Make way for tomorrow: New Brunswick’s visual and cultural modernity, 1930–1967

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University of New Brunswick


A notion that visual modernism essentially passed New Brunswick by contradicts the broader reality of the province's productive and worldly twentieth-century past, the distinction of its culture, its urban sophistication, and the impact of its artists and designers. Current scholarly literature rarely acknowledges the full extent to which New Brunswick's visual art, design, architecture, and material history from the early 1930s to the end of the 1960s were interwoven, nor its cultural value. This research will show that in the mid-twentieth century the province's modern artists, architects, designers, and allied cultural producers/advocates were aligned with powerful and widely accepted progressive socio-political developments. The acceptance of modernism as a collective aesthetic movement is key to situating the cultural temperament of the province. Through specific and often unheralded creative examples, this thesis will reveal a society that sought to be an equal and progressive partner in a rapidly changing post-war Canada. Modern visual expressions were key to that shift. My subject is the exploration of modernism in New Brunswick's visual and built culture between 1930 and 1967. This investigation is situated in context of the era's social, political, and economic policies, ethnic and linguistic stances, educational practices, and artistic dialogue. During this time, New Brunswickers' outlooks and expectations became increasingly aligned with policies of change and growth, and reflected an optimism not seen in the province since the late nineteenth century when shipbuilding and railway expansion flourished. The era's extensive modernist visual and tactile practices, which attained their apex during the 1960s, concurrently demonstrated this mid-twentieth century confidence. Individual chapters will specifically explore the fields of visual art and fine craft, architecture, industry, infrastructure, and design, in addition to their allied cultural and political advocates. Finally, their complete synthesis will be examined through the 1967 Centennial Building in Fredericton. This project aims for a more accurate measure of New Brunswick's recent past. It will examine how the province's society, artists, and leaders once felt about its visual and cultural reach. It will investigate the breadth and interconnectedness of the province's material and social culture during a global period of shifting modern visual practice, and how the aspirations and offerings of individual artists/creators were given concrete voice.