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Through African Canadian Eyes: Landscape Painting by Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century African Canadians


Through African Canadian Eyes: Landscape Painting by Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century African Canadians

Johnson, Adrienne R. (2015) Through African Canadian Eyes: Landscape Painting by Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century African Canadians. Masters thesis, Concordia University.

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MA-Thesis-Johnson-PDF-A-09-18-15-FINAL.pdf - Accepted Version


This thesis focuses on landscape as artistic genre and site in relation to African Canadian cultural belonging and agency as fine artists and Canadian citizens at the turn of the twentieth century. Attending to aspects of racialization in Canadian art in which landscape is considered both as geopolitical territory and as the hallmark subject matter, it specifically examines how African Canadian artists navigated racialized spaces – landscapes of psychic and lived Black violence – when African Canadians were systematically positioned outside the imagined and physical constructs of the nation. The period covered is from 1760 until 1910 when a shift occurred artistically and ideologically in Black culture, underscored by a desire for African Unity and greater access and participation in North American economic, cultural, and political society. Historical records have long relegated African Canadians to an underclass, representing them as non-actors or non-participants in Canadian art history. This thesis compares and contrasts the lives and work of two African Canadian landscape artists, George Henry McCarthy (1860-1906; Shelburne, NS) and Edith Hester McDonald-Brown (ca.1880-1954; Africville, Halifax, NS) to examine and document their artistic contributions to early Canadian art history. Section One provides a historiography of Canadian landscape as art and territory between 1760 and 1900, focusing on its psychic and physical aspects. It situates the lived experiences of African Canadians within the geographical territory known as Canada, exploring how land (and freedom) was wielded as a weapon of disenfranchisement against African Canadians. Section Two presents the first of the two case studies: the life and work of George Henry McCarthy. This section examines how, if at all, McCarthy’s African and White mixed race heritage influenced his art making and lived experience in Canada. Section Three presents the second case study on the life and work of Edith Hester McDonald (later Brown) to provide a historical point-of-departure to examine Black women’s access to professionalization in the visual arts in early Canada. I propose McCarthy as the earliest known African Canadian male artist, and McDonald as the first known African Canadian woman artist in art history.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Fine Arts > Art History
Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Authors:Johnson, Adrienne R.
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:M.A.
Program:Art History
Thesis Supervisor(s):Jim, Dr. Alice Ming Wai
Keywords:African Canadians, Early African Canadian art, Early Canadian Art African Nova Scotians, Black Canadians, Black Canadian art, Nova Scotia, cultural citizenship, racism, anti-black racism, Nineteenth century, Twentieth century
ID Code:980559
Deposited On:26 Oct 2015 19:17
Last Modified:18 Jan 2018 17:51
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