National Visions, National Blindness

Canadian Art and Identities in the 1920s

By (author) Leslie Dawn
Categories: History of art, The Arts: treatments and subjects, The Arts
Publisher: UBC Press
Paperback : 9780774812184, 456 pages, January 2007

Table of contents



1 Canadian Art in England

2 England in Canadian Art

3 Canadian Art in Paris

4 Canadian Primitives in Paris

5 Barbeau and Kihn with the Stoney in Alberta

6 Barbeau and Kihn with the Gitxsan in British Columbia

7 Giving Gitxsan Totem Poles a New Slant

8 Representing and Repossessing the Skeena Valley

9 West Coast Art, Native and Modern

10 The Downfall of Barbeau

11 Revisiting Carr





An insightful analysis of how art was used to create an independent Canadian national identity, often at the expense of First Nations representation.


In the early decades of the twentieth century, the visual arts were considered central to the formation of a distinct national identity, and the Group of Seven’s landscapes became part of a larger program to unify the nation and assert its uniqueness. This book traces the development of this program and illuminates its conflicted history. Leslie Dawn problematizes conventional perceptions of the Group as a national school and underscores the contradictions inherent in international exhibitions showing unpeopled landscapes alongside Northwest Coast Native arts and the “Indian” paintings of Langdon Kihn and Emily Carr. Dawn examines how this dichotomy forced a re-evaluation of the place of First Nations in both Canadian art and nationalism.


  • Winner, Raymond Klibanksy Prize, The Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences 2008