Artwork by Lionel LeMoine FitzGerald,  Arts Buildings, University of Manitoba

L.L. FitzGerald
Arts Buildings, University of Manitoba

7 x 4 ins ( 17.8 x 10.2 cms ) ( plate size )

Auction Estimate: $700.00$500.00 - $700.00

Price Realized $1,320.00
Sale date: July 19th 2022

Private Collection, Ottawa
Helen Coy, “FitzGerald as a Printmaker”, Winnipeg, 1982, unpaginated, illustrated no. 86
Helen Coy notes in “Fitzgerald as a Printmaker” that “At one time the University of Manitoba held classes in the arts faculty buildings on Broadway Avenue, opposite the Manitoba Legislature, and near the former site of the Winnipeg School of Art.”

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Lionel LeMoine FitzGerald
(1890 - 1956) Group of Seven, Canadian Group of Painters, WSC

Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where he received his education. At the age of 14, he went to work in a wholesale drug office. He also worked in an engraver’s plant and in a stockbroker’s office until he was 22. All this time, he had also attended art classes, nights, at A.S. Kesztheli’s Art School in Wpg. (1909-12). About 1912, he went into the field of art full time. He married Vally Wright and they had two children, Edward and Patricia. Working in many branches of art to support his family, he did everything from decorating windows to painting scenery. During this time, he was developing successfully in his easel painting and exhibited with the RCA between 1912 and 1925. His work was then strongly influenced by French Impressionists but was Canadian in subject matter. He held his first solo shows in 1921 at the WAG. Earlier that year, he had completed studies at the ASL/NY under Boardman Robinson and Kenneth Hayes Miller. In 1924, he joined the staff of the Winnipeg School of Art and four years later became its principal. Of this period, William Colgate in “Canadian Art” (1943) noted, “…he returned to Winnipeg to teach in its art school. In spite of his necessary preoccupation with teaching, he was steadily pursued his bent as a landscape painter and has occasionally been represented in more important exhibitions of Winnipeg, Toronto and elsewhere…”

Writing about his work, Donald Buchanan noted, “…Fitzgerald…worked too slowly and painstakingly ever to be affected by such vagaries of fashion…painted little, and that little with precise care. Most of his year was given over to his duties as principal of the Winnipeg School of Art. The relatively few water-colours and oils he did of the prairie or of the thin tracery of trees along the edges of Manitoba streams were, however, always much admired, as were also his more numerous drawings….”

Fitzgerald had been appointed Principal of the WSA in August of 1929. In the summer of 1929, he also met Bertram Brooker, artist, broadcaster and playwright, visiting his native Winnipeg on a business trip. The two artists then kept in contact with one another by letter. Fitzgerald had a profound influence on Brooker’s direction in art. Brooker turned from total abstraction to realism. Fitzgerald himself had moved to a greater stylization of his work. In 1929, F.B. Housser wrote, “His work is rarely seen in eastern galleries. A few years ago, his canvases were among the most popular exhibited in Winnipeg but a change of direction along more modern lines carried him ahead of the public and consequently into greater obscurity…. He works in oils and black-and-white and has also done mural painting, having executed a decorative scheme for a room in the St. Charles Hotel, Winnipeg.”

This change was to lead him into the ranks of the Group of Seven, the last member, in 1932, replacing J.E.H MacDonald, who had died earlier that year. Fitzgerald’s work took on more design, his trees became less detailed while at the same time his development of scenes from his house or his backyard began to appear; these were more meticulous, although never cluttered in detail. In 1933, he became a founding member of the Canadian Group of Painters, which grew out of the Group of Seven, when it disbanded the same year. By the late 1940’s and 1950’s, he had returned to the cycle of the Impressionists, particularly reminiscent of one of its later members, Georges Seurat, although there is no evidence to suggest that he actually studied Seurat’s work. It was said of him, “A painter of the prairies, he was nevertheless a quiet man, the antithesis of the robustness sometimes associated with the West….” He made impressive graphics which included wood engravings, drypoints, and was especially successful with his linocuts. His drawings were always superb.

He did abstract and semi-abstract work in the 1950’s and had done a few in the late 1930’s. Some of his pen and ink drawings were done by making tiny flecks or short strokes to form an outline of his subjects. The National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa has one of the finest collections of his work due to prudent purchases by its curators, singular bequest of the Douglas M. Duncan Collection, made through Duncan’s sister J.P. Barwick.

He was awarded an Honorary L.L.D., at the University of Manitoba (1952). In 1956, at the age of 66, he died of a heart attack. His ashes were scattered over the area of Snowflake, Manitoba, where he spent his youth during his summer holidays on his grandmother’s farm. In April of 1958, four galleries collaborated in a memorial exhibition at the NGC. The exhibition then went on tour. In May of 1963, an exhibition of 128 of his works titled, “A New Fitzgerald”, was shown at the WAG. The show included portraits, animal sketches, landscapes and a number of nudes.

In the Winnipeg suburb of St. James where he lived most of his life, the community named a lane “Fitzgerald’s Walk” in his memory.

Literature Source:
"A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, Volume 1: A-F, 5th Edition, Revised and Expanded", compiled by Colin S. MacDonald, Canadian Paperbacks Publishing Ltd, Ottawa, 1997