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September 26, 2002 Lost works by Anne Savage now belong to Concordia



Indian Fur Traders by Anne Savage

Indian Fur Traders (c. 1930)

Anne Savage at work

Anne Savage at work.

by Susan Font

Anne Savage was just 27 when she became the art teacher at Baron Byng High School on St. Urbain St., and right from the outset, she wanted to help her students to value art in their daily life.

She did it by inspiring them to sketch and paint freely, and by bringing art into the classroom. She was daring and different, especially in 1922, and she became one of Canada’s most prominent female artists and a legendary teacher.

Students became art educators

When Professor Emerita Leah Sherman looks at Savage’s paintings, recently displayed in the Leonard and Bina Ellen Art Gallery, she’s looking back in time.

Sherman was one of those dazzled students who went on to make art education her career. Artist Alfred Pinsky, who, with Sherman, founded what became the Faculty of Fine Arts and was its first dean, was another former student.

In Savage’s own work (right), movement is captured in the rounded shapes that flow into each other in a rhythmic, dynamic composition. She was strongly influenced by the Group of Seven, now icons of Canadian nationalism because of their distinctive aesthetic, especially of landscape painting.

The young teacher brightened up the drab library of what was then a new building by painting a series of large murals, each depicting an element of Canadian history. Three of the murals went into storage when the school closed in 1980. (The former Baron Byng now houses the offices of Sun Youth.)

Sherman appealed to the PSBGM Cultural Heritage Foundation and asked that they be donated to Concordia. It took 20 years of negotiation, but the murals, including one particularly beautiful native scene in rich umber and sienna, are now part of the Ellen Gallery’s permanent collection.