150 Years of Canadian Art

Written By: Simran Birk

Canada is short of its 150th birthday in a few weeks. Over a century of development and progress has ranked Canada among the highest in international measurements of government transparency, civil liberties, quality of life, economic freedom, and education. However, Canada’s progress and flourishment in cultural and artistic movements should also be acknowledged and recognized.  Let us recount Canada’s finest artists from the past century and half.

It is important to start this article with recognizing and celebrating indigenous art. Indigenous art is an important part of Canadian art as it describes a history and culture that has been established in Canada for centuries. It should also be acknowledged that the word ‘Canada’ is believed to originates from the St. Lawrence Iroquoian word kanata, meaning "village" or "settlement". Bill Reid is a renowned Haida artist who specializes in jewelry, sculpture, screen-printing, and paintings. His work has can be found in various galleries and museums across Canada. An important accomplishment of Reid’s is that two of his sculptures, Raven and the First Men and Spirit of Haida Gwaii, are prominently featured on the $20 Canadian note from 2004 to 2012.

Bill Reid,  Spirit of Haida Gwaii, 1986

Bill Reid, Spirit of Haida Gwaii, 1986

Another aboriginal artist that deserve recognition for their artistic work is Rebecca Belmore. Belmore specializes in installations and performance pieces. Belmore is especially important as her piece’s addresses history, voice and voice-lessness, place, and identity. Belmore work incorporates art, history, and politics to create a truly impactful piece of work. Some of Belmore accomplishments include the 2013 Governors General Awards as well as being the first aboriginal woman representing Canada at the Venice Biennale in 2005.

Rebecca Belmore

Rebecca Belmore

Moving on to other artists who have influenced the Canadian art scene, the Group of Seven is a name that is known by many Canadians. The Group of Seven is a group of artists who specialized in painting Canadian landscape during the early 20th century. The group originally consisted of Franklin Carmichael, Lawren Harris, A. Y. Jackson, Frank Johnston, Arthur Lismer, J. E. H. MacDonald, and Frederick Varley. The Group of Seven is best known for initiating a national art movement in Canadian art. The Group traveled across Canada, depicting its varying landscapes in a new perspective, that gained popularity among Canadian society.

Emily Carr is name that is often associated with the group of Seven and Canadian artists. Although Carr was not officially member of the group, she was closely associated. Carr is known for being one of the first artist to adopt a Modernist and Post-Impressionist painting style. Initially, Carr’s work is focused on indigenous culture and art. However, there is an evident shift to landscape paintings later in her life, when she became involved with the Group of Seven. Carr is an important figure in Canadian art history as she broke and changed the customary representational form of landscape paintings by painting the landscape and spirit of Canada in a modern style. Carr’s life and work is recognized through the many Canadian art institutions named in her honor and the various galleries and museums that hold her work.

Emily Carr,  The Indian Church,  1929

Emily Carr, The Indian Church, 1929

The late 20th century and early 21st century art scene has also been impacted with various artists from different movements and mediums. One group that should be mentioned is the media based artists, General Idea. General Idea was an active art group from 1967 to 1994, that is made up of artists Felix Partz, Jorge Zontal and AA Bronson. General Idea’s work specialized in the twisting forms of popular mass media culture, such as beauty pageants, television talk shows and trade fair pavilions into unconventional media forms. These forms would include postcards, posters, balloons etc. General Idea’s later work addresses the AIDS crisis’s, spreading awareness of this disease through various projects. General Idea’s accomplishments include being featured in the Museum of Modern Art and the National Gallery of Canada.

A.Y. Jackson,  Red Maple,  1914

A.Y. Jackson, Red Maple, 1914

General Idea,  AIDS,  1988

General Idea, AIDS, 1988

Canada’s art scene is much like the country; incredibly diverse with passion and culture. The artists in this article are a few of the many who contribute to Canadian art.  However, it is important to understand that art in Canada is influential and impactful in various ways; whether its making a statement about politics or bringing awareness to a disease, art always has a purpose. With Canada’s 150th birthday coming up, it is important to not only celebrate the birth of this great nation but also to recognize it many accomplishments throughout the years, whether it be in science, culture or art.


