March 17, 1917: Some Pretty Good Stuff

March 17, 1917

I’ll be done soon for the night.

I managed to go see the Allen Cup Final at the Arena tonight. The Riversides beat the St. Patricks 7-3. So much for the Irish on St Paddy’s Day. The Riversides managed to stay ahead on the score for whole game. The Pats managed to punch in two goals in the second and one in the third, but the Riversides kept adding even more for insurance. Thus, the Irishmen did not prove beyond all contradiction that they are far superior to anyone and everything on the face of the earth. A good game, and a few good fights on the street to even out some unsettled scores made by the spectators.

I’ll be going up North soon. I doubt I’ll be doing any more work on the canvases. The news is getting grimmer everyday, and it’s becoming an unwanted preoccupation of mine to comb through the papers everyday.

Dr. MacCallum wants a list of the paintings I made this winter. Despite not showing anything at the OSA Exhibition, he feels I did some pretty good stuff and he’ll take care of selling and put the money to my account.

He wanted a list of the canvases plus the measurements. He said it’s easier to sell when you know the sizes. Some people buy just by size alone.

Canvases:

1. Snow in October 32″x35″
2. Early Snow 18″ x 18″
3. Maple Saplings, October 36″ x 40″
4. Woodland Waterfall 48″ x 52″
5. Pointers 38″ x 45″
6. Chill November 34″ x 40″
7. The Fisherman 20″ x 22″
8. The Drive 47″ x 54″
9. Jack Pine 50″ x 55″
10. West Wind 47″ x 54″

I may do some more on my last canvas. I’ll see what I can do over the next few days.

I haven’t yet done a tally of the other paintings and sketches. They’re piled high and everywhere. There are a few dozen canvases, and the sketches are in the hundreds. I also made several frames to stretch the canvas on. There’s a pile to them too.

All in all, I’m pretty happy with what I’ve done this winter. I never did seem to settle on a technique. Each painting seemed so different in its demands of me. I’ll be glad to be getting back to sketching. When I get there, I plan to sketch every day; watch the change in the snow, the woods. Watch the ice go out, spring flowers bloom and see the trees to turn to green. In the city, I paint on canvas to escape. In the country, I escape to paint sketches. They are opposite processes.

The next few days are packing and saying my goodbyes. These may be my last goodbyes for some.

March 16, 1917: Escaping the Vortex

March 16, 1917

I can’t have any of it anymore. The City, that is.

I have to leave. I had to escape the Vortex as I now call the City.

I had heard  about the Vorticists in England. I was intrigued by what I had seen in one of the Vortex Pamphlets and the cover of BLAST. Someone brought these back from England and I saw them in the Studio Building. Vorticism was movement was led by Wyndham Lewis, a ‘Cubo-Futurist’ as Jackson called him. Vorticism was about painting a machine – bold lines and harsh colours. I was intrigued by the methods, though the subject of machines was not for me.

Jackson had mentioned Lewis several times, but not in a good way, on account of his worry of my ‘cubistical tendencies’ as he called them. The Vorticists were short-lived – broken up by the War. Like the Vorticists, our group too, was being broken up because of the war. Lismer in Bedford, Jackson in England, Harris in Barrie, and soon myself up North.

It was Ezra Pound that actually coined the term ‘Vorticist.’ I was intrigued by this coinage because I liked the power Pound could put into ordinary words. He liked to write what I called ‘bastardized Haikus’. The parallel between his inspiration from Japanese poetic form was similar to Van Gogh and his inspiration from Japanese prints. Van Gogh’s two-dimensional focus on an image was like words being lifted out from a three dimensional prose of nothingness. Pound’s “red wheelbarrow glazed with rain” was like my my Jack Pine in front of Carcajou Bay. Pound called them luminous details. The luminosity I achieved in my canvases was to let the vermilion grounding show through.

Well, the vortex is spinning faster and faster fueled  by the drumbeat of war.  Borden is looking for fifty thousand men – ‘strength of the Dominion’ he calls it. Trouble is that the has no inkling of the strength he has. and no one is eager to volunteer anymore. This has led to rather unpleasant, impromptu and forced call-ups in the theatres (I don’t go anymore). The White Feather Brigade has their little sparrows spying on houses and confronting lone men and shaming them in public. I’ve even seen the shaming happen during a church service. The pastor sets the cue during the sermon, and the little birdies begin their pious chirping in unison. It’s an ugly scene to see in what is supposed to be a sanctuary of worship.  The Women’s Temperance Union is in full swing too. Ever since the prohibition, the Studio Building has been a target of these women. The other day,  Bill Beatty and Art Heming had to forcibly eject a women screaming at the top of her lungs. She was screaming that the Studio Building should be rid of its artists and liquor and turned into an infirmary for the men returning from the front. The little birdies are everywhere.

I no longer feel comfortable walking the streets alone. Single young men (if you can still call me that) are the target. These past few days, I’ve only gone out with Florence at my side. With Florence being a few years older, people think, that as her husband, I’m above the drafting age forty-five so they leave me be.

This is no life the City I have to leave soon. With my sketching, I may be able to do my duty up North – home defence as they call it. I’m sure it will be different than a Ranger’s job, but my sketching will come first.

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.

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German Scare

March 11, 1917

I had a strange visitor today. He didn’t tell me his name, but he knew mine well enough. And he knew that I knew the Park inside and out.

‘You know the Park. That’s good. We might need you there.’

I had no inkling what he was talking about.

He explained he was part of the Canadian Corp of Guides. Never heard of them.
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Winnie

I know you’re all wondering on what I have to say about Winnie. I shouldn’t reveal too much here as this is a big part of the story which you will learn in due time. Winnifred Trainor was set out to be one of the major tragic figures of the story, but she had her hand in the tragedy too. So let’s be clear. As I was not the mythic figure, she was not the tragic figure, either.

Winnie was 27 years old when I first met her in 1912. I was 34. At this age she was considered to be a spinster and at my age, I was a bachelor but the state of bachelorhood was much less called into question than spinsterhood. Men were expected to be free until such time they decided to settle down. This was not the case for women, and I believe this had a bearing on her parents’ view of her and of me.

To be sure, we had a grand time together. Each time going up North, I enjoyed her company as she was not like the other women. Practical (and mathematical she could tally a bill in her head with no paper and pencil), she had an equal love of the outdoors that she shared with me. We spent many pleasant hours together, fishing and canoeing. Her family came to know me well and had the (unstated) expectation that the relationship would become more formal one day.

Starting on the West Wind

March 10, 1917

Canvas are tough work. I hope to do my last canvas before I go North. I was looking through my sketches in the Shack (over 300) and decided to use the one I made when I was a Ranger in the Park last fall. I painted this sketch at Grand Lake when I was with Ed Godin. What I like most about this sketch is the shape of the tree. This tree was alone on the rocks and it was a windy day.
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