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Arthur Lismer's Dalhousie sketches

  • 0000-091
  • Collection
  • [ca. 1919]

Collection includes 41 original pen and ink drawings by Arthur Lismer commissioned ca. 1919 by Dalhousie's Centenary Committee to illustrate its history of the university's first century: One hundred years of Dalhousie, 1818–1918, which was published in 1920. The collection includes the original and some unfinished and/or unpublished versions of all but one of the 26 illustrations used in the book, which features historic and contemporary Dalhousie figures and buildings. There are several portraits of President Arthur Stanley Mackenzie, which were rejected in favour of publishing a photographic image, as well as a rough sketch of Lismer's daughter, Marjorie. Also included in the collection are 22 reproductions, which are probably printer's proofs, given the poor quality of the paper.

Twelve of the Lismer images were also reproduced in the booklet titled simply Dalhousie University, which was produced by the Dalhousie Million Committee as part of the promotional literature supporting the university's 1920 Million Dollar Campaign and published shortly after the Centenary Committee's book.

There is little documentary evidence beyond these two publications regarding the precise date or other details of the Lismer commission; one of the drawings is marked "1 March 1920," and another "27 March 1920," on date-received stamps from the engraving department of Rous & Mann, the Toronto company that printed both publications. The existing archival correspondence between the university and the printer (UA-3, Box 621, Folder 6) is from the Million Committee file, and refers only peripherally to the Centenary Committee's book project. A letter dated 24 March 1920 from Rous & Mann advises that the cuts, or illustrations, proposed for use in the campaign booklet were "at present locked up for the printing of the other Book in course of preparation," while later correspondence indicates that the printing and delivery of the campaign booklet gained precedence over the commemorative history, and the first run of these booklets was shipped on 17 April. The history was printed shortly after that, although by 26 May it had already been reprinted, owing to the misspelling of George Stewart Campbell, whose middle name appears in the first printing as "Stuart." The existence of the misprinted copies is due to their purchase at a steep discount by the Million Committee, who wrote: "... if the price were attractive a way might be found to use them."

No correspondence or documents have been found in the Dalhousie University Archives regarding Lismer's actual commission: within the Million Committee's correspondence file exists a single telegram from President Mackenzie to Arthur Lismer, dated 3 April 1920, which expresses a need to rush the printing along with the instruction: "leave layout to your judgement," the sole reference to Lismer's role in either project.

Lismer, Arthur

The Right Honourable George Ramsay. Ninth Earl of Dalhousie. Founder of Dalhousie College : [drawing]

Item is a portrait of Lord Dalhousie copied from an earlier painting; the decorative border framing the drawing is partially rendered on paper and affixed to the illustration board. The drawing was commissioned for One hundred years of Dalhousie, 1818–1918 (1920), and reproduced in D.C. Harvey, An introduction to the history of Dalhousie University (1938).

James DeMille, M.A. Professor of English, 1865–1880 : [drawing]

Item is a portrait of James DeMille rendered in pen and ink on illustration board. Also within the folder is a label originally taped to the drawing that gives its title and "no. 13 —", probably referring to its suggested placement in the order of illustrations that appear in One hundred years of Dalhousie, 1818–1918 (1920), for which it was commissioned. The image was reproduced in D.C. Harvey, An introduction to the history of Dalhousie University (1938).

George Lawson, F.R.S.C. Professor of chemistry, 1863–1895 : [drawings]

Item is an illustration board with orginal Arthur Lismer sketches on both sides. On one is his portrait of George Lawson rendered off-centre in pen and ink, commissioned for One hundred years of Dalhousie, 1818–1918 (1920) and reproduced in D.C. Harvey, An introduction to the history of Dalhousie University (1938). On the reverse is an unfinished pencil sketch of the same subject.

George Lawson, F.R.S.C. Professor of chemistry, 1863–1895 : [drawing]

Part is an Arthur Lismer portrait of George Lawson rendered off-centre in pen and ink on illustration board and commissioned for One hundred years of Dalhousie, 1818–1918 (1920). The image was reproduced in D.C. Harvey, An introduction to the history of Dalhousie University (1938). On the reverse is an unfinished sketch of George Lawson.

George Munro. The great benfactor of Dalhousie : [drawing]

Item is an Arthur Lismer portrait of George Munro rendered in pen and ink on illustration board and commissioned for One hundred years of Dalhousie, 1818–1918 (1920). The image was reproduced in D.C. Harvey, An introduction to the history of Dalhousie University (1938) and P.B. Waite, The lives of Dalhousie University, volume one, 1818–1925 (1994).

Richard Chapman Weldon, LL.D. Dean of the Law School, 1883–1914 : [drawing]

Item is an Arthur Lismer portrait of Richard Weldon rendered in pen and ink on illustration board; the top right corner of the reverse side contains the date-received stamp from the printer's engraving department—Mar 27 1920—and there are faint marks of erased notes on the front. Also within the folder is a label originally taped to the drawing that gives its title and "No 18—", probably referring to its suggested placement in the order of illustrations that appear in One hundred years of Dalhousie, 1818–1918 (1920), for which it was commissioned. The image was reproduced in D.C. Harvey, An introduction to the history of Dalhousie University (1938).

