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Inside a Canadian art gallery

Canadian illustrations, family ties and national character are at the heart of the Ottawa Art Gallery’s new exhibition.

Over the years, professional ties with founding member of the G7, Franz Johnston. His daughter, the painter Francis Anne Johnston.and her husband, a painter and illustrator (and McLean’s cover designer) Franklin Arbuckle has gone missing. Now, a new exhibition at the Ottawa Art Gallery (OAG) brings together their work for the first time.And there’s an entire gallery wall dedicated to Arbuckle’s most iconic McLean’s cover

family palette It opens at OAG on September 10th, and its goals are ambitious. Not only does it serve as a feminist recovery project, shedding light on Francis-Anne’s largely undocumented career, but her creative identity is often overshadowed by her husband and father. It also aims to redefine the history of Canadian art.New to the conversation long dominated by the theme of the vast Canadian landscape is an illustration-focused narrative, advanced in large part thanks to cover artwork done by Franklin Arbuckle. McLean’s Over 20 years.

Prior to opening, we We sat down with OAG curator Rebecca Basciano to talk about how the exhibition came to be, what the research process was like, and Arbuckle’s key role. McLean’s A cover played on shaping Canada’s national identity. This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

Please tell us a little back story. how did this start?

In 2015, Brenda Firestone, daughter of Ottawa art collectors OJ and Isobel Firestone, showed me some pieces her parents had kept separate from their larger collections. They were by Frances-Anne, who I didn’t know much about at the time. After doing a little research, I noticed her connection to Franz Johnston and Franklin Arbuckle and thought: Oh wow. Her three artists from the same family are doing completely different things. Very cool. That’s what got me started on my research.

when did you discover McLean’s connection?

During the course of our investigation, one of our assistants, Megan Ho, McLean’s In the online archives, I found an underwater boat cover made by Arbuckle in September 1960. We had the original in our collection and it had been wrongly attributed up until then, so she recognized it. When we were able to get all the information about the piece that we had never seen before, it continued to spiral from there.

Franklin Arbuckle’s sketch of the Mackenzie Delta evolved into the cover image for the September 1960 edition. McLean’s magazine.

Franklin Arbuckle is McLean’s at an important time in Canadian history. Please tell me about it.

Franklin Arbuckle graced the magazine’s first cover in 1944. This was after World War II, and Canada was trying to build on this idea of ​​nationalism to separate itself from America. Under the direction of the magazine’s editor at the time, Arbuckle’s job was to show Canadians what this national identity looked like through his cover. He has covered landscapes, people and iconic places across the country.

He also designed the interiors of the rolling stock of the Canadian Pacific Railroad. It’s a way to get to every corner of the country that he depicts on the cover, and it’s really cool.

Franklin Arbuckle has over 100 covers for this magazine. How did you decide which works to exhibit?

It was hard. Frankly, I tried to find different things. I was also thinking about the audience and what they wanted, so I tried to add a bit of Ottawa content. On one cover you can see people in a children’s hospital. Another piece featuring the family cat, Charcoal, is more abstract. And there are also some landscapes.

Can you tell us a little more about how the theme of family plays out in the exhibition?

Arbuckle used his family as models for many of his works. For example, his daughter Robin, whom I interviewed and talked about, was the subject of several of his covers. We actually have a book she’s reading. Robin said it’s still on her family’s bookshelf!It will be on display along with sketches and the final design. On another cover she is older and reading a magazine. In a way, his cover shows how his family has evolved over the years.

And indeed, his other daughter, Candace, said her mother, Frances Ann, McLean’s I waited impatiently for Franklin to run upstairs to the printer with the very painting he was still finishing.

family palette will run until February 5, 2023 at OAG, followed by a tour to the Riverblink Art Museum, Niagara-on-the-Lake (April 21 to August 19, 2023) and the Judith and Norman Alix Art Gallery Embark. Sarnia (6 October 2023 to he March 17, 2024).

Inside a Canadian art gallery

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