In 1925, Humberside Collegiate Institute, one of the oldest secondary schools in Toronto, commissioned Arthur Lismer of the Group of Seven to produce the largest painting of his career. This painting, named ‘The Humberside Mural’, was placed in storage until the 1990s when it was rediscovered and restored by Queen’s University (Canada), McMichael Canadian Art Collection, and the National Gallery of Canada. The painting was reinstalled in 1992 to celebrate the centenary of Humberside Collegiate Institute.
The painting stands out in Lismer’s ouvre with its monumental scale of 33 by 141 feet and the presence of figuration and narrative. The painting depicts a white-ethnonationalist interpretation of the European colonization of the Indigenous land that Canada is upon. When observed from left to right, the painting depicts the arrival of Europeans to North America, the installment of European ideals, the construction of a young white modern Canada. The painting is part of a white-ethnonationalist campaign that colloquially known as the ‘mural movement’ that was spearheaded by Lismer in the years following WW1. With sponsorship from private capital and public funds from the Canadian Government, the mural movement was designed to inspire white-ethnonationalism in Canadian schools through the production of ideologically driven murals.
In this video I return in Humberside Collegiate Institute, my alma mater, to perform the school’s song, ‘Hail Humberside’, and its cheer, ‘choik-atee-hoik’. The song has the aesthetics of a national anthem and the cheer has the aesthetics of a war cry. The video is part of a larger concern about the exaltation of the abstract landscape painting genre in Canada, and addressing the political economy that made abstract landscape painting so entrenched in Canada’s national ideology.
Lismer's beautiful white twisted fantasy (The Humberside Mural)
4k (3840 x 2160)next