Ernst Neumann

By Judith Enright-Smith
Artist and printmaker Ernst Neumann was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1907. His family immigrated to Canada five years later, taking up residence in Montreal, Quebec.

Conté and pencil drawing of a young man seated at a drawing board looking at the viewer. It is signed EN31.

Self-portrait by Ernst Neumann, dated 1931 (MIKAN 3028626)

Following high school, Neumann began his artistic studies at both the École des Beaux-Arts de Montréal and the Art Association of Montreal. At the latter, Neumann met and studied with Canadian painter and engraver Edwin Holgate (MIKAN 3929083), renowned in the Montreal art scene at that time. Holgate was responsible for cultivating Neumann’s interest in and enthusiasm for wood engraving and printmaking.

An etching of a female nude seated, holding her face and resting her elbows on bent knees.

“Seated Nude,” dated 1935 (MIKAN 3025069)

Neumann made a consistent and meaningful living working as an artist. He created and sold commercial prints of Montreal’s streets and other urban scenes as well as portraits of the city’s social elite. However, Neumann found his true passion in depicting the marginalized of society during the Great Depression. These engravings of the poor and unemployed would often appear in the less mainstream Montreal newspapers and periodicals, particularly those with a left-leaning perspective.
In 1936, together with fellow École des Beaux-Arts de Montréal graduate Goodridge Roberts, Neumann opened the Roberts-Neumann School of Art. The school provided classes in painting and drawing as well as art appreciation. It remained open for only three years.

An etching of a person walking downhill along a snowy path toward a city, with its buildings visible through the trees.

“Descent from Mt. Royal,” signed and dated 1951 (MIKAN 3025050)

Neumann was also a member of an unofficial collective of Montreal artists later termed by art historian Esther Trépanier as the “Jewish Painters of Montreal.” According to Trépanier in Jewish Painters of Montreal: Witnesses of Their Time, 1930–1948, this group of artists, whose members also included Harry Mayerovitch and Ghitta Caisserman-Roth to name a few, were responsible for “… [depicting] the social realism of Montreal during the 1930s and 1940s.”

A lithograph of a harbour landscape with the slightest suggestion of boat masts, buildings and construction.

Montreal Harbour, dated 1935 (MIKAN 3024945)

The Ernst Neumann fonds at Library and Archives Canada was acquired from a private donor in 2005 and 2010. It consists of 156 etchings and lithographs, 49 drawings, 5 watercolours and 36 printing plates. The textual material includes a small amount of Neumann’s personal correspondence along with some catalogues.

Funded by a fellowship grant, Ernst Neumann travelled to Europe in 1956. In March of that year, while visiting a fellow artist in France, Neumann suffered a heart attack, and died at the early age of 49. His remains were brought back and interred in Montreal thanks to the generosity of his peers.


Judith Enright is an archival assistant in the Aboriginal and Social Affairs Section of the Private Archives Branch of Library and Archives Canada.

Images from the Peter Winkworth Collection now on Flickr 

The Peter Winkworth Collection at Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is a nationally significant, rare and valuable art collection that documents more than four centuries of Canadian history. This comprehensive collection is a testament to Peter Winkworth’s commitment to preserving Canada’s early art forms and heritage.

Peter Winkworth inherited his love for collecting from his family. He had all the qualities and attributes necessary to make a great collector: knowledge, a keen eye, resources and a sustained passion. After a devastating accident that cost him his leg, Winkworth began studying Canadiana seriously and devoted the next 50 years of his life to building one of the largest private collections of Canadiana art. He passed away in 2005 at the age of 76.

In 2002, with the assistance of funds from the Government of Canada, the National Archives of Canada purchased more than 700 watercolours and drawings, more than 3,300 prints and nine paintings from Winkworth’s London-based collection. In 2008, LAC acquired a further 1,200 works of art from his collection, thus keeping the bulk of this irreplaceable treasure intact. These works of art are now preserved at LAC for future generations to discover.

Visit the Flickr album!

Images of Canadian war artists now on Flickr

Canadian War Artists brings together the portraits of eighteen Canadian war artists who painted during the Second World War. These portraits, from the collections of Library and Archives Canada are accompanied by short biographies.

Empire Marketing Board

By Judith Enright

More than 800 posters and poster designs were produced by the Empire Marketing Board (EMB) in the early part of the 20th century. Library and Archives Canada is custodian to 379 of these posters which represent a unique sampling from this bold and beautiful British marketing campaign.

