Canadian Folk Art to 1950

Reviewed by Beverley Tallon

November 19, 2012

One is drawn into the pages of Canadian Folk Art to 1950 by its delightful cover, which shows a detail of a circa-1850 game board with a hunter and his dog painted in flat blocks of muted colour. On the first inside page, a couple gingerly holding hands is part of carved diorama. And thus starts the reader’s journey into the remarkable world of Canadian folk art.

The six pages of acknowledgements show the true scope of this massive and impressive volume. Authors John Fleming and Michael Rowan, along with photographer James A. Chambers, have produced an informative and beautifully illustrated book. The seventeen chapters are nicely divided into categories such as domestic life, country life, gardens, and myth and symbol.

Both decorative and utilitarian items are include among the over 425 featured artifacts. The photographs, which are impressively lit and cropped where appropriate, show everything from paintings to signage, furniture, carvings, crockery, whirligigs, quilts, rugs, toys, and weather vanes. The authors note that folk art offers “fragments of a lived reality.”

Photographs are accompanied by information about the object’s maker, its current owner, and other details, as well as brief descriptions that are often thought-provoking. The book concludes with notes, a bibliography, and a comprehensive index.

Canadian Folk Art to 1950 will make a great gift and would be a pleasing addition to any Canadian’s personal library.

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