Mayberry Fine Art is pleased to present a collection of oil silkscreen prints produced by Sampson-Matthews during the Second World War and post-war years.
November 9 - December 2, 2023
At the start of World War ll, Group of Seven artist A.Y. Jackson proposed that high-quality silkscreen prints (serigraphs) of paintings by some of Canada’s most acclaimed artists be produced and shipped to every Canadian Armed Forces unit for display in mess halls and barracks in Europe and beyond.
Jackson hoped the art would remind soldiers on the frontline what they were fighting for and would be coming home to. Jackson had served as a war artist in World War I and recalled how barren the barracks were.
In partnership with the National Gallery of Canada and the Government of Canada, Jackson and fellow artist A.J. Casson worked with expert Toronto printer Sampson-Matthews to turn Jackson’s idea into reality. Some 25 corporate sponsors also helped fund the production.
Thirty painters including Emily Carr, Joseph Hallam, Albert Robinson, Fritz Brandtner, Jackson and Casson and fellow Group of Seven artists agreed to contribute to the war effort. Their 36 different paintings depicted familiar Canadian scenes and landscapes coast to coast.
In Canada, the 30” x 40”, oil on pressboard works in simple oak frames were hung in government offices, banks, insurance companies, libraries, schools and Eaton’s store windows across Canada. They cost $5 each, but only $4 for schools.
The war-time program proved so successful that after the war ended, an additional 24 artists were added to the program and thousands more silkscreens were produced.
Canadian consulates and embassies abroad displayed the works by the country’s finest contemporary artists, while complete sets of the prints were shown around the world in Russia, the U.S., Mexico, Austria and France. The Bank of Montreal had a Sampson-Matthews silkscreen in every branch.
The program was the largest public art project in Canadian history, lasting 22 years (1941 – 1963) and costing tens of millions in today’s dollars. A total of 54 artists produced 106 different works from which the Sampson-Matthews silkscreens were made.
Of the tens of thousands of artworks sent overseas during the war, few to none returned – relegated to the refuse pile along with most war-related equipment. Even the prints produced after the war often met a similar fate.
Over the last 20 years, there has been a resurgence of interest in Canada’s cultural war-time project and the artworks.
The Sampson-Matthews print program was the largest public art project in Canadian history. Launched at the start of the Second World War, it lasted 22 years and cost tens of millions of dollars. The exquisite, oversize silkscreens were based on designs by a who’s who of Canada’s greatest artists, including David Milne, Emily Carr, B.C. Binning, Lawren Harris and A.Y. Jackson, Tom Thomson, J.W. Morrice and Clarence Gagnon..
Art for War and Peace tells the story of the Sampson-Matthews prints, with full-colour reproductions of 112 silkscreens and contributions from several art writers, including Douglas Coupland.