• S.L. Simpson Gallery

    A West End Toronto gallery owned and operated by Sandra L. Simpson from 1980 to 1998. It habitually showed the work of many of the most significant contemporary Canadian artists of the late twentieth century, including Douglas Walker, Joanne Tod, and Garry Neil Kennedy.

  • sacred geometry

    A term that describes sacred or spiritual meanings attached to geometric shapes and their specific orientations. In modern art sacred geometry has been associated with many abstract artists, including Kazimir Malevich, Piet Mondrian, and Yves Gaucher. 

  • Sagiatuk, Kakulu (Kinngait, b.1940)

    A graphic artist who works in a variety of media, Kakulu Sagiatuk is a daughter of the artist Ikayukta Tunnillie and was born on the Hudson’s Bay Company supply ship Nascopie. She describes birds, Sedna, seals, and beluga whales as her favourite subjects, and her work often includes scenes of transformation drawn from Inuit shamanic beliefs.

  • Saila, Pitaloosie (Kinngait, b.1942)

    Graphic artist Pitaloosie Saila’s work ranges from realism to abstraction and includes autobiographical elements, with a focus on portraits and, less often, animals. Her drawings have been rendered into prints for every Cape Dorset annual collection since 1968. A retrospective exhibition of her prints and drawings was organized by the Winnipeg Art Gallery in 2017. Her husband was noted carver Pauta Saila. 

  • Saint-Charles, Joseph (Canadian, 1868–1956)

    A painter and professor of drawing at the School of Arts and Manufactures, Joseph Saint-Charles was among a group of young Quebec painters sent by the priest Alfred-Léon Sentenne to study in Paris at the end of the nineteenth century. After training at the École des beaux-arts in Paris and at the Julian Academy with Benjamin Constant, Jules Lefebvre, and Jean-Paul Laurens, he returned to Montreal. He received religious commissions at the beginning of his career, and then became a celebrated Montreal portraitist.

  • Salon du Printemps de Montréal

    An annual exhibition of Canadian artists presented by the Art Association of Montreal (now the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts) for the first time in 1880. The salon featured amateur, emerging, and professional artists, as well as art-school students. The salon helped Canadian artists gain recognition in a period when more art schools were being established locally so that artists did not have to travel to Europe to study.

  • salvage paradigm

    In the context of twentieth-century ethnography, travel literature, and anthropology, the salvage paradigm is an ideological position whereby a dominant Western society assumes the inevitability of a non-Western culture’s demise, owing to its perceived inability to adapt to modern life. The conclusion is that the non-Western culture can be “saved” only by the collection, documentation, and preservation of artifacts and accounts of its presence.

  • Sampson-Matthews Ltd.

    A Toronto-based printing and design firm, Sampson-Matthews Ltd. (founded in 1917) worked in partnership with the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, to establish the wartime art project. Between 1942 and 1945, thirty-six high-quality silkscreen images of Canadian subjects by Canadian artists were distributed to Canadian military bases at home and abroad to boost the morale of Canadian troops. The project continued until 1955, and approximately one hundred different prints were distributed to schools across Canada and sold individually. The series is credited with creating a national awareness of Canadian art.

  • Sanchez, Joseph (American, White Mountain Apache Reservation and Taos Pueblo, b. 1948)

    A founding member of the Professional Native Indian Artists Inc. and the only non-Canadian artist of the group, Sanchez takes nature and spirituality as a primary concern in his paintings. After spending several years in Canada, he returned to the United States in the mid-1970s, helping to form various artists’ groups.

  • Sand, George (French, 1804–1876)

    Pseudonym of the novelist Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin, known for referencing the countryside of her youth, sporting men’s clothes, and having love affairs with well-known figures, including Frédéric Chopin.

  • Sandham, Henry (Canadian, 1842–1910)

    A landscape painter, photographer, and draftsman who apprenticed with William Notman in Montreal and later lived in Boston and London, U.K., where he enjoyed a successful career as an illustrator. Sandham’s Montreal Snow Shoe Club, a composite photograph completed with Notman, won a silver medal at the world’s fair in Paris in 1878.

  • Sargent, John Singer (American, 1856–1925)

    Renowned for his portraits of high society in Paris, London, and New York, John Singer Sargent was an American painter who spent most of his life abroad. Influenced by the Impressionists, he sought to offer a glimpse into the personality of his subjects in the portraits he created, a strategy that was not always well received. Madam X, 1884, typifies Sargent’s style and is considered his best-known work. In 1910 he gave up portraiture to focus exclusively on murals and watercolour landscapes.

  • Sartre, Jean-Paul (French, 1905–1980)

    Jean-Paul Sartre was a central figure in the development and spread of existentialism, a philosophy of existence that attempts to chart what it means to be human. His book Being and Nothingness (1943) is considered his masterpiece. Existentialist thinkers in his circle included Simone de Beauvoir, his long-time lover.

