The Winnipeg Sketch Club: A Look Back
This year marks the one-hundredth anniversary of the Winnipeg Sketch Club (WSC), an organization that operated in close association with the Winnipeg Art Gallery when it first began. Drawing on the Gallery’s permanent collection, this exhibition pays tribute to the Sketch Club by featuring works by 25 of its leading and best known contributors, from L.L. FitzGerald to Clarence Tillenius, W.J. Phillips to Leo Mol, and Pauline Boutal to Tom Lovatt. The exhibition illustrates the great range of pursuits Sketch Club members were engaged in, and presents not only “sketches” but also sculptures, prints, and finished paintings.
The Winnipeg Art Students’ Sketch Club, as it was initially known, was conceived in 1914 by Alexander Musgrove, the Winnipeg School of Art’s newly installed Principal who also served as the Sketch Club’s first President. At this time, membership was limited to students and faculty of the School. Weekly sketching sessions were held at the Industrial Bureau Building, home of what was then called the Winnipeg Museum of Fine Arts, which hosted the Club’s inaugural exhibition in 1916. From the very beginning, the WSC gave members the opportunity to work from the live model, and produce studies of nude and elaborately costumed figures. It went on to orchestrate outdoor sketching trips to sites throughout the city and beyond. Over the decades, Sketch Club members have documented Winnipeg’s changing skyline and used a variety of media to record countless city landmarks, many of which no longer exist.
In 1920 the group’s membership broadened and grew to include academically unaffiliated artists from the community. Member-juries oversaw new admissions. Social gatherings became common, a resource library was amassed, and a development fund initiated and earmarked for the purchase of future studio quarters and equipment. In 1969 Winnipeg art collector John P. Crabb provided a space on Assiniboine Avenue which the WSC occupied rent-free until 1997. Now located on Eugenie Street, the Sketch Club continues to be an important resource for artists, offering the means to practice and improve technique, exhibit work, discuss ideas, and socialize.