Canadian Painting - Timeline: 1931-1960

A few milestones in the history and evolution of painting in Canada 1931-1960

The Group of Seven holds its last official exhibition, at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto. The influence of the Group’s style was visible in Canadian art until the late 1950s.

The Vancouver Art Gallery is founded in Vancouver.

The Canadian Group of Painters is formed, succeeding the Group of Seven and including 28 artists from across Canada.

The Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec (initially called Musée de la province de Québec) opens in Quebec City.

The Eastern Group of Painters is formed by Montreal artists including Goodridge Roberts, John Lyman and Jori Smith.

The exhibition A Century of Canadian Art, organized by the National Gallery of Canada, is held at the Tate Gallery, London.

The Contemporary Arts Society / Société d’art contemporain is formed in Montreal (John Lyman, Paul-Émile Borduas, Louis Muhlstock, Goodridge Roberts, Prudence Heward, Alfred Pellan, Marcel Barbeau, Fernand Leduc, Jean-Paul Riopelle).

The Kingston Conference, organized by André Biéler with the aid of National Gallery of Canada director Harry McCurry, is held to rally the Canadian art community and address issues such as the isolation of artists. The event led to the formation of the Federation of Canadian Artists / Fédération des artistes canadiens, tasked with defining the role of the artist in society.

The Automatiste movement is born with an exhibition by Paul-Émile Borduas at Théâtre de l’Ermitage, in Montreal (Marcel Barbeau, Jean-Paul Riopelle, Roger Fauteux, Marcelle Ferron, Pierre Gauvreau, Fernand Leduc, Jean-Paul Mousseau, Françoise Sullivan, Claude Gauvreau, Thérèse Renaud, Françoise Riopelle, Jeanne Renaud, Madeleine Arbour, Muriel Guilbault, Maurice Perron, Bruno Cormier).

The exhibition The Development of Painting in Canada, 1665-1945 / Le développement de la peinture au Canada, 1665-1945 is jointly organized and presented by the Art Gallery of Ontario, the National Gallery of Canada, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec.

The Automatistes hold their first group exhibition, in Montreal.

The exhibition Canadian Women Artists is held at the Riverside Museum, New York, organized by the National Council of Women of Canada with the Canadian Arts Council and the National Council of Women of the United States of America.

The “anti-Automatiste” group Prisme d’yeux [Prism of eyes], founded by Alfred Pellan, publishes a manifesto of the same name (Louis Archambault, Léon Bellefleur, Jean Benoit, Jacques de Tonnancour, Albert Dumouchel, Gabriel Filion, Pierre Garneau, Arthur Gladu, Lucien Morin, Mimi Parent, Jeanne Rhéaume, Goodridge Roberts, Roland Truchon, Gordon Webber).

The Automatistes publish their manifesto, titled Refus Global [Total refusal].

The Art Association of Montreal (founded in 1860) changes its name to Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. In 1960, the name became officially bilingual (Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal).


For its first participation in the Venice Biennale, Canada is represented by four painters: Emily Carr, David Milne, Goodridge Roberts and Alfred Pellan.

The exhibition Abstracts at Home is held at Simpson’s department store in Toronto and leads to the formation of the Painters Eleven group (Jack Bush, Oscar Cahén, Hortense Gordon, Thomas Hodgson, Alexandra Luke, J.W.G. Macdonald, Ray Mead, Kazuo Nakamura, William Ronald, Harold Town, Walter Yarwood).

The Plasticiens publish their manifesto in conjunction with an exhibition by four members of the group: Louis Belzile, Fernand Toupin, Jean-Paul Jérôme and Jauran (Rodolphe de Repentigny).

The first Biennial of Canadian Art is organized and circulated across the country by the National Gallery of Canada. The biennials shows, which ended in 1968, served to illustrate the evolution of contemporary Canadian painting.

The Association des artistes non figuratifs de Montréal [Non-figurative artists association of Montreal] is formed, with members including Plasticiens and Automatistes, and Fernand Leduc as founding president.

The exhibition Canadian Abstract Painting is held at the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, before touring extensively in the United States.

Parliament creates the Canada Council for the Arts.

American painter Barnett Newman leads a workshop for professional artists at Emma Lake, in northern Saskatchewan. Over the years, the University of Saskatchewan Art School brought in many influential art world figures (Jack Shadbolt, Clement Greenberg, Anthony Caro) for the summer workshop program.
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