  • Saunders, Helen (British, 1885–1963)

    A Vorticist painter, one of two women depicted in William Roberts’s 1961–62 painting of the group. Saunders was one of the original signatories of the Vorticist manifesto in 1914 and contributed to the group’s journal Blast as well as showing in both Vorticist exhibitions. Only twenty-two of Saunders’s works are known to have survived.

  • Savage, Anne (Canadian, 1896–1971)

    A painter and educator. Savage’s early work is characterized by rhythmic portrayals of Canadian landscapes, though her later paintings were abstract. She founded arts education organizations and was an original member of the Beaver Hall Group and the Canadian Group of Painters.

  • Savoie, Roméo (Canadian, b. 1928)

    Acadian mixed-media artist and painter Savoie is part of the first generation of contemporary Acadian artists. A former architect, he worked in offices in Montreal and New Brunswick from 1956 through the 1960s before turning to art. Throughout his career he has worked to develop arts infrastructure to support other Acadian artists in New Brunswick.

  • Schaefer, Carl (Canadian, 1903–1995)

    A painter who studied under Arthur Lismer and J.E.H. MacDonald at the Ontario College of Art (now OCAD University), where he later taught for over twenty years. Schaefer’s preferred subjects were the rural landscapes of his Ontario home. He served as a war artist, attached to the Royal Canadian Air Force, during the Second World War.

  • Schoenberg, Arnold (Austrian/American, 1874–1951)

    Born into a Jewish family in Vienna, Arnold Schoenberg was a composer of modern music known for his atonal compositions and development of the twelve-tone method of composition. His earliest compositions drew on the influence of the Romantics and on that of composers such as Brahms and Mahler; later he moved away from tonality and then between atonal and tonal works constructed using his twelve-tone method. Schoenberg went to the United States when the Nazis rose to power in 1933 and settled in Los Angeles, where he taught at the University of Southern California and the University of California, Los Angeles. His students included the American composer John Cage; while he was still in Europe his students included Alban Berg and Anton Webern.

  • School of Paris

    A term denoting the loosely affiliated international and French artists who, from about 1900 to 1940, lived and worked in Paris, when it was a world capital of galvanizing, experimental art. Leading figures of the School of Paris include Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Marc Chagall, and Amedeo Modigliani.

  • Schreiber, Charlotte (British/Canadian 1834–1922)

    A realist painter who trained in London, Charlotte Schreiber came to Canada in 1875. She was the first woman to teach at the Ontario College of Art (now OCAD University) in Toronto and one of the founding members of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. Schreiber’s attention to detail in both literary and everyday scenes had a marked influence on Canadian painting in the late nineteenth century, and she is credited with bringing high realism to Canada.

  • Schreiner, Olive (South African, 1855–1920)

    A white South African writer whose 1883 novel The Story of an African Farm was the first from that country to garner international success. Schreiner moved to England in 1881, where she was known as a writer and activist. She was opposed to British colonialism in Africa and active in the women’s suffrage movement.

  • Schwitters, Kurt (German, 1887–1948)

    An avant-garde artist who created collages, paintings, and poetry, calling all of these activities by his invented term “Merz.” He was influenced by De Stijl and Dada, and participated in some of the most notable abstract art exhibitions of the first half of the twentieth century. Fleeing persecution by the Nazi regime, Schwitters eventually settled in England.

  • Scott, Marian (Canadian, 1906–1993)

    Scott was a painter and teacher who experimented with many different styles, including simplified realism, abstraction, Surrealism, and Precisionism. She is best known for landscapes and cityscapes that depict the struggles of urban life. She was a founding member of the influential Contemporary Arts Society of Montreal.

  • Scott, Thomas Seaton (Canadian, 1826–1895)

    A British immigrant, Scott began working in Montreal in the mid-1850s, establishing a successful architectural practice that included church designs, corporate commissions from the Grand Trunk Railway, and private projects. In 1872 he became the chief architect in Canada’s Department of Public Works. In this position he was responsible for the administration of a team of design staff who worked on dozens of federal building projects.

  • scratchboard

    Term refers to the medium and an illustration technique. Scratchboard is a white clay surface coated in black ink. An image is created by using sharp blades and scraping implements to scratch patterns in the clay, revealing the white underneath the surface.

  • Sculpture ’67

    Presented by the National Gallery of Canada and curated by Dorothy Cameron, Sculpture ’67 was an open-air exhibition of contemporary Canadian sculpture organized to coincide with the country’s Centennial festivities in the summer of 1967. The exhibition included the work of fifty-one sculptors and was installed in Toronto City Hall Square (now Nathan Phillips Square).

  • scumble

    To scumble is to modify the colour or tone of a painted area by applying over it an opaque or semi-opaque colour, usually with a fairly dry brush, so thinly and lightly that the base colour partially shows through.

  • Seiden Goldberg, Regina (Canadian, 1897–1991)

    A participant in the exhibitions organized by the Beaver Hall Group, Seiden trained at the Art Association of Montreal with William Brymner and Maurice Cullen. She became known for her portraits and was admired by the Canadian press. She later studied in Europe, where she met the artist Eric Goldberg; the couple married in Montreal in 1928, and Seiden largely ceased painting after her marriage.

