Artist Profile: Arthur Lismer

Arthur Lismer was born in Sheffield, England in 1885 and studied at Sheffield School of Arts and later at the Academie Royale in Antwerp, Belgium. In 1911, he emigrated to Canada and first settled in Toronto before moving to Halifax, where he served as President of the Victoria School of Art and Design — now the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, from 1916–19.

Lismer’s work during wartime Halifax, capturing the unique ‘dazzle’ camouflage of warships, led to his commission as an official war artist.

Lismer also depicted the devastation of the Halifax Explosion of 1917, when his art school was used as a temporary morgue.

In addition to his artistic contribution, Lismer is credited with breathing new life into both the school and the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, recruiting students from diverse backgrounds for the school and bringing in established artists to exhibit in the gallery.In 1917, he wrote: “Art is the normal and rightful heritage of every individual.”His determination to share fine art continued into later life, when he created a children’s art education project with the Art Gallery of Ontario.

During his early days in Toronto, Lismer collaborated with other artists at the satirical magazine Grip. He went on to join them in 1920 in becoming the founding members of The Group of Seven. Known for their depictions of the Canadian wilderness, The Group of Seven helped define a national voice for contemporary Canadian painters of his generation.

A member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts and named a companion of the Order of Canada in 1967, Lismer died in Montréal in 1969.

The Government of Nova Scotia, on behalf of the people of Nova Scotia, has graciously presented the High Commission with a long term loan courtesy of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, of Lismer’s 1943 oil-on-canvas board Docks on the Bay of Fundy.

Related Stories