Canadian Cities in 1950s Watercolors


For Canada Day weekend, this post features images that span the geography of this vast country.  Around 1953, in a grand display of national pride, the Montreal-based alcohol and beverage giant Seagram Company commissioned over a dozen Canadian artists (including several among the famed Group of Seven) to create a series of  watercolors of major Canadian cities. The paintings were subsequently the focus of a world tour organized by Seagram to showcase Canada and its urban landscapes.

While recently rummaging through an antique shop I came across a small booklet, dating to 1953, in which these paintings were reproduced and for which this post shows a sampling of the now somewhat faded images.  While many of the provincial capitals are depicted, I find the inclusion of several less prominent cities (including Fort William, Hamilton, Sarnia, Shawinigan Falls and Trois Rivieres) to be fascinating.

St. John's


Shawinigan Falls





Quebec City

Saint John






48 responses

  1. I liked the subject matter. But I had a special interest today. After working in oils and acrylics, I just finished a course on watercolors. You are unusual in that many of your posts include the works of various artists, and I always enjoy seeing them.

    • Thanks! Great to hear about your painting, which is a terrific pursuit. I’ve played around with different painting media and I’ve found watercolor to be much harder than it looks.

    • Darlene, so true. They’re a little hard to make out but if one is familiar with the places many things have changed over the past 60 plus years.

  2. What a find, Brett! Beautiful pieces. I’ve heard it said that watercolour is the easiest medium to use and the best for beginners, but having painted in oil, acrylic (my medium of choice), and watercolour, I find the latter the most difficult and the least forgiving, and would be my LAST recommendation for a new painter! So I have the utmost respect for artists who have clearly mastered the technique, like some of the ones featured here today.

  3. What a coincidence! I happen to own a copy of this book, inherited from my paternal grandfather! Apparently I used to sit on his knee (aged 3 or 4) and look at the paintings of the different cities with him – and it seems the one of Edmonton was my favourite owing to the presence of a locomotive!

    My copy is now a little the worse for wear, with more than a few grubby fingerprints on the white covers (probably my own!).

    The collection is a fascinating portrayal of Canadian cities as they appeared more than 60 years ago. The contrast to their present-day appearance is striking!

    Many thanks for posting, Brett!

    • Richard, that’s a very nice personal connection to these images. Thanks for sharing that. I think the locomotive on the Edmonton painting stands out as well. I also noticed in looking back at the book that many of the pictures feature a locomotive in some way. Best, Brett

  4. Pingback: Opinionated Hot Links | Tacky Raccoons

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