Regional Identity

Some of the features on this page require that JavaScript be enabled.
view previous artwork view next artwork
The Old Toal Place
George Jenkins, Jenkins, landscape, oil, Masonite, prairie, prairie landscape, farm, abandoned farm, farmhouse, rural, rural decline, regional, painting, horizon line, school of prairie painting, limited palette, buildings in landscape, 2D art, two-dimensional. rural decline family farm, farm land, memory, home, landscape, changing landscapes, regional identity, settlement of the West, settlement of the prairies, location, Western Canada, oil painting, Masonite painting surface,
description

With The Old Toal Place, from the Mendel Art Gallery collection, Jenkins has presented a scene that is instantly familiar to anyone who has traveled the back roads of Canada’s three prairie provinces. The family farm, which was the main instrument of government policy for the rapid settlement of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, came under great pressure from the combination of prolonged drought and the Great Depression in the 1930s. Mechanization and other factors continued the trend to larger farms during World War II and the post-war years. That trend continues today.

start quoteThe landscape hit me in a powerful way, absorbed me. Then I got into painting for my life work.end quote -- George Jenkins

The Old Toal Place, with its overgrown farmyard and tumble-down buildings, represents an era in Canada’s West that has been in decline for decades. The Old Toal Place could be located anywhere in the grain-growing area of the West, and yet it also has a name, a name that signifies it once belonged to a family that farmed the land in a specific location. By including the name in the title for his painting, Jenkins makes the point that our memories of the location we call “home” often includes associations with the past, and certain places. Buildings that once were alive now house only memories, and only ghosts now occupy landscapes that once were peopled. Through this  paintingWorks of art made with paint on a surface. Often the surface, also called a support, is either a tightly stretched piece of canvas or a panel. How the ground (on which paint is applied) is prepared on the support depends greatly on the type of paint to be used. Paintings are usually intended to be placed in frames, and exhibited on walls, but there have been plenty of exceptions. Also, the act of painting, which may involve a wide range of techniques and materials, along with the artist's other concerns which effect the content of a work. (Artlex.com)  Jenkins gives us insight into one aspect of the regional identity of western Canada.

“A town dies slowly like an old pioneer
The heart goes, the eyes go, but the mind stays clear
It remembers how it was a long time ago
A few little houses against the blowing snow.”
- A town dies slowly, Connie Kaldor (Canadian signer/songwriter)

additional resources Things to Think About
  • Jenkins said an artist’s work should make a social or political statement. What statement does The Old Toal Place make to you?
  • In The Old Toal Place did Jenkins achieve the “dream-like clarity” and the “eerie, abstracted look” he talked about? What features of the painting stand out for you?
Advanced Activity

Painting with a limited palette

Jenkins has been described as using a “limited palette” to create his  oilSlow-drying paint made when pigments are mixed with an oil, linseed oil being most traditional. The oil dries with a hard film, and the brightness of the colours is protected. Oil paints are usually opaque and traditionally used on canvas. They can have a matte, semi-gloss, or glossy finish. To look at examples of works in oil paints, see the articles under the names of every period from the Renaissance onward. (Artlex.com)  paintings. The Mayberry Fine Art Gallery in Winnipeg, Manitoba describes the effect as “the impression of a memory or looking at a faded photograph”. See George Jenkins at the Mayberry Fine Art Gallery for more: http://www.mayberryfineart.com/artist/george_jenkins.html.

Other commentaries describe his  techniqueAny method of working with art materials to produce an art object. Often implied is the sense that techniques are carefully studied, exacting, or traditional, but this is not necessarily the case. Examples include basketry, blotting, carving, constructing, découpage, embossing, encaustic, exquisite corpse, firing, folding, hatching, kerning, laminating, marbling, modeling, necking. (artlex.com)   as being able to represent past times in the prairies without sentimentality.

