Western Voices in Canadian Art


The story of artists in Western Canada, and how they changed the face of Canadian art

“Listen to the visual voices of artists. They tell us so poignantly who we are, what we must cherish, and what we must address as a society.”

Patricia Bovey

Throughout her remarkable career as a gallery director, curator, and author, Patricia Bovey has tirelessly championed the work of Western Canadian artists. Western Voices in Canadian Art brings this lifelong passion to a crescendo, delivering the most ambitious survey of Western Canadian art to date.

Beginning with the earliest European-trained artists in Western Canada, and moving up to present day, Bovey amplifies the depth, scope, and importance of the diverse artists (both settler and Indigenous) whose distinct voices have contributed to the Western Canadian artistic tradition. Bovey then adopts a thematic approach, richly informed by her knowledge and experience, connecting art and artists through time and across provincial boundaries.

Insights from Bovey’s studio visits and conversations with artists enhance our understandings of the history and trajectory of, and impetus for Canadian artistic creation. Lavishly illustrated with over 250 works reproduced in full colour, Western Voices in Canadian Art is a book that needs to be seen, and its artists and art celebrated.


"Western Voices in Canadian Art is a massive undertaking that offers a comprehensive overview of Western Canadian art and a fascinating read. It is doubtful that anyone else could have written it. Pat Bovey has spent her life working with western art and this book goes beyond the general range of well-documented and familiar artists. The author’s personal narrative and experiences as museum director, curator, art writer, etc. and her work directly with the artists add enormous richness to the text. The book describes both historical work and the work of contemporary artists (many of whom are, unlike those historical figures that the author describes, not well-known to a larger audience and often not included in the survey texts of Canadian art.) In a number of cases, the author relies, along with her substantive research, on personal conversations with the artists, and her great familiarity with the work in her discussion. It is a must-read that offers a new and often personal account of the history and diversity of Western Canadian art."

Joyce Zemans, York University

"Written by Patricia Bovey, whose long and distinguished career as a gallery director and curator has uniquely positioned her to undertake this work, Western Voices is a much-needed counter-balance to previous Canadian art histories weighted towards the cultural centres of Toronto and Montreal."

Preview Magazine

"In this comprehensive new book, Patricia Bovey, an art historian, academic, gallery director and just-retired Manitoba senator, addresses this marginalization, not just by focusing on visual art in the West, but also by challenging the conventional structures and approaches that have historically divided art into the centre and the margins."

Alison Gillmor, Winnipeg Free Press

"[Bovey] celebrates western Canadian art. It has been dynamic, inventive, modern, diverse, and brilliant. It is local, regional and universal in its styles and idioms. Her book is an impressive tribute to her subject."

Allen Mills, Prairie History


AUPresses Book, Jacket & Journal Show (Scholarly Illustrated) (2024)

About the Author

Patricia Bovey, LLD, FRSA, FCMA, is former director of the Winnipeg Art Gallery and the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria and adjunct professor of Art History at the University of Winnipeg. She writes and lectures widely on Canadian art. She has served as a board member, and expert advisor to the National Gallery of Canada. Patricia Bovey was appointed to the Senate of Canada in 2016.

Table of Contents


I. New Departures: Developing Artistic Voices in Canada's West
1. Contexts and Overview: The Birth of Distinctive Visual Expressions
2. 1821-1870: Itinerant & Resident: New Experiences - New Expressions
3. 1870-1930: Supports & Opportunities: Coming of Age
4. 1930-1990: New Frameworks & Artists' Recognition
5. Into the 21st Century: New Departures & Leading-Edge Innovations

II. Landscape as Culture
1. Landscape as History
2. Landscape as Place
3. Landscape as Spirit

III. Urbanization & New Meanings
1. Changing Dynamics: The Rise of Cities
2. Neighbourhoods: Streetscapes & Back Lanes
3. Lifestyles: Industrialization, Work & Leisure

IV. Abstraction into the Spiritual
1. Abstracted Realities
2. Religious Philosophies & The Spirit Abstracted
3. Abstracting through Sculpture

V. People: Portraits & Inscapes
1. Portraits - Commissioned and Not
2. Psychological Inscapes
3. The Figure & Perspectives of Human Form

VI. Visual Voices Raising Societal Concerns
1. The Environment & Climate Change
2. Health & Human Rights
3. Self-Rule & Post-Colonialism
4. Residential Schools & Reconciliation
5. War & Conflict

VII. Expanding Techniques: Creating New Visual Language
1. Two-Dimensional New Twists
2. Investigations in the Third-Dimension
3. New Media & New Engagements

VIII. Timeline: International, National & Key Arts' Events

Epilogue: The Last Word