CHARLOTTETOWN – An overview of the work of Arthur Heming, whose illustrations and paintings of Canada’s North played a key role in defining the image of Canada, opens this month at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery.
© Submitted photo
“The Head Hunter,” 1919, oil on canvas, Collection of the Royal Ontario Museum.
Organized by Museum London, “Arthur Heming: Chronicler of the North” opens Feb. 1, and examines the career of Heming (1870-1940), a celebrated artist, novelist, and illustrator. An avid northern explorer, his paintings, sketches, essays, and books helped to entrench perceptions of Canada as the ’Great White North’ both internationally and at home.
Many of Heming's paintings begin with natural elements, which he exaggerates into wild, even surreal compositions intended to accentuate the ‘virtues’ of Canada as a sort of snowy Eden. Heming’s approach differed radically from that of his contemporaries in the Group of Seven, who for decades set the very definition of Canadian art, as he matter-of-factly includes a landscape full of hardship and struggle.
Heming’s illustrations of northern wildlife, trappers, and aboriginal people were widely published throughout North America and Europe, and his three published novels “Spirit Lake,” “The Drama of the Forests,” and “The Living Forest” drew heavily from his expeditions in the North. Heming is noted as having traversed "550 miles by raft, 1,100 miles by dog team, 1,700 by snowshoe, and 3,300 by canoe" during his expeditions (“Canadian Men and Women of the Time,” 1912).
Although his best-known works are his later brightly coloured oil paintings, the artist worked exclusively in black, white, and yellow until he was 60 years old, having been erroneously informed at an early age that he was colour blind.
Born in Paris, Ont., and raised in Hamilton, he studied in New York and at the Old Lyme Art Colony in Connecticut under Frank DuMond, as well as in London with the Welsh master, Frank Brangwyn. He later became a member of the Arts and Letters Club of Toronto, the Society of Illustrators of New York, and was elected to the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 1934.
The artist’s paintings are held in the collection of the National Gallery of Canada, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Royal Ontario Museum, Canada House in London, England, General Motors of Canada, and many others throughout the world.
This traveling exhibition is accompanied by a comprehensive publication on Heming's life and work, available at the Art Gallery information desk.
The Gallery is open Wednesday to Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. For more information on this and several other new exhibits, visit confederationcentre.com/artgallery