Using a limited palette is a good way to practise the “craft” of painting. Beginning painters often want to try out every  colourProduced by light of various wavelengths, and when light strikes an object and reflects back to the eyes. Colour is an element of art with three properties: (1) hue or tint, the colour name, e.g., red, yellow, blue, etc.: (2) intensity, the purity and strength of a colour, e.g., bright red or dull red; and (3) value, the lightness or darkness of a colour. When the spectrum is organized as a color wheel, the colours are divided into groups called primary, secondary and intermediate (or tertiary) colours; analogous and complementary, and also as warm and cool colours. Colours can be objectively described as saturated, clear, cool, warm, deep, subdued, grayed, tawny, mat, glossy, monochrome, multicolored, particolored, variegated, or polychromed. Some words used to describe colours are more subjective (subject to personal opinion or taste), such as: exciting, sweet, saccharine, brash, garish, ugly, beautiful, cute, fashionable, pretty, and sublime. Sometimes people speak of colours when they are actually refering to pigments, what they are made of (various natural or synthetic substances), their relative permanence, etc. (Artlex.com)  in the  paletteA slab of wood, metal, marble, ceramic, plastic, glass, or paper, sometimes with a hole for the thumb, which an artist can hold while painting and on which the artist mixes paint. Anything from ice trays to disposable paper or Styrofoam plates might be used as a palette. A pane of glass with a white piece of paper attached to its underside makes a fine palette. It's especially versatile because the color of the paper back can be made to match a painting's ground, making colors easier to choose. The term "palette" may also refer to the range of colors used in a particular painting or by a particular artist. (artlex.com)  which can result in a lack of unity. Painters from the  BaroqueThe art style or art movement of the Counter-Reformation in the seventeenth century. Although some features appear in Dutch art, the Baroque style was limited mainly to Catholic countries. It is a style in which painters, sculptors, and architects sought emotion, movement, and variety in their works. (Artlex.com)  down to the mid-19th century used a limited palette, concentrating on  toneA quality of a colour, arising from its saturation (purity and impurity), intensity (brilliance and dimness), luminosity (brightness and dullness), and temperature (warm and cool); or to create such a quality in a colour. To tone down is to make a colour less vivid, harsh, or violent; moderate. To tone up is to make one become brighter or more vigorous. Tonality can refer to the general effect in painting of light, colour, and shade, or the relative range of these qualities in colour schemes. (Artlex.com)  rather than  colourProduced by light of various wavelengths, and when light strikes an object and reflects back to the eyes. Colour is an element of art with three properties: (1) hue or tint, the colour name, e.g., red, yellow, blue, etc.: (2) intensity, the purity and strength of a colour, e.g., bright red or dull red; and (3) value, the lightness or darkness of a colour. When the spectrum is organized as a color wheel, the colours are divided into groups called primary, secondary and intermediate (or tertiary) colours; analogous and complementary, and also as warm and cool colours. Colours can be objectively described as saturated, clear, cool, warm, deep, subdued, grayed, tawny, mat, glossy, monochrome, multicolored, particolored, variegated, or polychromed. Some words used to describe colours are more subjective (subject to personal opinion or taste), such as: exciting, sweet, saccharine, brash, garish, ugly, beautiful, cute, fashionable, pretty, and sublime. Sometimes people speak of colours when they are actually refering to pigments, what they are made of (various natural or synthetic substances), their relative permanence, etc. (Artlex.com)  to produce dramatic results.

As a  paintingWorks of art made with paint on a surface. Often the surface, also called a support, is either a tightly stretched piece of canvas or a panel. How the ground (on which paint is applied) is prepared on the support depends greatly on the type of paint to be used. Paintings are usually intended to be placed in frames, and exhibited on walls, but there have been plenty of exceptions. Also, the act of painting, which may involve a wide range of techniques and materials, along with the artist's other concerns which effect the content of a work. (Artlex.com)  exercise try using a  BaroqueThe art style or art movement of the Counter-Reformation in the seventeenth century. Although some features appear in Dutch art, the Baroque style was limited mainly to Catholic countries. It is a style in which painters, sculptors, and architects sought emotion, movement, and variety in their works. (Artlex.com)   paletteA slab of wood, metal, marble, ceramic, plastic, glass, or paper, sometimes with a hole for the thumb, which an artist can hold while painting and on which the artist mixes paint. Anything from ice trays to disposable paper or Styrofoam plates might be used as a palette. A pane of glass with a white piece of paper attached to its underside makes a fine palette. It's especially versatile because the color of the paper back can be made to match a painting's ground, making colors easier to choose. The term "palette" may also refer to the range of colors used in a particular painting or by a particular artist. (artlex.com)  and practice tonal control of colour.