  • serigraphy

    A name for what is now typically described as “screen printing.” It was advanced in 1940 by a group of American artists working in the silkscreen process who wished to distinguish their work from commercial prints made by the same method.

  • Seurat, Georges (French, 1859–1891)

    An influential painter, Seurat was a pioneer of the Neo-Impressionist movement, departing from Impressionism’s relative spontaneity and practising more formal structure and symbolic content. Along with Paul Signac, he developed Pointillism, a technique adopted by other painters such as Camille Pissarro, Piet Mondrian, and Wassily Kandinsky.

  • Sevier, Gerry (Canadian, b. 1934)

    A commercial artist, illustrator, and instructor, Gerry Sevier uses light and shadow in his work to powerful effect. He is a member of the Royal Canadian Academy and has works in more than 150 corporate collections.

  • sfumato

    One of the four essential modes used by Renaissance painters (the others were cangiante, chiaroscuro, and unione). The word is from Italian sfumare, to vanish or fade away like smoke. In painting it refers to softened images that shade imperceptibly between shadow and light, from one form to another, without sharp outlines. The face of Leonardo’s Mona Lisa is an example of sfumato.

  • Shadbolt, Doris (Canadian, 1918–2003)

    A writer and curator, Shadbolt worked in various capacities at the Vancouver Art Gallery from 1950 to 1975. She organized important exhibitions, including Arts of the Raven, Emily Carr: A Centennial Exhibition and The Art of Bill Reid, and published books on both Reid and Carr. With her husband, Jack Shadbolt, she founded the VIVA Foundation for the Visual Arts in 1987.

  • Shadbolt, Douglas (Canadian 1925–2002)

    British Columbia architect Douglas Shadbolt was best known as an educator who established architecture programs at the Nova Scotia Technical School (now DalTech), Halifax, and Carleton University, Ottawa. He returned to his home province in 1979 to serve as director of the School of Architecture at the University of British Columbia, a position he held until 1990. Shadbolt was the brother of painter Jack Shadbolt, whose British Columbia house he designed.

  • Shadbolt, Jack (Canadian, 1909–1998)

    Primarily known as a painter and draftsman, Shadbolt studied art in London, Paris, and New York before returning to British Columbia. He taught at the Vancouver School of Art from 1945 to 1966, becoming the head of the school’s painting and drawing section. Major influences include Emily Carr and Aboriginal art of the Pacific Northwest.

  • Shahn, Ben (Lithuanian/American, 1898–1969)

    An influential painter, lithographer, and photographer whose artworks and career reflect a lifelong commitment to social justice. The paintings Shahn made before 1945, such as the portraits that refer to the Dreyfus Affair, were specific and highly detailed, while his later work was more inventive and addressed more general themes.

  • shamanism

    Religion that centres around a shaman, practised in various forms by Indigenous peoples worldwide. Shamans are commonly believed to have special powers, including the ability to heal individuals and communities and escort souls of the dead to the spirit world.

  • Shaqu, Manumi (Kinngait, 1917–2000)

    A carver and hunter who lived on the land before eventually settling in Cape Dorset (Kinngait) in the early 1950s, Manumi Shaqu produced works depicting both people and animals. He began carving in ivory during the 1940s and later incorporated ivory, antler, and bone elements into some of his stone sculptures. He famously created a Mother and Child carving that was given to Princess Elizabeth by the Government of Canada at the end of her royal visit in November 1951. At that time he was known as Munameekota, or Munamee “A”.

  • Sharp, Dorothea (British, 1874–1955)

    A British Impressionist painter known for her depictions of children at play in various landscapes. Sharp studied in Paris, where she was influenced by Claude Monet. From 1908 to 1912, she served as vice-president of the Society of Women Artists. She exhibited with many art associations and travelled extensively in Europe with Canadian artist Helen McNicoll.

  • Shchukin, Sergei (Russian, 1854–1936)

    A major art patron and collector, whose collection was particularly rich in work by Impressionist and Post-Impressionists artists, Henri Matisse, and Pablo Picasso. It was appropriated by the Russian government following the 1917 revolution, and is now largely divided between the Pushkin and Hermitage museums in Moscow and Saint Petersburg respectively.

  • Shearer, Steven (Canadian, b.1968)

    A Vancouver-based artist, Shearer draws on the aesthetics of his suburban youth in the 1970s to create collages, paintings, and drawings. His work examines the insecurities and vulnerability of adolescent boys and the walls they construct to hide them. Shearer was a nominee for the 2006 Sobey Art Award and represented Canada at the Venice Biennale in 2011.

  • Sheeler, Charles (American, 1883–1965)

    Painter of industry and commercial photographer, including a series of photographs on the Ford Motor plant in River Rouge, Michigan. He helped found American modernism and develop the Precisionist style, emphasizing the abstract forms of factory and technological subjects. Sheeler collaborated with photographer Paul Strand on the “City Symphony” film Manhatta (1921), influenced by the European avant-garde filmmakers.

