The Canadian Group of Painters (CGP) began as a collective of twenty-eight artists from across Canada. Formed in 1933 as a direct outgrowth of the Group of Seven, the CGP was the first group to aspire to cross-country representation of modern artists. The group was intentionally diverse; it included women, who made up almost one-third of the membership. Indeed it was Isabel McLaughlin, life-long patron of the RMG, who was elected the first non-Group of Seven (and first female) president in 1939, a position she held for more than six years.
CGP exhibitions travelled across Canada and the US, often raising debate and controversy on the state of art and culture in Canada. The subject matter had great variety, and included figurative works, landscapes, abstraction, and realism. What made the group such a vital force was its engagement with modern life—in subject matter, artistic approach and social activity—against the background of the Depression, World War II and postwar reconstruction.
The CGP brought together many of Canada’s most recognized artists such as B.C. Binning, Jack Bush, Emily Carr, Charles Comfort, Paraskeva Clark, Prudence Heward, Yvonne McKague Housser, Jock Macdonald, Pegi Nicol MacLeod, and Isabel McLaughlin, among others, who showcased powerful works of art for a national audience. The works presented in A Vital Force: The Canadian Group of Painters are from the group’s first twenty years of exhibitions, from 1933 to 1953. This is the first major touring exhibition to focus exclusively on the CGP by bringing together significant paintings from public and private collections across Canada.
This exhibition is organized and circulated by the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, in partnership with The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, and Queen’s University Archives, with the generous support of the Museums Assistance Program, Department of Canadian Heritage.