Discovering art through film

EducationReviews

The following is a guest post from our former editor, Nancy Barr.

Hi! I’m filling in for Carolyne Weldon this week. I worked at the NFB for 10 years so it’s good to be back.

The news this week is filling my head with art. An oil painting by Kathleen Moir Morris just sold at auction in Toronto for $129,800. Morris was one of the founders of the Beaver Hall Hill Group, begun in 1920 by a group of young Montreal women artists. The first NFB film I ever saw was By Woman’s Hand, which introduced me to three prominent members of this group — Prudence Heward, Sarah Robertson and Anne Savage. I moved to Canada in my late 20s so this was a glorious discovery!

I later learned about another woman artist, one who never took a drawing lesson in her life and didn’t enjoy the mutual support of a group like the Beaver Hall Group. Again my discovery was through NFB films: The Illuminated Life of Maud Lewis, which you can see at the Toronto Mediatheque and the CineRobotheque in Montreal.

Maud Lewis: A World Without Shadows is another doc that celebrates Maud. Despite crippling arthritis, this folk artist made joyous paintings and Christmas cards. She also lovingly decorated the tiny house she shared with her husband. It had no plumbing or electricity but the outside and inside boasted her beautiful folk art. The film will be available at NFB.ca in the New Year, but you can also buy the DVD at our iStore.

On a visit to Halifax, I made a pilgrimage to the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, especially to see Maud’s house, which had been restored and transported to the museum after the couple died. You can take a virtual tour here.

I just discovered a 2006 animation film about Vincent van Gogh entitled Painted Tales – Almond Blossoms. It’s adapted from the O. Henry story “The Last Leaf.” The iStore is offering it now at a special price. While you’re there, you can check out the entire Painted Tales Series.