  • Shier, Reid (Canadian, b.1963)

    The Director of The Polygon Gallery (formerly Presentation House Gallery) in North Vancouver, British Columbia, Shier is a Canadian contemporary art curator and writer. He previously held positions at The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery in Toronto, Ontario, and the Contemporary Art Gallery in Vancouver, British Columbia, and his writing has appeared in journals, magazines, and exhibition catalogues in Canada and around the world.

  • Shilling, Arthur (Ojibwa, 1941–1986)

    Painter of expressionistic portraits of Ojibwa people, friends, and family members. Shilling was known for his bold use of colour and broad brush strokes, which convey the spiritual integrity of his subjects. To encourage talent where he grew up, Shilling built and opened an art gallery on the Chippewas of Rama First Nation lands. The 1978 National Film Board of Canada film The Beauty of My People documents Shilling’s life.

  • Shostakovich, Dmitri (Russian, 1906–1975)

    Born and educated in St. Petersburg, Dimitri Shostakovitch was a Russian composer who worked within the confines of the Soviet system. He incorporated the variety of modern European influences he had been exposed to during his education into his early work, though he encountered increasing pressure from the authorities to produce more accessible music. As Stalinist control of artistic production increased, Shostakovitch faced the challenge of balancing his artistic ambition with the necessity of pleasing the regime. His dark, serious compositions, in particular his symphonies, earned him the ability to work in relative freedom throughout his career.

  • Shukhaev, Vasili (Russian, 1887–1973)

    A painter, draftsman, stage designer, and illustrator, who developed a neo-classical style influenced by the art of Italian Renaissance, which he first saw on a trip to Italy in 1912. In 1920, he emigrated from Russia to Finland, then to France. After returning to the Soviet Union in the mid-1930s, he was arrested, imprisoned, and exiled, from 1947 spending most of the remainder of his years in Georgia.

  • Signac, Paul (French, 1863–1935)

    A Post-Impressionist painter who, with Georges Seurat, developed Pointillism—a painstaking method of painting that drew from colour theory—and created detailed figurative images through the application of small dots of colour. In 1884 he and Seurat were among the founders of the Société des artistes indépendants, which held annual exhibitions of advanced art for thirty years.

  • Siqueiros, David Alfaro (Mexican, 1896–1974)

    A social-realist painter and a member of the Mexican muralists group, which included Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco. He completed numerous murals for the Mexican government that celebrated the nation’s people and its history. A member of the Mexican Communist Party, Siqueiros was involved in an unsuccessful attempt on the life of Leon Trotsky in 1940.

  • Slade School of Fine Art

    Established at University College London, England, in 1871 through a bequest by philanthropist Felix Slade, the school was envisioned as a place where fine art would be studied within a wider liberal arts environment. The Slade boasts many prominent past teachers and students, including Henry Tonks, Lucian Freud, Augustus John, and Dora Carrington. The school still operates today.

  • Sleigh, Sylvia (British/American, 1916–2010)

    The British-born Sleigh gained recognition as a painter in the United States in the 1970s, after moving to New York City in 1961. She painted nudes that were inspired by Western art history but that presented men in traditionally female poses, such as a reclining Venus or odalisque. Sleigh showed scenes of men and women, both unclothed, with friends, including her husband, the art critic Lawrence Alloway, serving as models. A founding member of the all-women artist-run gallery SoHo20, Sleigh was active in New York’s feminist art scene, which she documented in a series of group portraits.

  • Sloan, John (American, 1871–1951)

    Associated with Robert Henri and the Ashcan School, John Sloan was a prominent American painter, printmaker, and draftsman in the early twentieth century, known for his unsentimental portrayal of lower-class neighbourhoods and people. After the Armory Show in 1913, he became increasingly interested in formal issues and developed a technique known as hatching.

  • Smith, Gordon (Canadian, b. 1919)

    British-born Smith is a painter living and working in Vancouver. Time spent as a student at the California School of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco Art Institute) influenced his early style, which progressed from Abstract Expressionism through hard-edged abstraction and back to gestural expressionist landscapes through his career. Smith taught at the University of British Columbia and was a prominent figure in Vancouver’s postwar art scene.

  • Smith, Jack (American, 1932–1989)

    An important figure in the New York underground cinema scene of the 1950s and 1960s, despite gaining little recognition during his life. Smith was inspired by B movies and interested in exaggerated performance, and while his films are campy and sexually provocative they are also poignant commentaries on sincerity and theatricality.

  • Smith, Jessie Willcox (American, 1863–1935)

    A leading female illustrator of American children’s books, popular magazines, and advertisements. Smith studied with the eminent Thomas Eakins at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. She contributed drawings to an edition of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Evangeline in 1897.