Sir William Young, Kt. Chairman of the Board of Governors, 1848–1885 : [drawing]

Item is an Arthur Lismer portrait of William Young (based on an 1878 painting by Alfred T. Barrett) rendered in pen and ink on illustration board; the top left corner has the Strathmore drawing board platemark. Also within the folder is a label originally taped to the drawing that gives its title and "No 19—", probably referring to its suggested placement in the order of illustrations that appear in One hundred years of Dalhousie, 1818–1918 (1920), for which it was commissioned. The image was reproduced again in D.C. Harvey, An introduction to the history of Dalhousie University (1938).

Forrest Building. The second Dalhousie. Erected 1887 : [drawing]

Item is an Arthur Lismer illustration of Dalhousie University's Forrest Building rendered in pen and ink on illustration board; the bottom left corner has the Strathmore drawing board platemark. The image was commissioned for One hundred years of Dalhousie, 1818–1918 (1920) and reproduced in D.C. Harvey, An introduction to the history of Dalhousie University (1938) and P.B. Waite, Lives of Dalhousie University, volume one, 1818–1925 (1994). P.B Waite's accompanying caption—"A Lismer sketch of Dalhousie College as it looked in 1900. Note the growth of the trees since 1887"—suggests that the sketch was made at least in part from observation.

The original Dalhousie College, 1820–1887. Situated on the Grand Parade : [drawing]

Item is a drawing by Arthur Lismer based on an earlier illustration of Dalhousie College; the figures in the foreground are believed to depict his wife, Esther, and his friend and fellow painter, A.Y. Jackson. The image was commissioned for One hundred years of Dalhousie, 1818-1918 (1920), and was reproduced in D.C. Harvey, An introduction to the history of Dalhousie University (1938) and G. Kelley, Arthur Lismer, Nova Scotia, 1916–1919 (1982).

The Macdonald Memorial Library. Erected at Studley, 1914 : [drawing]

Item is an Arthur Lismer illustration of Dalhousie University's Macdonald Memorial Library rendered in pen and ink on illustration board, commissioned for One hundred years at Dalhousie, 1818–1918 (1920) and reproduced in G. Kelly, Arthur Lismer: Nova Scotia, 1916–1919 (1982) and P.B. Waite, The Lives of Dalhousie University, volume one, 1818–1925 (1994). Note the artist's initials in the bottom right corner of the main frame.

The main reading room of the Macdonald Memorial Library : [drawings]

Item is an illustration board with original Arthur Lismer pen and ink drawings on both sides, depicting the main reading room of Dalhousie's Macdonald Memorial Library, commissioned for One hundred years of Dalhousie, 1818–1918 (1920). One side contains the completed illustration as it appears in the publication, while the reverse has an unfinished version.

The main reading room of the Macdonald Memorial Library : [drawing]

Part is an original Arthur Lismer illustration of the main reading room of Dalhousie's Macdonald Memorial Library rendered in pen and ink on illustration board with the Strathmore drawing board platemark in the top right corner. The drawing was commissioned for One hundred years of Dalhousie, 1818–1918 (1920). On the reverse is an unfinished sketch of the reading room.

Two drawings by Arthur Lismer commissioned for One hundred years of Dalhousie, 1818–1918 : [drawings]

Item is an illustration board containing original Arthur Lismer pen and ink sketches on both sides: an unfinished portrait of John Johnson and the illustration of the fireplace in the main reading room of the Macdonald Memorial Library, commissioned for One hundred years of Dalhousie, 1818–1918 (1920) and reproduced in D.C. Harvey, An introduction to the history of Dalhousie University (1938).

Fireplace in the main reading room of the Macdonald Memorial Library : [drawing]

Part is an original Arthur Lismer illustration of the fireplace in the main reading room of Dalhousie's Macdonald Memorial Library, commissioned for One hundred years of Dalhousie, 1818–1918 (1920). The drawing has an illegible date-received stamp from the printer's engraving department on the bottom right corner, the Strathmore drawing board plate mark on the top right corner, and some faint pencil notations on the bottom left. On the reverse is an unfinished portrait of John Johnson, professor of classics, 1863–1894.

Unfinished Arthur LIsmer portrait of John Johnson commissioned for One hundred years of Dalhousie, 1818–1918 : [drawing]

Part is an unfinished Arthur Lismer pen and ink portrait of John Johnson, professor of classics from 1863–1894. The finished version of the drawing, commissioned for One hundred years of Dalhousie, 1818–1918 (1920) and reproduced in D.C. Harvey, An introduction to the history of Dalhousie University (1938), is found in 0000-091, Box 1, Folder 10, Item 2. On the reverse is Lismer's drawing of the fireplace in the main reading room of the Macdonald Memorial Library.

Unfinished Arthur Lismer sketch of the main reading room of the Macdonald Memorial Library commissioned for One hundred years of Dalhousie, 1818–1918 : [drawing]

Part is an unfinished Arthur Lismer illustration of the main reading room of Dalhousie's Macdonald Memorial Library rendered in pen and ink on illustration board with the Strathmore drawing board platemark in the top left corner. Written below the sketch in pencil are the words "Library Interior" and "extend." The image was reproduced in P.B. Waite, The lives of Dalhousie University, vol one, 1815–1925 (1994). On the reverse is the completed sketch reproduced in One hundred years of Dalhousie, 1818–1918 (1920).

The portico of the Macdonald Memorial Library : [drawing]

Item is an Arthur Lismer illustration of the portico of Dalhousie University's Macdonald Memorial Library rendered in pen and ink on illustration board with the Strathmore drawing board platemark in the top left corner. Note the artist's initials marked in the bottom right corner. The illustration was commissioned for One hundred years of Dalhousie, 1818–1918 (1920).

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