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The Art of Nation-Building: Two Murals by Charles Fraser Comfort (1936-37)

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The Art of Nation-Building: Two Murals by Charles Fraser Comfort (1936-37)

MacCormack, Gillian (2016) The Art of Nation-Building: Two Murals by Charles Fraser Comfort (1936-37). Masters thesis, Concordia University.

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Abstract

In the late 1920s, Canada experienced a new wave of nation-building art as part of a major mural
movement sweeping Europe and North America. It reached its zenith in the 1930s, and provides
the context – artistically, socially, politically and economically – for the two murals
considered in this thesis. Such murals were modern in their focus on contemporary, usually
urban issues, industrial subject matter, the image of the blue collar worker and its links to the Art
Deco movement – “that vehicle of moderate nationalism” as architectural historian, Michael
Windover, put it. All these characteristics are reflected in two highly acclaimed works by the
leading and most prolific Canadian muralist of the 1930s and beyond: Scottish-born Charles
Fraser Comfort, A.R.C.A. (1900-1994). At a time of serious unemployment for most artists
following the market crash of 1929, Comfort achieved two significant accomplishments pertinent
to Canada’s twentieth century art narrative. As the sole muralist of the day to obtain important
commissions from the new “princes of patronage”, industry leaders, he painted The Romance of
Nickel (1936) for Inco for the Canadian Pavilion at the 1937 Exposition internationale des arts et
des techniques dans la vie moderne in Paris, as well as the series of eight interior panels (1937)
for the Art Deco-inspired, Toronto Stock Exchange (Design Exchange), and designed its exterior
stone frieze and steel medallions on the front door. Comfort’s second accomplishment was the
particular way this already well-established landscape artist, water colourist, portrait painter and
graphic designer also reflected contemporaneous preoccupations with the image of the bluecollar
worker, in Cubist-inspired Realism. In this way, his two murals of 1936-37 indicate much
about the distinctive approach of Canadian artistic developments of the decade with their
emphasis on design and “moderate” modernity.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Fine Arts > Art History
Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Authors:MacCormack, Gillian
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:M.A.
Program:Art History
Date:12 September 2016
Thesis Supervisor(s):Pezolet, Nicola
ID Code:981746
Deposited By: Gillian Mary MacCormack
Deposited On:08 Nov 2016 19:58
Last Modified:18 Jan 2018 17:53
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