  • Smith, Jori (Canadian, 1907–2005)

    A figurative painter and draftswoman trained at the École des beaux-arts in Montreal (now part of the Université du Québec à Montréal), and a leading figure in that city’s vibrant 1930s art scene. An admirer of Pierre Bonnard, she concentrated on portraits and interiors. She was made a member of the Order of Canada in 2002. Jori Smith married fellow artist Jean Palardy in the early 1930s.

  • Smith, Marcella (British, 1887–1963)

    Oil painter and watercolourist known for her landscapes, townscapes, and flower studies. Smith studied at the Philadelphia School of Design and at Académie Colarossi in Paris. In 1921, she moved to London to live with fellow artist Dorothea Sharp. From 1949 to 1963, Smith served as vice-president of the Society of Women Artists.

  • Smith, Richard (British, b. 1931)

    A painter and teacher whose work typically explores the communicative potential and functions of basic geometric forms. It combines elements of both Pop art and Minimalism, styles that Smith first encountered and experimented with when he moved to New York City from London in 1959.

  • smudging ceremony

    In North American Indigenous traditions, the smudging ceremony is one of purification. It commonly involves the use of smoke of sage, sweetgrass, cedar, or other herbs to cleanse the body, mind, and spirit of negative emotions.

  • Snow, Michael (Canadian, b.1928)

    The paintings, films, photographs, sculptures, installations, and musical performances of artist Michael Snow have kept him in the spotlight for over sixty years. Snow’s Walking Woman series of the 1960s holds a prominent place in Canadian art history. His contributions to visual art, experimental film, and music have been recognized internationally. (See Michael Snow: Life & Work by Martha Langford.)

  • Sobey Art Award

    Created in 2002, the Sobey Art Award is presented annually to a Canadian artist under forty. The award selects a winner from a shortlist of five finalists representing five Canadian regions: the West Coast and the Yukon, the Prairies and the North, Ontario, Quebec, and the Atlantic Provinces. Funded by the Sobey Art Foundation and administered by the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Halifax, in partnership with the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, it is the largest art award in Canada.

  • social-realist painting

    An art movement, left-wing in politics and figurative in style, that emerged in the United States in the 1930s. The artists’ subject was the American scene, and their paintings illustrated working-class hardships during the Great Depression, showing street scenes and men and women at work. Notable members were Ben Shahn, William Gropper, and Jack Levine.

  • Société Anonyme

    An organization initiated in New York in 1920 by Katherine Dreier, Marcel Duchamp, and Man Ray to promote the appreciation and practice of modern art in the United States. It organized exhibitions, lectures, public programs, and publications and collected actively. The collection is now held at Yale University. Lawren Harris was instrumental in arranging for the Société’s International Exhibition of Modern Art to be mounted at the Art Gallery of Toronto (now the Art Gallery of Ontario) in 1927, creating enormous controversy.

  • Society of Canadian Artists

    Established in Montreal in 1867, this society lasted only until 1873. Significant figures lending their support or participation included Cornelius Krieghoff; John A. Fraser, a partner in William Notman’s photographic business; the portraitist John Bell-Smith; and Allan Edson, a landscape painter from the Eastern Townships. The society’s last exhibition was in 1872.

  • Society of Mural Decorators

    Founded in 1894 by George Agnew Reid, William Cruikshank, Wyly Grier, Frederick Challener, Curtis Williamson, Sydney Strickland Tully, and Harriet Ford, the Society of Mural Decorators was a group of Toronto artists dedicated to promoting mural painting in Canada. Although they ultimately failed to find approval for commissioned murals to decorate Toronto’s Union Station and the Toronto Municipal Buildings (now known as the Old City Hall), members of the society did succeed in attracting interest to mural painting, and their individual work can be found in public buildings and theatres in Toronto and across Canada.

  • Society of Women Artists

    A British society established in 1857 to promote and fight for the exhibition of works by women artists, whose abilities were doubted by influential critics such as John Ruskin. The society was also a reaction to the Royal Academy of Arts, which was a dominating force in the art scene but did not admit women art students to its school until 1860 (and then only in a limited capacity).

  • Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

    Opened in 1939 as the Museum of non-objective painting, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is a New York City art museum dedicated to modern and contemporary art. Administered by the Guggenheim Foundation, which was founded two years prior to its inception, the museum moved into its iconic Frank Lloyd Wright–designed building on 5th Avenue in 1959.

  • Solomon, Daniel (American/Canadian, b.1945)

    An artist and professor at the Ontario College of Art and Design University, Daniel Solomon’s work features vivid colours and complex pictorial space. He moved to Toronto in 1967 and worked at David Mirvish Gallery in the city’s Mirvish Village neighbourhood from 1968 to 1970, developing a friendship with the gallery’s eponymous owner.

  • Sonderborg, K.R.H. (German, 1923–2008)

    An important figure in the Art Informel movement in Germany, whose work became increasingly abstract in the 1950s. Sonderborg’s paintings and drawings frequently incorporate calligraphic forms and have been associated intellectually with the work of Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky.

