Bertram Brooker

Authored by: Nicole Fletcher on May 20, 2013

Bertram Brooker, Sounds Assembling, 1928, oil on canvas; Collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery, L-80

"Great art is essentially useless, in the practical sense. It appeals purely to the spirit." - Bertram Brooker, 1929

Bertram Brooker is one of the lesser known but quite fascinating artists featured in 100 Masters. Not only was he an accomplished painter, but he succeeding in advertising, publishing, literature, screen writing, poetry, and art criticism as well.

Brooker immigrated to Portage-la-Prairie, Manitoba from Surrey, England with his family at the age of 17. He quickly began working for the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway. Then, in 1913 he and his family moved to Neepawa where he entered into film, renting the Neepawa theatre and writing screenplays. In 1921 Brooker moved to Toronto where he began publishing an advertising magazine. Brooker was also awarded the first Governor General's Literary Award in 1936 for his first novel, Think of the Earth.

While in Toronto, Brooker joined the Arts and Letters club where he met several of the Group of Seven members. Brooker was a self-taught artist but one of Canada's most innovative modern painters. He was Canada's first artist to exhibit abstract paintings. In 1927 at the Arts and Letters Club, Brooker exhibited some of his "abstractions". However, Brooker continued his highly abstract work for only a few more years. After meeting L.L. Fitzgerald (former president of the Winnipeg School of Art and member of the Group of Seven) in 1929 Brooker rejected abstraction for an expressive realism.

The work on display in 100 Masters, Sounds Assembling was painted in 1928. Through this painting, Brooker intended to create a visual representation of his response to music. Upon seeing Sounds Assembling, Fitzgerald recognized the painting's importance to Canadian art and acquired it for the Winnipeg Art Gallery.

Do you think Brooker was successful in creating a depiction of music in Sounds Assembling? What do you think of Brooker's work, artistic or literary? Please leave your comments below!

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