By: Lauren Ali

Three years ago, artist Richard Prince caused one of the biggest stirs in the art world with his exhibition entitled, New Portraits. In the project, he screenshotted and printed Instagram posts of celebrities and random teenagers that he then proceeded to sell for $900,000 a piece. Prince has been known in the past for violating previous copyright laws by reproducing other artists work but this project really created a stink. Perhaps it was the fact that the pieces sold for $900,000 and these people in the photographs who originally posted them on Instagram got no credit or portion of the sale. Or maybe because the project lacked creativity and Prince selectively printed sexualized photographs of women while adding unsettling comments underneath them. In all fairness, some people who had their images blown up were simply flattered by having been noticed by the photographer and to have been featured in the exhibition. However, this whole situation leads back to the main issue of copyright.


Instagram’s copyright laws state:


“Instagram does not claim ownership of any Content that you post on or through the Service. Instead, you hereby grant to Instagram a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to use the Content that you post on or through the Service, subject to the Service’s Privacy Policy, available here, including but not limited to sections 3 (“Sharing of Your Information”), 4 (“How We Store Your Information”), and 5 (“Your Choices About Your Information”). You can choose who can view your Content and activities, including your photos, as described in the Privacy Policy.”

In a nutshell, it means you have the right to what you post on Instagram and you own the copyright to those images. It also states that by choosing to post on Instagram, you do not surrender your rights and ownership to those photos and anyone wishing to copy or reproduce them requires your permission. Although, it is also important to note that when you post content on the platform that it is solely your content or you have obtained the permission to post it.  


Initially, Prince didn’t alter the physical image at all besides deleting some comments and adding his own caption underneath it. Some could argue he didn’t appropriate the entire image since he changed the comments so it wasn’t the exact same image as before. It’s difficult to dictate what does and doesn’t qualify as copyright since it is so simple to get around the already established but rarely followed laws. When in doubt or fear of having your working being stolen, remember to upload the images at a lower resolution and add watermarks over the content. Certain websites can prevent the copying and pasting of images unless they are given proper consent by the artist. If you want to repost or reproduce, remember to contact the artist asking for their permission first! It is hard to remain truthful and original with the work that people are producing nowadays with social media circulating images every second of every day, who is to say they didn’t think of an idea first? But remember, being an artist has many challenges so it’s important to respect your fellow person and their work.

What do you think of Richard Prince’s controversial exhibition? Do you believe that what he did was an appropriation of art or he was simply taking advantage of an opportunity? Let us know below!



Priceless Art; Five Most Expensive Artworks Ever Sold.

Written by Simran Birk

It is an ironic statement, priceless art; when in fact most Van Gogh’s or Picasso's pieces are sold in the millions. So how can be art be referred as priceless if there is often a selling price. The idea that famous works of art are considered priceless, is the result of the inflating value of the artwork overtime. When a museum or private buyer acquire the infamous artworks of Warhol or Da Vinci, there is no reason to sell the work for it will always be considered valuable. With time, these pieces will be worth more than what was invested. Therefore, essentially they are considered priceless due to its exponentially increasing worth.

What classifies a ‘priceless’ work of art. The title of the most expensive artwork is shared between, Willem de Kooning, Interchange and Paul Gauguin Nafea Faa Ipoipo (When Will You Marry?). Each were purchased at 303 million and now inhabit a museum or the collections of private buyer.

Paul Gauguin,  Nafea Faa Ipoipo (When Will You Marry?) , 1892

Paul Gauguin, Nafea Faa Ipoipo (When Will You Marry?), 1892

Willem de Kooning,  Interchange, 1955

Willem de Kooning, Interchange, 1955

Paul Cézanne, The Card Players is the third most expensive piece of art. It was sold at a 256 million to the Royal Family of Qatar. The fourth most expensive piece of art sold is Jackson Pollock, Number 17A which sold at 202 million to a private buyer.

Paul Cézanne,  The Card Players , 1894–1895

Paul Cézanne, The Card Players, 1894–1895

Jackson Pollock,  Number 17A , 1948

Jackson Pollock, Number 17A, 1948

Finally, the fifth most expensive piece of artwork ever sold is No. 6 (Violet, Green and Red) by Mark Rothko. It was purchased by Dmitry Rybolovlev in a private sale for 188 million.

Mark Rothko,  No. 6 (Violet, Green and Red) , 1951

Mark Rothko, No. 6 (Violet, Green and Red), 1951

The value of art is a subjective matter; as cliché as it sounds, one mans garbage is another’s treasure. It is believed that Van Gogh had only sold one painting in his whole life; however, he is now considered a prominent figure in the world of art and his work is worth millions. This demonstrates that the value of art is ever changing. However, it is evident that the most valuable art is one whose intensity and expression has the power to impact the emotions of another. That is truly priceless art.