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Wartime lithographs of Northern Ontario on display in Sudbury

Art Gallery of Sudbury exhibiting 37 works by Frederick Hagan captures the war years and the aftermath up to 1953

SUDBURY — The Art Gallery of Sudbury is opening a new exhibition by a Canadian painter, printmaker, and educator Frederick Hagan on Nov. 9. 

This exhibition titled "Ontario North: The Frederick Hagan Lithographs 1942-1953" focuses on 37 lithograph prints produced by Hagan in Northern Ontario during the Second World War and immediately following.

In lithography, the artist chemically treats the printing surface of a limestone block so that water and oil repel each other, and the greasy image captures ink for printing on paper. The printing press exerts a sliding pressure, but because the stone undergoes virtually no wear in printing, a single stone can last for decades.

Frederick Hagan’s printing press and lithograph stones, gifted by his family, are still in production and are located at Nipissing University in North Bay.

Ontario North: The Frederick Hagan Lithographs 1942-1953 is drawn from a collection of 287 paintings, drawings and prints by Hagan that were first acquired under the direction of the former LUMAC Director/Curator, Pamela Krueger, for the permanent collection in 1989.

“The exhibition is offered in recognition to the contributions of Pamela Krueger, curator, and Frederick Hagan, artist, and to the development of the permanent collections of the Laurentian University Museum and Arts Centre and the Art Gallery of Sudbury," said Demetra Christakos, director/curator for the Art Gallery of Sudbury.

“As were many other artists at that time in Toronto, Hagan was affected by either the vision of or close association with members of the Group of Seven. Toronto had a small, closely knit arts community," wrote Pamela Kruger in a 1991 essay about Hagan and Northern Ontario.

"The primary source of training was the Ontario College of Art. Evening courses at the Ontario College of Art (1937-1940) introduced Frederick Hagan to artists John Alfsen, Franklin Carmichael, and Frederick Haines."

Frederick Hagan, who died in 2003 was a painter, printmaker and educator. He was born in Toronto and attended Central Technical School, following which he found employment in wood fabrication while attending night courses at the Ontario College of Art under John Alfsen, Frank Carmichael and Fred Haines, among others.

Ontario North: The Frederick Hagan Lithographs 1942-1953 opens on Nov. 9 at 5 p.m. 

At the same time, the gallery is unveiling another Remembrance Day-themed exhibit: The War Letters Project from Northern Ontario artist Linda Finn.

The War Letters Project began in 2007 when Linda Finn discovered a box of old letters in a collection of her grandmother’s things. 

To create the artworks featured in this exhibition, Finn used elements from the original letters, mixed media pieces, prints and assemblages to build narratives that provoke memories and encourage closer scrutiny.

“These old letters fascinated and intrigued me because they offered a glimpse of wartime experiences—understated comments of the human condition that are not only publicly significant but privately meaningful,” said Finn in a news release about the exhibit.

Essie Smith (grandmother of the artist) lived on a farm not far from Beamsville, Ontario, where she corresponded with many of the young men from her rural community during both World Wars, sending them encouragement through parcels and letters. 

The soldiers, stationed overseas, wrote back to her and she saved many of the letters that she felt were particularly significant. 

“The wartime letters represent a link between the women at home and the men overseas during both World Wars," said Finn.