We’ll soon be launching our new gallery of vintage Canadian graphic art. And, to give a foretaste of the scintillating and rare treasures we feel so lucky to have found, we’re dipping into an issue of that visually advanced American magazine, Fortune. While the text has some undisciplined and unflattering things to say about Depression-Era Canada’s economy, society and myths, the illustration department paints an absorbing story of wide open spaces and boundless hopes.
The vaguely nineteenth century American landscape touch here is excitingly (surrealistically) supplemented by the spectre of a petrochemical future in Alberta.
In 1938 Vancouver’s population was an outpost-thin 250,000; but this rendition gives it a vaguely pulp fiction twist.
That we have an x-ray of money tracks, first and foremost, is made strikingly clear in the attention given to Northern-Ontario gold-mine outpost, Kirkland Lake. But, those priorities aside, what an evocative slice of tank-town North Americana–shades of Edward Hopper!
The harbor of Montreal, in its appropriately gritty presence, being very American, very not French!
The Gallic capriciousness of Montreal is not ignored, however, a case that results in a charming vignette. Also present here is a bemusing assessment— “…these Montreal houses, no two alike, line block after block of Canada’s largest city (population including suburbs: 1,000,000). Garrisoned by an isolated community of 180,000 British, Montreal is the elder financial and commercial capital of the country. But the French run its kaleidoscopic politics, a dizzy mixture of fascism, corporatism, separatism, unionism, clericalism, and the passing around of the old tin box.”
“The tourist’s Quebec,” Montreal’s Old Town. I love the little Vuillard touch of widows in black, under that gazebo!
The caption is prosaic. “Three of 5700 line elevators— lonely arbiters between wide prairie and wide world.” But the illustration and visual production elements are pure and powerful poetry!
As non-picturesque a sense of the pulp and paper industry as you could find. But its raw, utilitarian overlay surprises us with a harsh excitement!
Where’s Toronto in all this? That it’s nowhere, speaks volumes about the drastic change of profile informing a contemporary viewer’s appreciation of such expressiveness.