Alumin Photo

Anne Savage (BBHS, 1922- 1949)

1896, Montreal, Quebec — 1971, Montreal, Quebec

Anne Savage was an artist who played an active role in the Quebec art movements of the 1920s and 30s. Savage was also an inspiring and innovative art teacher who had a major impact on how art is taught today.

Annie Douglas Savage was born into an upper-middle-class family in Montreal, Quebec. She grew up in what was then the rural area of Dorval, Quebec, and spent her summers at the family cottage in the Lake Wonish in the Laurentians where she developed a love of her surroundings that became a source of inspiration as an artist.

Known for her lyrical, rhythmic landscapes, Savage was one of several important women artists who were active in Montreal after the First World War. She shared with the Group of Seven, a romantic vision of the Canadian landscape as a symbol of nationalism, as well as a modernist concern for the formal elements of painting.

Savage studied from 1914 to 1918 under William Brymner and Maurice Cullen at the Art Association of Montreal. There, in 1919, she was able to see Tom Thomson’s oil sketches, and soon came to identify herself strongly with the Group of Seven. She also became a close friend of A.Y. Jackson, a member of the Group of Seven.

In her final year of studies, Savage exhibited her work at the Art Association. She then went on to work as a medical artist in Montreal and Toronto, and spent ten months at the Minneapolis School of Art. Savage returned to Montreal in 1920, and soon after formed an art association with several Montreal artist in order to show their work. They were a heterogeneous group of men and women – all of whom were, or had been, students of William Brymner. Their headquarters was a house on Beaver Hall Hill where Randolph Hewton and others had their studios. They became known as the Beaver Hall Group. In October 2015 the Montreal Museum of Fine Art launched a major retrospective of the group’s work

She began teaching art at Baron Byng High School when the school opened in 1922. She stayed for 26 years and counted among her students Alfred Pinsky (BBHS ’39), the first Dean of Fine Arts at Concordia University, and the painters Rita Briansky (BBHS ’42), Moe Reinblatt (BBHS ’35), Leah Sherman (BBHS ’42), Seymour Segal (BBHS ’56), and Tobie Steinhouse (BBHS ’42).

Her work at Baron Byng was highly regarded and came to the attention of Arthur Lismer, also a committed art educator. Inspired by new developments in art education in the United States and England, Savage believed in the creative potential of her students and the importance of art in their daily lives. With no formal training as a teacher, Savage relied on her own artistic education, intuition and aesthetic values for guidance. Savage remained at Baron Byng for twenty-six years. In 1948, she was appointed Supervisor of Art for the Protestant School Board of Montreal, and in the 1950s, taught art education at McGill University.

Savage also worked with young children. In 1937, she began giving Saturday morning art classes at the Art Association of Montreal (now the MMFA). They were so popular she had to bring in more artist teachers and open up classes in the gymnasiums of public schools. This association led to the development of the Child Art Council, which became the Quebec Society for Education Through Art.

Although a passionate art teacher, Savage she saw herself first and foremost as a painter. In 1927, she travelled with the sculptor Florence Wyle and ethnographer Marius Barbeau to the Skeena River district of British Columbia. Her sketchbook from that trip is held in the National Gallery of Canada. In 1933, she became a founding member of the Canadian Group of Painters to ensure that other artists would not be excluded from the Canadian art scene. Savage was president in 1949 and again in 1960.

According to one of her exceptional students, artist Leah Sherman, “Anne Savage found her place in the centre of one of the most stimulating periods in the history of Canadian art and art education, both growing out of the same spirit of discovery, romanticism and humanism.”

SOURCES AND LINKS

Anne McDougall, Anne Savage: The Story of a Canadian Painter. Montreal: Harvest House, 1977.
Anne Savage, THe National Gallery of Canada
Anne Savage, The Allan Klinkhoff Gallery
Canadian Women Artists History Initiative
The Plough, The Identity of English Speaking Quebec in 100 Objects