The Kingston Conference Proceedings
Michael Bell and Frances K. Smith



Year: 1991
6" x 9"
ISBN: 0-88911-535-4
$15.00 softcover

In late June 1941 over 150 artists, museum directors, art historians and interested laypersons from all regions of Canada gathered at Queen’s University. They met on the lawns of the Queen’s University campus in Kingston and engaged in lively evening sessions in the university common rooms to discuss the place of artist in society and technical concerns of the painter. This was the first time that artists from across Canada had ever met together. It was war-time. The Kingston Artists Conference commenced with a nation-wide radio broadcast by the outspoken American regionalist painter Thomas Hart Benton who declared upon the role of the artist in war-time society. The philosophical position of the conference was staked out in the first evening session by a young academic and critic, Walter Abell, who taught at Acadia University at Wolfville Island (Nova Scotia). Abell provided the definition of “art” and “democracy” and ruminated on their relationship in Canada, the only country in the Americas at war defending democratic values from fascism and totalitarianism. Nearly every Canadian artist of any importance, then and for the next two decades, was in attendance, many travelling with tickets paid for by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. Some of those not able to attend (Lawren Harris for example) sent their suggestions and comments by mail. While the war intensified in Europe and the Anglo-Canadian citizenry vigorously supported Britain’s war effort, either through active service overseas or in the war industries which were gearing up to supply the needs of the military, Canadian artists from every region had come together in a warm late June on the shores of Lake Ontario to discuss the position of the artist in Canadian society.

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