‘Village In Winter’ by Thomas Keith Roberts is an iconic Canadian print contained in the Sampson-Matthews collection

Iconic silkscreens reveal secrets of our past

An iconic collection of Canadian pride is currently on exhibit at the Alberni Valley Museum.

An iconic collection of Canadian pride is currently on exhibit at the Alberni Valley Museum.

The Sampson-Matthews Project: Art for the Nation features work from well-known Canadian artists such as the Group of Seven and Emily Carr, in a exhibit curated by Ian Sigvaldason of Pegasus Gallery of Canadian Art on Salt Spring Island.

The prints, silkscreens on cardboard produced from 1942–63, were part of a publicly sponsored effort by Sampson-Matthews to contribute to building Canadian identity.

“The idea was to make people appreciate the aesthetic of Canada,” museum director Jamie Morton said.

“When you talk to people, they remember seeing these images…it’s fairly evocative stuff.”

One image, Mist Fantasy by James Edward Hervey MacDonald, founding member of the Group of Seven, was also made into a 15-cent postage stamp in 1973 to commemorate MacDonald’s 100th birthday.

Thomas Keith Roberts focused on everyday urban and rural life in Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes, which appealed to Canadians.

Many of the pieces are based on oil paintings, and many of the originals are in the National Gallery in Ottawa, Morton said.

“It’s pretty exciting.”

Sigvaldason has also produced a book on the exhibit.

Curator Kirsten Smith has assembled catalogues detailing each of the paintings and the backstory for each artist. Borrow one and take it around the exhibit to learn more about each silkscreen print.

Art for the Nation will be on display at the AV Museum until May 6. This is the only out-of-town exhibit the museum will display this year. The next show, Pirates, opens in June.

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