The Art of Fred Ross: A Timeless Humanism


102 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-86492-170-5
DDC 759.11





Reviewed by Virgil Hammock

Virgil Hammock is head of the Canadian section of the International
Association of Art Critics and chair of the Fine Arts Department, Mount
Allison University.


Fred Ross is likely the least-known major-league artist of the Maritime
Realist school. Unlike most of the artists of this school, who studied
fine arts at Mount Allison University, Ross came directly out of the
Depression milieu of Saint John, N.B. But what he did share with them
was a sense of physical isolation from Canada’s mainstream art world.

The Depression was particularly rough on its artists, who in turn
reflected the social upheavals of the era in their art. Ross at first
wanted to become both a social realist and a mural painter in the
tradition of Diego Rivera, and went to Mexico in 1949 to study with
muralist Pablo O’Higgins, an American communist expatriate who had
studied with Rivera and at the Moscow Academy of Art. Back in Saint
John, Ross completed several murals—all of which are no longer in
existence. Fortunately, the cartoons and photographs of them that have
survived show the artist’s mastery of the medium. The book covers this
period of Ross’s life particularly well. It also details later
developments of Ross’s long career—the most important being the
influence of Balthus on Ross, which resulted in a change from
working-class concerns to those of eroticism. The book’s only major
flaw is the lack of a biographical chronology and a list of the
artist’s major exhibitions, which would have made it more useful.

One hopes this excellent catalogue by Beaverbrook Art Gallery curator
Tom Smart will bring this very fine artist the wider recognition he


Smart, Tom., “The Art of Fred Ross: A Timeless Humanism,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 28, 2024,