  • Sontag, Susan (American, 1933–2004)

    A New York intellectual and activist who first gained notoriety in the 1960s with her essay “Notes on Camp,” Sontag was a theatre artist, wrote and directed films, and wrote short stories, novels, and critical essays that challenged traditional notions of art interpretation and consumption. Her stories and critical essays were published widely, including in the The New Yorker, The New York Times, Granta, The Times Literary Supplement, and Art in America.

  • Soper, J. Dewey (Canadian, 1893–1982)

    A naturalist and explorer dispatched on several research missions to Baffin Island by the Geological Survey of Canada during the 1920s. In 1926 he journeyed from his headquarters at Pangnirtung to Cape Dorset, returning with a number of unattributed figurative ivory carvings that are now in the collection of the Canadian Museum of History, in Gatineau, Quebec.

  • Soto, Jesús Rafael (Venezuelan, 1923–2005)

    A painter and sculptor born in Caracas, Soto directed Maracaibo’s art college before moving to Paris in 1950. His highly inventive monumental works create optical sensations through movement by their component parts, or by the spectator. They have been commissioned for cities throughout Venezuela, Europe, and North America and include Suspended Virtual Volume, 1978, installed in Toronto’s Royal Bank Plaza.

  • Spalding, Jeffrey (Canadian, b. 1951)

    An artist, curator, educator, and museum director. Spalding is an important figure in contemporary Canadian art, whose multimedia artistic practice and broad activities within the national art scene influenced the direction and reception of Conceptual art, video art, and painting. He received the Order of Canada in 2007.

  • Spencer, Stanley (British, 1891–1959)

    A painter of expressive portraits and multi-figure scenes. His complex compositions often evoke his Christian faith in a style reminiscent of both Neo-Raphaelitism and Cubism. Spencer lived most of his life in the English village of Cookham; his reputation soared following a posthumous retrospective at the Royal Academy in 1980.

  • spiritual colour

    A term that describes sacred meanings attached to specific colours. Spiritual colour is associated with modernism and also appears in Indigenous spirituality. In Anishnabe tradition everything in creation has a colour that represents a particular form of power; each person is associated with a spiritual colour that supports focusing, receiving guidance, and living a good life. 

  • spiritual light

    In the Eckankar religion, spiritual light refers to one of the primary channels through which practitioners may come to know God within themselves. The other channel is sound.

  • Spoerri, Daniel (Swiss, b. 1930)

    An artist and entrepreneur born in Romania, Spoerri was a founder of Nouveau réalisme in 1960. His performance art was informed by his professional background in ballet, mime, theatre direction, and set design, and his found-object sculpture by the techniques of earlier Dada artists.

  • Spohn, Clay (American, 1898–1977)

    Born in San Francisco, Clay Spohn studied in California, New York, and Paris before becoming part of the Bay Area art scene in the late 1920s. A painter, illustrator, lithographer, and muralist, he completed public commissions in Montebello and Los Gatos, California. Spohn moved to Taos, New Mexico, in 1952, living there until 1958, when he left for New York City. His modernist, figurative work incorporated aspects of Surrealism. He was close friends with the abstract sculptor Alexander Calder. 

  • Spring Exhibitions

    Between 1880 and 1965, Spring Exhibitions were held every year by the Art Association of Montreal (today the Montreal Museum of the Fine Arts). The exhibitions presented the latest trends in Quebec and Canadian art. The Salon and the prizes awarded became a very important showcase for young artists.

  • Staats, Greg (Kanien’kehá:ka [Mohawk], Ohsweken, Six Nations of the Grand River Territory, b. 1963)

    A photographer and video artist whose work is imbued with a traditional Haudenosaunee healing aesthetic that captures both trauma and renewal. Staats’s works combine the natural world with language and mnemonics to effect a sense of condolence, loss, and the materialization of what is within the body as it navigates land, nation, community, and family.

  • Stanley, John Mix (American, 1814–1872)

    An itinerant artist and photographer known for his landscape paintings. Stanley began to paint Native Americans while working in Wisconsin and Illinois; he later joined numerous expeditions to the American West, making sketches and daguerreotypes of Indigenous peoples and scenery for the country’s military.

  • steatite (soapstone) carving

    One of the first forms of Inuit art available in the South, these were traditional Inuit carvings. Steatite (also known as soapstone) is a soft stone made mostly of talc, though objects often thought of as steatite carvings may also be made of serpentinite or pyrophyllite.

  • Steer, Philip Wilson (British, 1860–1942)

    A leading British Impressionist painter and art teacher, Steer trained at the Académie Julian and at the École des Beaux-Arts with Alexandre Cabanel, where he was also influenced by Édouard Manet and James McNeill Whistler. Steer was a founding member of the New English Art Club and taught at the Slade School of Fine Art from 1893 to 1930.

  • Stein, Gertrude (American, 1874–1946)

    An important figure in literary modernism, through landmark works of fiction, poetry, and drama. She was also known for her early support of modernist artists, including Juan Gris and Pablo Picasso. Born in Pennsylvania, Stein lived in Paris her entire adult life, with her partner, Alice B. Toklas.

