Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
spiritual-materialist, etc.). The call of the conservative critic Camille
Roy to treat Canadian subjects in a Canadian manner - 'Traiter des su-
jets canadiens et les traiter d'une façon canadienne' 2 - is widely heeded,
and as regionalists and exotics alike take up the question of national
specificity, along with the obvious factors of language and religion, the
less evident but ever-present landscape appears.
Specific to the northern North American landscape is, of course, the
topography: the rugged terrain, winding rivers, broad lakes, and prime-
val forests explored by the Ontario-based Group of Seven painters, but
also the unique combination of rivers and mountains alongside fields
and villages of the Laurentian valley, featured in Quebec art. Specific to
the landscape also is the climate, especially the radical transformations
brought on by changes of season: the autumn colours, the wintry snows,
the spring thaws, and the summer sun. Specific also is the North American
flora for a writer like Frère Marie-Victorin and its 'snowscapes' for paint-
ers like Marc-Aurèle de Foy Suzor-Coté, Maurice Cullen, James Wilson
Morrice, and Clarence Gagnon. Both phenomena lie on the side of 'na-
ture,' but art itself is a form of 'culture,' fast becoming all the more self-
standing and 'Canadian' in the early twentieth century.
The turn of the century also marks a turning point in landscape rep-
resentation, both visual and verbal. Rather than focus on the descrip-
tion of objects, as in Jean Rivard , or the reflection of an observer, as in
Angéline de Montbrun , the landscape begins to involve observation it-
self, the mutual transformation of the landscape and the viewer by the
very act of seeing, a dynamic process involving at once reception and
projection. Rather than reworking nature through artistic pruning, as in
Jean Rivard , or seeking analogues for ones feelings, as in Angéline de
Montbrun , nature is transformed through the lens of culture, inherent in
vision. And if culture tended to take the form of religion in the short
story (chapter two) and agriculture in the early novel (chapter three), it
assumes the status of art in the early twentieth century, and a specific
type of art that accommodates the changes and complexity inherent in
its natural and cultural context.
Beyond the imposition of a rational order on the setting (as in the
Classical manner) or the investment of emotion in specific places (as in
the Romantic mode), the modern landscape is transformed by percep-
tion and artistry, by the vision of the artist. It is no accident that this
crucial period in Canadian painting and literature coincides with the
dominance of French Impressionism, which involves new ways of see-
ing and representing the landscape. With its innovative approaches to
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