British Columbia

Canada's largest public art project documented in new book Art for War and Peace

Most Canadians would remember seeing them in schools, libraries, and banks — prints of paintings that featured Canadian landscapes and alpine lakes made famous by the likes of Emily Carr and members of the Group of Seven.

The Sampson-Matthews silkscreen project was a patriotic endeavor during WWII

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      Most Canadians would remember seeing them in schools, libraries, and banks — prints of paintings that featured Canadian landscapes and alpine lakes made famous by the likes of Emily Carr and members of the Group of Seven.

      In fact, the public art installations were part of the Sampson-Matthews silkscreen project, one of the largest art programs in Canada's history.

      The project, which was spearheaded by Group of Seven painter A.Y. Jackson, began as wartime propaganda during the Second World War.  

      The Toronto graphic-arts company Sampson-Matthews Ltd. produced tens of thousands of prints that got installed in barracks in Allied countries. Afterwards, the images were made popular in Canadian schools, libraries, public offices and banks.   

      Now, the screenprints are being featured in a new book that looks at their long-lasting impact on how Canadians saw themselves and their country.

      Scott Steedman, co-author of Art for War and Peace: How A Great Art Project Helped Canada Discover Itself, says the Sampson-Matthews silkscreen project was a way for Canadian painters to contribute to the war effort.

      "The idea was, this is what we're fighting for," Steedman told On the Coast's Stephen Quinn.

      "You're over there, getting the hell knocked out of you by German troops, and why are we here? Well, we're here to protect this free, great northern land."

      Listen to the full interview: The history of the Sampson-Matthews silkscreen project

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