  • Steiner, Rudolf (Austrian, 1861–1925)

    An architect and the founder of Anthroposophy—a universalist approach to spirituality based on German idealist philosophy and Goethe’s ideas of perception and the mind. Steiner’s influence as a philosopher and social reformer reached artists and writers, including Saul Bellow, Joseph Beuys, and Wassily Kandinsky. His designs for the Anthroposophical Society are considered important examples of modern architecture.

  • Stella, Frank (American, b.1936)

    An Abstract Expressionist painter and sculptor and a major figure in American art. Stella often works in series, developing a formal theme over an extended period. Primarily a painter and printmaker, he began taking on decorative commissions in the 1990s; the Princess of Wales theatre in Toronto features decorations and vast murals by Stella.

  • stereograph; stereoscopic photographs

    A photographic form that was phenomenally popular from the mid-1850s into the twentieth century. A stereograph consists of two nearly identical photographs, typically mounted side by side on cardstock, which when viewed through a stereoscope blend into each other to create a three-dimensional effect.

  • Stevens, Dorothy (Canadian, 1888–1966)

    A renowned Canadian portrait painter, etcher, and printmaker, Stevens studied at the Slade School of Fine Art at age fifteen, under Philip Wilson Steer and Henry Tonks. In 1919, she was commissioned by the Canadian War Memorials Fund to produce prints depicting factory workers of the First World War. Her works can be found in the collections of the Art Gallery of Ontario and the National Gallery of Canada.

  • Stieglitz, Alfred (American, 1864–1946)

    Educated in Germany, Stieglitz began his career as a photographer in the Pictorialist style. He was also a critic, the editor and publisher of the periodical Camera Work, and a gallerist whose influence shaped the development of photography as a fine art in the United States in the twentieth century. In 1917 his work turned toward an attempt to transparently capture the shifting, fast-paced reality of modernity. His serial portrait of his wife, the painter Georgia O’Keefe, exemplifies this late style. 

  • still life

    The still life is an important genre in Western art and includes depictions of both natural and manufactured objects. Often used to emphasize the ephemerality of human life in the vanitas and memento mori paintings of the seventeenth century, the still life was at the bottom of the hierarchy of styles established by the French Academy.

  • Still, Clyfford (American, 1904–1980)

    A painter associated with Abstract Expressionism. Still spent part of his childhood on an Alberta farm, and prairie landscapes figure prominently in his early work. The natural environment continued to be a marked influence until the mid-1940s, when he moved to New York and his paintings became increasingly abstract.

  • stonecut

    A variation on the woodcut, which uses stone rather than a block of wood to create a relief print. Stonecut printmaking originated with Inuit artists and remains largely unique to Canada’s north.

  • Stravinsky, Igor (Russian/French/American, 1882–1971)

    The composer, pianist, and conductor Igor Stravinsky earned notoriety for the riotous reception of his modernist ballet The Rite of Spring, with its discordant harmonies and dynamically syncopated rhythm, when it was performed in Paris by Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes in 1913. Though his career began with a series of ballets including Rite and Petrushka (1911) that drew on Russian folk tales and Expressionist musical influences, he would go on to compose neoclassical and serial pieces that help chart the progression of modernist music in the twentieth century. After establishing himself in Paris, Stravinsky moved to the United States in 1938, settling in Hollywood, California.

  • Structural film

    A term coined by the American film historian P. Adams Sitney in the late 1960s to describe films that privilege form over narrative, with the audience asked to consider a work’s construction rather than its plot—a new trend in avant-garde cinema at the time.

  • Structuralism

    A school of thought that originated in Europe in the 1900s, which holds that all aspects of human experience and culture can be apprehended only through their interrelationships. Artworks therefore do not express essential truths but are rendered meaningful through the mental processes of their viewers.

  • Stuart, James Everett (American, 1852–1941)

    A landscape painter drawn mainly to the scenery of the western United States, particularly the mountains of California and the area’s Native American communities. Stuart’s career began in 1881 following his artistic training in San Francisco.

  • Studio International

    First published under the title The Studio: An Illustrated Magazine of Fine and Applied Art in 1893, Studio International is a British art magazine. One of the first publications to adopt photomechanical reproduction, Studio promoted the work of Arts & Crafts architects such as Charles Rennie Mackintosh and C.F.A. Voysey in addition to significant artistic developments of the twentieth century, including Impressionism, Futurism, and Cubism. Studio still exists in electronic and printed form.

  • sublime

    A complex and important idea in the history of aesthetics, sparked in late seventeenth-century Europe by the translation of the ancient Greek text On the Sublime (attributed to Longinus) and furthered by the eighteenth-century philosopher Edmund Burke and many others. In painting, the sublime is often expressed in scenes of exalted or mysterious grandeur—terrifying storms at sea, wild skies, steep mountains—natural phenomena that both threaten the observer and inspire awe.

