For the Joy of the Thing….

Thousands of students who attended Baron Byng from 1922 to 1980 were blessed with some amazing and unique teachers. Among them was Anne Douglas Savage, Baron Byng’s first art teacher, whose career began when the school opened in 1922.  Savage stayed at Baron Byng until 1947 when she was promoted to Supervisor of Art for the Protestant School Board of Montreal. In the 1950s, she also taught art education at McGill University. During her outstanding career as an art educator, Anne Savage was an acclaimed artist in her own right. Her work is in many private and public collections including the Montreal Museum of Art, the Leonard and Bina Ellen Art Gallery and the National Gallery of Canada.

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Anne Savage at her Desk, 1940, Credit: Concordia University Archives

Following is a selection of her work including 3 large panels (on the first row) she made in the 1930s while at BBHS, presumably with the help of her students.

Her love of art and teaching found fertile ground at BBHS with talented and receptive students. With the support of its principal Dr. John S. Astbury, she had a free hand to bring a deep understanding of art to a mostly first-generation Jewish student population eager to learn and develop artistically. Savage, who did not have any formal training as a teacher, was an innovator in art education. She developed an exemplary and avant-garde art program which trained many future Canadian artists and art educators. Her approach to teaching art was new in the 1920s. She took the conventional classroom and made it an art studio by pushing back the desks and chairs and making a display table in the center. She had students act as models. She covered the blackboards with boards so art could be displayed and discussed among the students. She had the students paint panels to decorate the school. There were scenes of various themes lining the halls throughout the basement and other floors. She took the students out of the classroom to Fletcher’s Field to draw and sketch from nature. The results of her teaching methods were impressive as manifested by the quality and variety of the students work.

She was the inspiration for numerous well-known and successful artists such as Moe Reinblatt (BBHS ‘34),  William Allister (BBHS ‘36),  Alfred Pinsky (BBHS ‘38),  Sylvia Ary (BBHS ‘39), Mel Boyaner (BBHS ‘41),  Tobie Steinhouse (BBHS ‘42), Leah Sherman (BBHS ‘42), Rita Briansky (BBHS ‘42) and Ita Aber (BBHS ’49). Motivated by the teachings of Anne Savage, Leah Sherman followed in her footsteps and became an art teacher at BBHS and later co-founder with Alfred Pinsky, of the art department at Sir George Williams College (now Concordia University.)  Sherman went on to inspire a new generation of artists at BBHS such as David Silverberg (BBHS ‘53), Marilyn Lightstone (BBHS  ’57),  and Seymour Segal (BBHS ’57). Savage herself, and through her students, left a lasting mark on Canadian Art. She died in 1971.

SOURCES AND LINKS:

McDougall, Anne. Anne Savage: The Story of a Canadian Painter. Montreal: Harvest House, 1977.

Anne Savage (1896-1971) : A Retrospective Exhibition. Galerie Walter Klinkhoff.

Anne Savage, A Retrospective, Apr. 4 to Apr. 30th, 1968, SGWU, Mtl., text by Leah Sherman, Dept. Fine Arts

The Canadian Magazine, Feb. 18, 1978 “A Shy Romance – The letters of Anne Savage and A.Y. Jackson” by Anne McDougall (w/ill.)

The Gazette, Mtl., Jan. 19, 1980 “Savage works depict rural delights” by Virginia Nixon

Edmonton Sun, Alta. , Apr. 3, 1981 “Beautiful Savage” by Sam Middleton

The Gazette, Mtl., Sept. 12, 1992 “Art – Galerie Klinkhoff honors Anne Savage” by Ann Duncan

National Gallery of Canada

A Dictionary of Canadian Artists

The Identity of English Speaking Quebec in 100 Objects: The Plough

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