Canadian Folk Art to 1950 Book Launch

Last weekend I had the pleasure to attend the book launch of Canadian Folk Art to 1950 and accompanying folk art exhibit at the Ingram Gallery in downtown Toronto. The gallery was a lovely space (they also exhibit an impressive selection of contemporary Canadian art) and the staff were very welcoming. It was a great chance to catch up a bit with Collectivator sellers, old family friends, and folk art enthusiasts alike. There was a small but inspiring selection of high quality Canadian folk art on exhibit and for sale, including substantial works from Ewald Rentz, Joe Norris, Leo Fournier and Gilbert Desrochers. Some of the pieces were sold by the time we left (and we only stayed an hour!) but the show will continue until the end of December 2012. If you are a collector in Toronto you will want to check it out.

The small gallery space was packed to the gills with people, so it was hard to take photographs, but here are some impressions of the event:

Book launch crowd

Two large figures by Ewald Rentz

Painting by Joe Norris and Woman with Child by Ewald Rentz

Phillip Ross & gallery owner John Ingram

While the folk art was great to see, it was also a fitting backdrop for a launch of the book Canadian Folk Art to 1950. It was a pleasure to meet the authors John Fleming and Michael Rowan, as well as photographer James Chambers. I haven’t had a chance to read the book cover to cover yet, but I am impressed by the scope of work featured. Everything from purely decorative folk art like paintings and carvings are covered, as well as utilitarian pieces like hooked rugs, plant stands, trade signs and pharmacies. There are just under 500 large beautifully photographed images with careful examination of each piece. The book is organized into seventeen sections that focus on a particular type of folk art and its importance to the folk art tradition, as well as the cultural history of Canada.

Michael Rowan, James Chambers and John Fleming

Author Michael Rowan, Photographer James Chambers, and Author John Fleming (photograph courtesy of Ingram Gallery)

When I spoke to photographer James Chambers he said it took over five years to put the book together and I can believe it. From what I have read so far, I think this is a book many Canadian history and folk art enthusiasts would enjoy. It also serves as a useful introduction to folk art for those just starting to appreciate this wonderful artistic tradition.

Book Cover

“Canadian Folk Art to 1950” book cover

There is more information about Canadian Folk art to 1950 in this PDF (canadian_folk_art), as well as on the Ingram Gallery website. You can buy the book from the Ingram Gallery, through the publishers at the University of Alberta press, or in bookstores. The holidays are coming and this would make a great gift for the folk art fan on your list! It is truly a major contribution to the Canadian folk art legacy. I know I am very happy to have a copy and will enjoy it for years to come.

Miniature Horse Head

Happy New Year! I hope 2012 is treating you well so far. Back at work and all that. So you may have noticed that my epic quest to write exhaustively about my vintage Christmas was a little thin in execution. I am still pretty happy with what I managed to write, but perhaps the lesson for next time is not to commit to blogging at the busiest time of the year. Or maybe the lesson is learn how to write faster and with greater discipline. If the lesson is to watch all 8 Harry Potter films and eat gingerbread cookies for a week then I’m pretty solid.

Anyway, this Christmas I was very blessed in the gift department. I received many nerdy toys like Nintendo Wii games and this crazy future alarm clock that promises to make waking up a glowing and bird call filled experience. I also received a few pieces of really amazing vintage folk art. My parents are folk art dealers so it’s not unusual to benefit from their knowledge and collections. Sill, I was really touched by their generosity. One piece I received was a miniature horse head by noted Ontario artist Albert Hoto:

This amazingly detailed horse head is from the Hoto family collection, and dated from about 1960. I just love the character and grace Hoto was able to achieve in such a small piece of carved and painted wood. Albert Hoto lived and worked on a farm, so I would like to think this tiny plaque is a testament to a particularly helpful and prized farm horse.

It may be difficult to tell from the photographs, but the piece is only about 5″ tall. Check it out next to a standard mechanical pencil:

Pretty great, right? Hoto started his creative work after retiring from farm life because he was bored and wanted something to pass the time. In his retirement years he created many wonderful small carvings that earned him prizes and praise from collectors. You can read more about Albert Hoto on my dad’s blog Shadfly Guy. His recent posts about Hoto include a short biography, the transcript of a 1953 newspaper article about Hoto, and a newspaper photograph of his work. Albert Hoto was a truly talented folk artist and I am so happy to have one of his pieces in our collection.