Artists' Mecca: Canadian Art and Mexico


60 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Bibliography
ISBN 1-895235-20-0
DDC 759.11'074'713




Reviewed by Pauline Carey

Pauline Carey is an actor, playwright and librettist and author of the
children’s books Magic and What’s in a Name?


In 1992 the Art Gallery of Ontario organized an exhibition that traced
the influence of Mexican art on Canadian artists during the mid-part of
this century. This catalogue from that show contains
illustrations—ranging from the work of Gordon Webber and Harry
Mayerovitch in the 1930s to that of Toni Onley in 1958—and an essay by
Christine Boyanoski, associate curator of Canadian historical art at the
AGO. For those interested in technical information, Sandra
Webster-Cook’s “A Short History of Pyroxylin-based Paints”
discusses a medium used in the past by Mexican muralists (in particular,
David Alfaro Siqueiros).

The few Mexican works in the exhibition serve to highlight the very
direct influence that the great muralists had on certain Canadian
artists, and the viewer’s first response to the Canadian works is how
very Mexican some of them look. I particularly liked the fluid use of
figures in Webber’s drawings.

Boyanoski’s lively essay on the historical development gives us
personal notes on Canadian artists who lived and worked in a country
where the light is warm and the living is cheap, as well as observations
from artists and critics who, whether or not they ever set foot in
Mexico, were very aware of what Canadians had to learn from Mexican art.
Writing in 1944, Barker Fairley trenchantly observed that “Canadian
painters . . . have painted rocks and trees and clouds and rapids . . .
but haven’t painted the people themselves. . . .”

This catalogue is full of “the people themselves.” It is a record
of a certain period in our artistic growth; it is also a limited but
valuable depiction of a people we will surely get to know better in the


Boyanoski, Christine., “Artists' Mecca: Canadian Art and Mexico,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 25, 2024,