In a country that can boast nearly 50,000 artists from its prehistoric beginnings to the present, it is a daunting challenge to compile a collection of some 300 artists that reflects the depth and breadth of Canada's art heritage. Yet in Canadian Art: From Its Beginnings to 2000, author Anne Newlands does just that. Departing from the usual narrative of standard Canadian art histories, Newlands organizes the artists alphabetically, thus removing them from predictable associations and chronological relationships and freeing us to forge new connections. The result is an original and engaging approach to the subject, one that at once refreshes, surprises and teaches. When the paintings of such artists as Emily Carr, Lawren S. Harris, Cornelius Krieghoff and Horatio Walker are placed side by side with works by Kenojuak Ashevak, General Idea, Maud Lewis, Bill Reid and Jeff Wall, the diversity and wonder of the creative process come irresistibly to life.
While Canada's most beloved artists and their art are generously represented in Canadian Art, Newlands also strives to guide us to less familiar media, whose formats and themes seek to redefine art itself even as they reflect the cultural realities of the time. Here, we find not only traditional oils and watercolors but also a rich collection of sculpture, photography and installation art. Each of Newlands' beautifully printed selections is accompanied by an engaging text that focuses on the featured art, provides a brief biographical sketch of the artist and offers us an informed departure point for our own critical appreciation.