March 14, 1917
It’s getting later in the afternoon and 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 meeting concluded shortly before 10pm. A dry and turgid affair as all these types of gatherings go. There’s one thing I dislike worse than a firebrand sermon, it’s debate about some arcane point of order. As an O.S.A voting member, I was expected to go and I did. I sat in the back and raised my hand at the right moments declaring my support for whatever motion was being passed. The meeting was set up in the middle of the exhibition space – a portable lectern up front and about 50 wooden straight-backed chairs set in an orderly 10 rows.
My reason for going, of course, was to support the membership of Florence, Frank Carmichael and ‘Franz’ Johnston (don’t call him Frank). I arrived late and sat beside Florence who knew to sit in the back and awaiting.
“A shoddy business isn’t it?” I whispered into her ear as I lit my pipe. I took a puff, and exhaled slowly through my nostrils. The smoke wafted upward toward the ceiling to join the smoke of the other ten men smoking.
“Tom, don’t be such a cad!” Florence returned a mischievous glare while whispering her retort. I grinned as I stifled a chuckle. I could always get a rise out of Florence when we were other people. She is always so proper, when the situation demands, but when she is alone she is quite the opposite.
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 ten o’clock and afterwards, I offer to walk Florence back to the room at the house she was staying. But she wanted to stay with me because I told her I’d be going up North soon. 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).
When we got back to the Shack, I tried to turn the electric light. The electricity was out so we had to make do with kerosene and candlelight. That was fine, because what we planned to do didn’t need much light.
This morning, I walked with Florence to the street car and we said our goodbyes. She didn’t walk me to walk her any further in case anyone might see us. I didn’t really care, because I was going to be gone soon, but I understood her point of view. During wartime everybody seems to have a judgment on everybody else’s business.
Back at the shack I continued to work on my canvas. I may be able to get another one done before I go North, but I’m not banking on it.