  • sulijuk

    An Inuit concept often translated as “it is true,” sulijuk is used to describe things that are truthful and convey a sense of completeness. In art, this means work that is not simply realistic in its form but also in the way it represents the truth about its subject. Inuit artists in Nunavik, for example, have used sulijuk to describe carvings that encapsulate an artist’s idea of a person, animal, object, or experience, especially for works of art related to traditional ways of life. It has also been used to describe the work of artists such as Annie Pootoogook (1969–2016) who represent contemporary realities of life in the North.

  • Sullivan, Françoise (Canadian, b.1923)

    Born in Montreal, Sullivan—an artist, sculptor, dancer, and choreographer—studied at the city’s École des beaux-arts (now part of the Université du Québec à Montréal) in the early 1940s, where she met Paul-Émile Borduas. His vision of automatism would become a great influence on her modern dance performances and choreography. (See Françoise Sullivan: Life & Work by Annie Gérin.)

  • Suprematism

    A movement developed about 1915 by the Russian artist and writer Kazimir Malevich, who proclaimed it finished before 1920. Characterized by radical austerity of form and geometric abstraction, Suprematism had a powerful influence on European and American art and design of the twentieth century.

  • Surrealism

    An early twentieth-century literary and artistic movement that began in Paris, Surrealism aimed to express the workings of the unconscious, free of convention and reason, and was characterized by fantastic images and incongruous juxtapositions. The movement spread globally, influencing film, theatre, and music.

  • Sutherland, Graham (British, 1903–1980)

    Graham Sutherland was a surrealist painter of landscapes and a noted portraitist whose depiction of British prime minister Winston Churchill was famously destroyed after its subject objected to the artist’s representation. He participated in the 1936 International Surrealist Exhibition in London, England, but turned to representational, documentary painting during his time as an official war artist from 1940 to 1945. 

  • Sutherland, Graham (British, 1903–1980)

    A painter, printmaker, and designer interested primarily in landscapes and natural motifs, which he represented in a non-traditional, almost Surrealist style. His Crucifixion and Thorn Head images gained wide currency as expressions of the human condition in the aftermath of the Second World War.

  • Suzor-Coté, Marc-Aurèle de Foy (Canadian, 1869–1937)

    A remarkably versatile artist, Suzor-Coté was a successful sculptor, painter, illustrator, and church decorator. In 1890 he left rural Quebec to study art in Paris and remained there for eighteen years, painting rural landscapes in an Impressionist style.

  • Suzuki, D.T. (Japanese, 1870–1966)

    A Buddhist scholar, Daisetsu Teitaro Suzuki brought Zen Buddhist teachings to the West, travelling, lecturing, and writing throughout his career, which spanned seven decades. He believed in saitori, an instantaneous experience of enlightenment that bypasses the rational mind, and promoted a philosophy of nonduality. In recent years, Suzuki’s ideas and his position in both Japan and the West have been examined for their relationships to modernity, Western philosophy, and Japanese imperialism.

  • Sydney Biennale

    A three-month exhibition of contemporary art held biannually in Sydney, Australia. It was founded in 1973 as an international showcase of the world’s most cutting-edge art, and today is one of the most prominent festivals of its kind, along with the Venice Biennale, the Bienal de São Paulo and Documenta in Kassel, Germany.

  • Symbolism

    A literary movement that spread to the visual arts in the late nineteenth century. It encompasses work that rejects the representation of “real” space and incorporates spiritualist and revelatory aims—its artists sought to uncover the ideal world hidden within the knowable one. Important Symbolist painters include Paul Gauguin and the Nabis.

  • Synchromism

    A movement in abstract art concerned with the use of colour, founded in 1912 in Paris by expatriate American artists Stanton Macdonald-Wright and Morgan Russell. Like Orphism, its European counterpart, championed by Robert and Sonia Delaunay, Synchromism was short-lived but influential (notably on the American painter Thomas Hart Benton), ending with the First World War.

  • synesthesia

    A neurological condition in which sensory input, such as vision, is simultaneously experienced through one or more additional sense. Synesthesia also occurs when cognition of an abstract concept, such as letters or numbers, triggers a sensory perception, such as of hearing or taste.

  • Szeemann, Harald (Swiss, 1933–2005)

    Beginning with his exhibitions at the Kunsthalle Berne in Switzerland in the 1960s, Harald Szeemann’s curatorial projects transformed the way that art was exhibited in museums. His documenta 5, in 1972, presented the public with a thematic exhibition in a significant departure from curatorial approaches that had previously emphasized styles or art historical movements. Szeemann’s exhibitions emphasized the avant-garde, were often subversive, and presented the curator’s role as a form of art in its own right.

  • Szyk, Arthur (Polish/American, 1894–1951)

    An illustrator and cartoonist who championed human rights and civil liberties through artistic media. During the Second World War, Szyk’s caricatures, which appeared in newspapers across the United States, effectively highlighted the Jewish plight in Europe. His work was also featured in such publications as the New York Post, Time magazine, and Collier’s.

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