"Oddballs and Eccentrics" ("Les Hirsutes et Les Excentriques"): Visual Arts and Artists in the Popular Press in Post-War Canada
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This dissertation examines the representation of visual arts and artists in two popular Canadian magazines. It is based on case studies of the Montréal-based Le petit journal, a French-language magazine, and the Toronto-based English-language publication Star Weekly, from 1945 to 1968. Both were weekly magazines with large readerships and included content for the entire family. Neither was devoted to visual arts but both carried photographs and articles that engaged with broad issues in the field of visual arts. As such, they represent a cross-section of ideas and perspectives that is very different from those of daily newspapers or of publications explicitly devoted to the arts. In addition, both implicitly claimed a national perspective by including articles and information about different regions of Canada. In this way, although in reality the two publications constitute a central Canadian perspective, inflected in each case by the particularities of their provincial locations, they claimed a national vision. In contrast to existing research concerning art journals and art critics in Canada, my investigation involves the ownership and editorial direction of these two popular magazines. By analyzing the content of the magazines across more than two decades, I am able to identify shifts in outlook as they occurred and consider them in the context of the period. I have found that, although there were substantial differences between the two publications, the way that they participated in the construction of ideas was strikingly similar. In effect, both magazines projected specific notions of the value of artists and visual arts and used this coverage to shape attitudes—to work, gender, immigration, nationalism and a host of other topics. I argue that the presentation of ideas was rooted in both liberalism and anti-communism, and was informed by inherent self-interest on the part of the owners of the magazines. In addition, I argue that this perspective was largely hidden within a language of disinterested public service. Finally, I posit that representations in the popular press shaped opinions and attitudes to visual arts and artists in ways that continue to resonate today, more than forty years later.