CANADIAN PRAIRIE WATERCOLOUR LANDSCAPES

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LIONEL LEMOINE FITZGERALD, Yellow Trees at Assiniboine Park, nd. Winnipeg Art Gallery.
Not in Mendel exhibition

L. L. FITZGERALD, 1890-1956, lived his entire life in Winnipeg. He was attracted to drawing at an early age after reading The Elements of Drawing by John Ruskin, the great Victorian art critic. Ruskin was enormously influential in the throughout the latter half of the 19th century, though his conflation of truth to nature and morality doesn't strike a responsive chord today. Yet, considering his isolation, FitzGerald was a remarkable artist, attempting in his own way to reconcile modernism with truth to nature. His style is delicate and rather pointillist, combining something of the softness of some Victorian watercolours with the precision and subtlety of Neo-Impressionists like Seurat. (He also admired the work of he 20th century American, Charles Sheeler.) Curiously, FitzGerald was admitted as the final member of the Group of Seven (replacing the deceased J. E. H. Macdonald) in 1931, though he exhibited with the Group only once before it disbanded in 1933. His style -- intimate, urban, hardly robust -- seems in many respects antithetical to the manner and ideals of the Group. Curiously, the work of his colleague in Winnipeg, W. J. Phillips seems closer in spirit to the Group of Seven.


TERRY FENTON