In this way you can produce a  paintingWorks of art made with paint on a surface. Often the surface, also called a support, is either a tightly stretched piece of canvas or a panel. How the ground (on which paint is applied) is prepared on the support depends greatly on the type of paint to be used. Paintings are usually intended to be placed in frames, and exhibited on walls, but there have been plenty of exceptions. Also, the act of painting, which may involve a wide range of techniques and materials, along with the artist's other concerns which effect the content of a work. (Artlex.com)  using a more subtle colour scheme, one which can often work well for painting prairie landscapes.

Advanced Activity

Prairie landscape in the arts might be a good topic to expand into a theme project across the curriculum. Following are some resource suggestions:

  • How does prairie landscape feature in popular culture? Here are a few of many examples:
  • Books and stories, for example, As For me and My House by Sinclair Ross, The Englishman’s Boy by Guy Vanderhague, Bad Luck Dog by Dianne Warren, Perfection of the Morning by Sharon Butala, Raisins and Almonds by Fredelle Maynard and Julie by Cora Taylor.
Online Activity
Hello, you either have JavaScript turned off or an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.

People who have never visited the prairies are always surprised to learn that the landscape is not as flat as they imagined it to be and that there are lots of trees. Click and drag each piece to put these jigsaws together and click the pictures to find out where these locations are.

Studio Activity

Jenkins knew his  subjectA topic or idea represented in an art work.  matter well. He was born in Wilkie, Saskatchewan, and eventually went away to fight in World War II. When Jenkins returned to Canada, he went to Vancouver, British Columbia, where he learned to paint, but on a visit back to Saskatchewan, he realized how beautiful the landscape was and directed his focus on documenting Saskatchewan’s landscape through painting. He is regarded as inspiring a “school of prairie painting”. This phrase does not mean an actual school, but rather a  styleA way of doing something. Use of materials, methods of working, design qualities and choice of subject matter reflect the style of the individual, culture, movement, or time period.  of painting, one that attracted many artists both professional and amateur. To find out more about Jenkin’s  paintingWorks of art made with paint on a surface. Often the surface, also called a support, is either a tightly stretched piece of canvas or a panel. How the ground (on which paint is applied) is prepared on the support depends greatly on the type of paint to be used. Paintings are usually intended to be placed in frames, and exhibited on walls, but there have been plenty of exceptions. Also, the act of painting, which may involve a wide range of techniques and materials, along with the artist's other concerns which effect the content of a work. (Artlex.com)   styleA way of doing something. Use of materials, methods of working, design qualities and choice of subject matter reflect the style of the individual, culture, movement, or time period.  and to consider some tips on painting, go to the Advanced Activities section.

Create an invented museum exhibit  installationAn art work specially designed to fit in or to make use of a specific type of space. It usually consists of more than one element and relates to the space in which it is displayed.  for the  contextThe varied circumstances in which a work of art is (or was) produced and interpreted. There are three arenas to these circumstances, each of them highly complex. The first pertains to the artist: attitudes, beliefs, interests, values, intentions and purposes, education and training, and biography (including psychology). The second is the setting in which the work was produced: the apparent function of the work (to adorn, beautify, express, illustrate, mediate, persuade, record, redefine reality, or redefine art), religious and philosophical convictions, sociopolitical and economic structures, and even climate and geography. Third is the field of the work's reception and interpretation: the traditions it is intended to serve, the mind-set it adheres to (ritualistic, perceptual, rational, and emotive), and, perhaps most importantly, the colour of the lenses through which the work is being scrutinized — i.e., the interpretive mode (artistic biography, psychological approaches, political criticism, feminism, cultural history, intellectual history, formalism, structuralism, semiotics, hermeneutics, post-structuralism and deconstruction, reception theory, concepts of periodicity [stylistic pendulum swinging], and other chronological and contextual considerations. Context is much more than the matter of the artist's circumstances alone. (Artlex.com)  of this painting

