren likes dreamy moods in his colours. He would soften up the light but I was the total opposite. I told him dreams were for the bedroll and I liked to paint it like it is. It’s hard to be dreamy when your life is in your hands when you paint.