Started in 1926 by Secretary of State for the Colonies Leopold Amery, the Board’s mandate was straightforward—to encourage and promote trade without tariffs between Great Britain and her colonies, and to lead the British population away from the purchase of foreign goods and support buying and consuming all things British.

A colour print showing two men sawing a tree trunk on the left and three men planting trees on the right, with the caption, “Timber in Canada.”

Timber in Canada (MIKAN 2845125)

Colour print of a metal crane and two men loading a trailer, with the caption “Our Steel for Australia”

Our Steel for Australia (MIKAN 2845006)

Through newspaper advertising campaigns, pamphlets, hand bills, films, radio programs, and poster displays, the EMB set out to achieve its goal of “Bringing the Empire Alive” to Britain and its colonies. For its poster displays, the EMB commissioned some of the most reputable and notable artists and designers of the time, including Manitoba-born poster artist Austin Cooper.

A black-and-white photo of a man in an evening suit standing beside a poster on the wall.

Photo of Austin Cooper by Sydney Carter (MIKAN 3245241)

Using bold lettering and vibrant colours, the EMB posters were meant to be dynamic and eye-catching. Some of the posters were also gender-specific, depicting men as “Empire builders” and women as consumers. In Britain, the posters were placed on specially designed billboards and in shop windows in over 450 towns and cities. In the colonies, where the advertising campaign was less aggressive, posters could be found on the walls of many high-traffic areas such as stores and factories. Although some posters were meant to be seen as a single image, other posters were designed to tell their story through a sequence of three to five images, an approach often compared to reading a comic strip.

A colour print of a grocery store with signs advertising that many of the products are Canadian. In the front of the store, a woman is having a discussion with the grocer. The poster has the caption, “The Wise Shopkeeper and the Good Housewife.”

The Wise Shopkeeper and the Good Housewife (MIKAN 2844979)

A colour print of a woman wearing a long dress and holding a cup of tea, standing beside a side table with a tea tray, with the caption, “Drinking Empire-Grown Tea.”

Drinking Empire-Grown Tea (MIKAN 2844932)

The posters held by Library and Archives Canada were received between 1926 and 1933 and form a sub-series of the Canadian Department of Industry, Trade and Commerce fonds. The majority of these posters are dedicated to Canadian themes and goods, however products from other colonies are represented as well.

A colour print of a man walking in front of a well-lit grocery store with advertisements for Empire products. Men and women are going in and out the shop.

Far-left panel of the advertisement, “John Bull, Sons and Daughters” (MIKAN 2845188)

A colour print of men loading wooden barrels on a boat, with the caption, “Canadian Apples for the United Kingdom.”

Canadian Apples for the United Kingdom (MIKAN 2844965)

In 1932, Ottawa hosted the British Empire Economic Conference held to discuss the economic repercussions of the Great Depression. It was here that the practice of “Imperial Preference” was inaugurated, resulting in restricted tariffs within the British Empire and raised tariffs for countries outside the Empire. As a consequence, the Board was no longer necessary and was dissolved in 1933.

A colour print of a tiger and underneath is the caption, “Buy Singapore Pineapples in Tins.”

Buy Singapore Pineapples in Tins (MIKAN 2845035)

A colour print showing the crests of India, South Africa and Canada, with the caption, “Smoke Empire Tobacco.”

Smoke Empire Tobacco (MIKAN 2844917)

To view these posters, visit the Flickr set or explore the Empire Marketing Board by looking through the lower-level descriptions.


Judith Enright is an archival assistant in the Aboriginal and Social Affairs Section of the Private Archives Branch of Library and Archives Canada.

Library and Archives Canada releases its latest podcast episode, “Peter Rindisbacher: Beauty by Commission”

Library and Archives Canada is releasing its latest podcast episode, “Peter Rindisbacher: Beauty by Commission”.

In this episode, we discuss the life of Peter Rindisbacher, an artist that immigrated to Canada from Switzerland with his family when he was just 15. Living in the Red River Colony from 1821 to 1826, he became the first artist to paint and sketch the Canadian west.

We sit down with Gilbert Gignac, former collections manager at Library and Archives Canada, to talk about Rindisbacher’s transition from Europe to Canada, and the impact he had on Canadian visual culture.

Subscribe to our podcast episodes using RSS or iTunes, or just tune in at Podcast–Discover Library and Archives Canada: Your History, Your Documentary Heritage.

