Arthur Lismer artist, educator (b Sheffield 27 June 1885; d Montreal 23 Mar 1969)
Arthur Lismer lived and worked in Montreal from the 1940s until his death in 1969. A founding member of the Group of Seven (with Franklin Carmichael, Lawren Harris, A.Y. Jackson, Franz Johnston, J.E.H. Macdonald and F.H. Varley), Lismer dedicated his life to art education. Still relatively unknown and with little teaching experience, Lismer began his career as Head of the Victoria School of Art (today NSCAD University) 1916-1919. From Halifax, he spent the next 20 years in Toronto, first as Vice-Principal, Ontario College of Art (OCA) and later as supervisor of art education, Art Gallery of Toronto (today Art Gallery of Ontario). He moved to Montreal in 1940 to join the Art Association of Montreal (today the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts), where he established the MMFA School of Art and Design as one of the premier Canadian art training centres.
Lismer joined the McGill School of Architecture as a sessional lecturer in 1943 at the invitation of John Bland, the School’s director, and was appointed assistant professor in 1945. There he taught: the History of Art and Theory of Design; Freehand Drawing; and led the Sketching School with Gordon Webber. Lismer retired from McGill in 1955 at the age of seventy.
Rare Books and Special Collections, McGill University holds some 30 sketches by Arthur Lismer, executed between 1940-1969, during his McGill tenure and into his retirement. Lismer sketched throughout his life, filling dozens of sketchbooks, but also captured the world and the people around him on scraps of paper, in the margins of flyers and programs, and on paper napkins.
The McGill sketches originated primarily in the Faculty Club, where Lismer stopped most days en route between the campus and his office at the museum. Many drawings are annotated by Richard Pennington, University Librarian, with whom Lismer dined regularly.Additional McGill sketches are held in the collections of the McGill Archives and by the Faculty Club. Caricatures drawn on the plaster walls of the Arts Building East Wing, before renovations, are also documented in the McGill Archives. Several Lismer paintings are included in the holdings of the McGill Visual Arts Collection.
Exhibition prepared by Jennifer Garland, Assistant Librarian, November 2014
On view in the Rare Books and Special Collections Reading Room until 31 January, 2014.