A perennial question that continues to come up in various fora that I belong to. Also one to which I, like most “artists”, have given a great deal of thought. I thought I would do a series of posts on the subject, as much to organize my own thoughts on the matter as anything. My first is just a quote from Wikipedia
Art refers to a diverse range of human activities and artifacts, and may be used to cover all or any of the arts, including music, literature and other forms. It is most often used to refer specifically to the visual arts, including media such as painting, sculpture, and printmaking. However it can also be applied to forms of art that stimulate the other senses, such as music, an auditory art. Aesthetics is the branch of philosophy which considers art.
Traditionally the term art was used to refer to any skill or mastery, a concept which altered during the Romantic period, when art came to be seen as “a special faculty of the human mind to be classified with religion and science”.
Generally art is a (product of) human activity, made with the intention of stimulating the human senses as well as the human mind; by transmitting emotions and/or ideas. Beyond this description, there is
no general agreed-upon definition of art. Art is also able to illustrate abstract thought and its expressions can elicit previously hidden emotions in its audience.
I went to Riverbrink today, Jonathan was playing at their open house and I have been meaning to go there for years. They have a lovely location and an impressive collection, supplemented at the moment by loans from galleries in New York.
Samuel Edward Weir, Q.C. was born in 1898, and was a lawyer in London, Ontario. He began collecting art in his twenties; pieces by Homer Watson and Dame Laura Knight (I hadn’t known her work before, really nice) were among the first. In the 1940s he bought land along the Niagara River, in the village of Queenston and built a house there which he called Riverbrink. He retired there in 1970 and died in 1981, leaving his home and art collection in the care of The Weir Foundation. It officially opened as a gallery and museum on June 15, 1983.
Exhibits are changed annually, with almost 200 artworks on display each year. Of 1,000 or so pieces of fine art in the collection, almost seventy percent are Canadian. The other thirty percent is by American and European artists, including pieces by Jacob Epstein and Augustus John.
This is a pretty impressive collection, especially with the addition of the extra paintings currently on loan from a couple of galleries in New York. My favourites are probably, the Augustus John sketches of Canadian soldiers from WW1, the oil study for “The Jack Pine” by Tom Thomson and a charming and very typical Paul Peel that would probably have got him put in jail for kiddie porn if he painted it today. Also the Laura Knight charcoal and watercolour paintings are lovely.
“A man who works with his hands is a laborer; a man who works with his hands and his mind is a craftsman; but a man who works with his hands and his brain and his heart is an artist.”….. St. Thomas Aquinas Just found this on someone else’s blog. I will check the attribution.
Just goes to show you should always check attribution. On further research I have discovered that this quote has also been attributed to Louis Nizer who was also supposed to have come up with “A beautiful lady is an accident of nature. A beautiful old lady is a work of art.”
Of course Nizer lived several hundred years after St. Thomas, so it might have been an appropriation.
St. Thomas apparently did say: ” The test of the artist does not lie in the will with which he goes to work, but in the excellence of the work he produces.“
Hugh and James McSloy established the Canada Hair Cloth Company in 1884. In 1888 they bought a parcel of land behind St. Paul Street from the Dolphin Paint Company and built a 3 storey brick building. The site was ideal because it was next to a mill-race where water wheels provided the power to run the machines. Within a few years they bought an electrical generator which used the mill wheel as its turbine making it the first company in St. Catharines to use electricity. The Canada Hair Cloth business stayed in the family until sold in 1996.
The Welland Canal was the first Canadian canal built for both transportation and waterpower (1824 & 1833). St. Catharines was one of the main water-powered industrial centers along the canal. Remains of the raceways can still be seen behind the Canada Hair Cloth building and the name Race Street reminds us of the city’s hydraulic heritage.