Abandoned buildings such as this one in Jenkins’ painting are scattered in locations all over the prairies. There is something regal yet forlorn about them, and some appear spooky or mysterious. Do you ever wonder who lived in the houses, why the owners left, what their stories were, and what it was like to live their lives in times past?

In some derelict farmhouses, old remnants of clothing, furniture or rusty utensils remain. Birds and animals have often  foundAn image, material, or object, not originally intended as a work of art, that is obtained, selected, and exhibited by an artist, often without being altered in any way. The cubists, dadaists, and surrealists originated the use of found images / materials / objects. Although it can be either a natural or manufactured image / material / object, the term readymade refers only to those which were manufactured. Also known in the French, objet trouvé. (Artlex.com)  shelter inside, but there may still be pieces of  linoleumLinoleum is a durable, washable material formerly used more for flooring as vinyl flooring is used today. It is usually backed with burlap or canvas, and may be purchased adhered to a wooden block. The linoleum can be cut in much the same way woodcuts are produced, however its surface is softer and without grain. Also refers to a print made with this method. Linoleum cuts have been made by Henri Matisse (French, 1869-1954) and Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881-1973).  (Artlex.com)  or wallpaper and fragments of curtains left.

Create a history for the house in this painting as if you were setting up a museum exhibit
.  (This might work well as a project for a group of people.)

As we are looking at a photo, and thus don’t know what this house was really like inside, we have to use our imaginations. If you were making a movie about this home and had to recreate the interior, you would need to study houses of the same period and the lives of farming families of the era.

  • Find out what type of furnishings and interior decorations this house might have had, perhaps in the early part of the 20th century. Go to the following websites for examples:
  • These might be artefacts for your “museum” exhibit. Maybe you can find some old remnant pieces of broken china plates, or an old cup something like this:
  • Next write a letter as if it were many years later.  You are a member of the Toal family explaining to a neighbour why the family abandoned the farm? Was there a mysterious death, a problem with the house or farm, or was it the result of hard times that caused the family’s departure? Were the Toals immigrants to Saskatchewan? Did a child become very sick forcing them to go to live near a hospital?  These are just some examples of directions your imagination may follow!

Instructions to make  printAn exactly repeatable visual statement which exists as two-dimensional physical material.  “rubbings”

  • Materials you will need
  • thin paper such as newsprint
  • objects to take rubbings from
  • Method
References

Author unknown.  George Jenkins.  Exhibition catalogue.  Agghazy Art Gallery, Calgary, Alberta, 1979.

Climer, J.  J. George Jenkins.  Exhibition catalogue.  Mendel Art Gallery, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, 1970.

Francis, R. Douglas.  Images of the West: Responses to the Canadian West.  Saskatoon, Saskatchewan:  Western Producer Prairie Books, 1989.

Greenberg, Clement.  ‘Painting and Sculpture in Prairie Canada, 1961.’  in Documents in Canadian Art, Douglas Fetherling, ed., Peterborough, Ontario:  broadview press, 1987.

MacDonald, Colin S.  A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, Vol. 3.  Ottawa, Ontario:  Canadian paperbacks, 1971.

Newman, Marketa, ed.  Biographical Dictionary of Saskatchewan Artists: Men Artists.  Saskatoon, Saskatchewan:  Fifth House Publishers, 1994.

Rees, Ronald.  The Land of Earth and Sky: Landscape Painting in Western Canada.  Saskatoon, Saskatchewan:  Western Producer Prairie Books, 1984.

Canadian Heritage University of Regina Mackenzie Art Gallery Mendel Art Gallery Sask Learning