For more information, please contact us at bac.balados-podcasts.lac@canada.ca.

Images by Jean-Joseph Girouard now on Flickr

Jean-Joseph Girouard (1794–1855) was a notary, an amateur artist, and a member of the Parti Patriote in Lower Canada during the first part of the 19th century. The Parti Patriote was a political party that sought political reform and rallied for French Canadian cultural heritage, rights and interests.

Girouard was incarcerated twice for his role in the Rebellion. He maintained a notarial office and, unexpectedly, an artist’s studio while imprisoned in Montreal.

“If my work has stirred any interest in our country and its past, I am more than paid”––Charles William Jefferys

Charles William Jefferys (August 25, 1869 – October 8, 1951) determined that Canada needed a visual history and a national mythology and he would create it. He chose to portray Canada’s epic events of discovery, courage, war and nation-building. His images placed an almost mythological importance on the nation’s historical events.

In the early 20th century Canadians struggled to define what it meant to be Canadian and how to express their budding feelings of nationalism. Jefferys’ work reflects this and; his historical illustrations are an expression of this growing nationalism. They are representative of the period, and may not be how we would define ourselves today.

A pen and black ink drawing of four men standing and a vignette of four head portraits of other men wearing hats.

Métis Prisoners, North-West Rebellion, 1885 (MIKAN 2834663)

Some of his illustrations were faithfully copied from existing images such as portraits or photographs, while others were based on meticulous historical research on period costumes. In either case, he strove to accurately portray all aspects of early Canadian life. Continue reading

Images by Charles William Jefferys now on Flickr

Charles William Jefferys (August 25, 1869 – October 8, 1951) determined that Canada needed a visual history and a national mythology and he would create it. He chose to portray Canada’s epic events of discovery, courage, war and nation-building. His images placed an almost mythological importance on the nation’s historical events.

In the early 20th century Canadians struggled to define what it meant to be Canadian and how to express their budding feelings of nationalism. Jefferys’ work reflects this and; his historical illustrations are an expression of this growing nationalism. They are representative of the period, and may not be how we would define ourselves today.

Journey to Red River 1821—Peter Rindisbacher

By William Benoit

Peter Rindisbacher was 15 years old when he immigrated to Selkirk’s Red River settlement in 1821. Already an accomplished artist when he arrived in North America, he produced a series of watercolours documenting the voyage to Rupert’s Land and life in the settlement. His watercolours from the Red River area are among the earliest images of western Canada. Peter Rindisbacher is considered the first pioneer artist of the Canadian and the American West.

Library and Archives Canada is possibly the largest holder of Rindisbacher’s works. Viewing the Rindisbacher watercolours in sequence allows Canadians to appreciate the difficulty of the journey to the Red River.

A watercolour on wove paper showing an anchored three-masted sailing ship surrounded by skiffs bringing passengers and loading supplies.

Departure from Dordrecht under Captain James Falbister, May 30, 1821. The English colonist transport ship Wellington of 415 tons. (MIKAN 2835769)

On May 30, 1821, Rindisbacher and his family left Dordrecht in the Netherlands with a contingent of mostly Swiss emigrants aboard the Lord Wellington, bound for York Factory, in what is now Manitoba, on Hudson Bay. During the sea voyage, Rindisbacher sketched icebergs, the Inuit and other ships. The route would take the settlers past the Orkney Islands and Greenland.

A watercolour on wove paper showing an anchored three-masted sailing ship surrounded by skiffs bringing passengers and loading supplies.

Departure from Dordrecht under Captain James Falbister, May 30, 1821. The English colonist transport ship Wellington of 415 tons (MIKAN 2835770)

Continue reading

Martha Louise Black: First Lady of the Yukon

By Katie Cholette

A signed and matted black-and-white photograph of a woman smiling, dated 1932.

Martha Louise Black, 1932. Photographer: Pierre Brunet (MIKAN 3212693)

Hidden among the millions of items in the collection of Library and Archives Canada are a set of 10 floral postcards. Unassuming in size, and modest in subject matter, they were produced by an exceptional and adventurous woman named Martha Louise Black (née Munger). Dubbed “First Lady of the Yukon,” and the second woman elected to Canada’s House of Commons, Martha Black was an astute businesswoman, an expert on the wildflowers of the Yukon and British Columbia, an author and lecturer, and the recipient of several honours. February 24, 2016 marks the 150th anniversary of her birth. Continue reading