Date of this Version
Great Plains Quarterly Volume 28, Number 4, Fall 2008, pp. 337.
Alberta Art and Artists is a modest book with large ambitions. It is first and foremost an introduction to the historic and contemporary visual arts within the western Canadian province. But it is also a declaration that this art supports a "confident difference," a unique provincial identity that distinguishes it from other regions.
The two authors are well positioned to undertake the volume's double task. Patricia Ainslie, who served as curator and vice president of collections at the Glenbow Museum and Archives in Calgary, contributes two historical sections. Following a sampling of First Nations productions, she directs the reader to exploratory topographical and picturesque landscapes and early portraiture up to 1920. A series of short subsections corresponds to developments such as the introduction of the Mounted Police, the railways, and colonization. Moving into the mid-twentieth century, she links the work to the creation of an emerging "Sense of Place" in a province situated both in the prairies and next to the mountains. She then documents the somewhat late introduction of modernism and abstraction, which took on distinctive forms within the region, frequently in response to the specific qualities of the land. Her second section ends at 1970.