FOR BRANT NEWS
One of the many truly exciting aspects of my position as executive director and curator at Glenhyrst Art Gallery of Brant is becoming well acquainted with the gallery’s permanent collection.
So imagine my pleasure when the grandson of one of Canada’s finest artists walked into my office asking if he could see the gallery’s example of his grandfather’s work, providing me an opportunity to learn more about this artist.
The grandson was none other than John Brooker, now the executor for the artist Bertram Brooker. Adding to my pleasure is the fact that during my undergraduate years in fine arts at York University, I had not only studied Bertram Brooker’s work, but had been fascinated by his paintings.
Adam Lauder, W.P. Scott chair for research in e-librarianship at York University, credits Brooker as being the first Canadian to have a solo exhibition of abstract art in Canada. Brooker was born in 1888 in England and moved with his family to Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, when he was 17 years old.
Later, Brooker moved to Toronto and in 1923 he became acquainted with members of the Group of Seven. It was under the sponsorship of Arthur Lismer and Lawren Harris that Brooker mounted his solo exhibition of abstract paintings at the Arts and Letters Club.
Toronto was not ready for this exhibition. As Lauder writes: “Ironically, it is this quality of being out of joint with his own time and place that makes his work so prescient today.”
Despite the raw reception of his advanced work in the late 1920s, Brooker went on to exhibit with the Group of Seven and his work would become a focus of attention after the 1970s, when Dennis Reid of the National Gallery of Canada curated an exhibit of
Canadian abstraction that displayed Brooker’s artwork as a leading force in modernism.
Bertram Brooker is now the subject of much academic research, not only for his painting, but also his success in many other areas, including advertising, film, editing and writing. He was vice president of MacLaren Advertising and worked there until the year he died, 1955. In 1937, he won the first ever Governor General’s Award for fiction for his novel Think of the Earth.
Please come into the gallery and view Bertram Brooker’s creative and intriguing, Abstract #3.
Marcia Lea is executive director and curator of Glenhyrst Art Gallery of Brant.