Cobalt, Ontario—some 500 kilometres north of Toronto—was established in 1904 following the discovery of rich silver, cobalt, ore, and nickel deposits. At peak production in 1911, Cobalt provided approximately one eighth of the world’s silver. In its heyday, the story of Cobalt was known around the world, and the town attracted miners, scientists, scholars, and of course, artists. This exhibition showcases the work of the artists who visited and documented Cobalt and its silver mines between the First and Second World Wars, after much of the natural resource deposits were depleted. Among them was a rising generation of Canadian modern painters which included Yvonne McKague Housser, Bess Larkin Housser Harris, Isabel McLaughlin, Frederick Banting, A.Y. Jackson, and Franklin Carmichael. These artists created works that depicted Canada as a new, modern industrial nation in step with the future—a contrast to the better-known works from this period that picture Canada as untouched wilderness. While some artists conjured Cobalt as a heroic bastion of industry and enterprise, others focused on the town’s grit and dishevelment. This exhibition and its accompanying publication will explore both sides of this dynamic relationship and shine new light on the settler relationship with the natural landscape.
This exhibition is guest curated by Dr. Catharine Mastin.