Arthur Adamson: A Celebration


52 pages
Contains Photos
ISBN 1-897289-01-4
DDC 759.11




Reviewed by Kathy E. Zimon

Kathy E. Zimon is a fine arts librarian (emerita) at the University of
Calgary. She is the author of Alberta Society of Artists: The First 70
Years and co-editor of Art Documentation Bulletin of the Art Libraries
Society of North America.


Arthur Adamson is a Manitoba artist, scholar, teacher, poet, and critic.
This slim but richly illustrated volume consists of an artist’s
statement and brief texts by his friends and colleagues, including
poetry by George Amabile and an appreciative and analytic essay on his
art by Patricia Bovey. It was produced as a celebration on the occasion
of Adamson’s 80th birthday, in conjunction with an exhibition of his
work, a workshop, and a lecture.

A William Blake scholar, Adamson was already teaching English at the
University of Manitoba when he began his fine art studies at the
Winnipeg School of Art. At the time, abstract expressionism, taught by
visiting American artists at the Emma Lake workshops in Saskatchewan,
reigned even in Western Canada, but Adamson’s figurative work was
encouraged by his art school instructors George Swinton and Arnold
Saper. Adamson works in traditional media like oil or acrylic on canvas,
hardboard, or paper, watercolour, woodcut, and etching. Recurring
biblical subjects are the Expulsion, Raising of Lazarus, Jacob and the
Angel, and from mythology, the Fall of Icarus, along with occasional
portraits and shimmering waterscapes of Lake Winnipeg. The work is often
large scale, and although mostly figurative, is rooted in a sense of
place. The colours of the paintings are reminiscent of Matisse and the
Fauves, while the prints, especially the woodcuts, are powerful and
expressionistic—a unique vision in the Canadian context.

Frances Kaczoroski’s design of the volume reflects the
individualistic nature of the artist’s oeuvre: the slight volume’s
50 French-fold pages of matte, off-white paper provide substance and
save the colour and black-and-white reproductions from bleeding through,
with some continuing over the folded fore-edge to the next page. The
novel book design, varied layout, some pages in unconventional green and
orange, and the velvety black cover with negative images of the prints
in silver convey the artist’s bold palette and style with elegance.
Although a paperback, this book celebrates not only the artist, but the
art of book design as well.


Adamson, Arthur, with George Amabile and Patricia Bovey., “Arthur Adamson: A Celebration,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 21, 2024,