They lived in and covered the birth of Winnipeg, they depicted the same scenes, they were active during the same era…however, they represent two completely different ways of seeing.  Two different artists interpretations of the city they called their home. Canadian Group of Seven Painter Lionel LeMoine FitzGerald and photographer Lewis Benjamin Foote both lived in Winnipeg at the beginning of the 20th Century at a time when Winnipeg was one of the fastest growing cities in North America –  the Chicago of the north, before it became the Detroit of the north.  Both Foote and FitzGerald left a legacy of hundreds of evocative images for us to draw on. On the cusp of the European immigrants flooding into North America, new cities bursting forth, Winnipeg – the largest and fastest growing city in all of North America at that time – here were two artists – the  city as their muse as they experienced its birth first hand.

Our film will explore how they developed their unique styles, how they put the images of the city and its entourage into artistic form, how their work influenced our impressions of Winnipeg and the prairie. This film provides a unique chance to compare two different visions, one the impressionist the other documentary.

The hidden treasure of hundreds upon hundreds of Fitzgerald paintings and drawings in the Winnipeg Art Gallery, the hundreds of Foote photos in the Manitoba archives reveal to us two artists whose artistic sources are deeply rooted in the history, landscape and people of early Winnipeg. So rarely has a stage in the life of a city been so painted and documented as both Foote and FitzGerald did for Winnipeg.  An opportunity for Winnipeggers to see these images, which have been out of sight and out of mind for too long.

Lionel Lemoine FitzGerald (1890-1956)

FitzGerald lived his entire life in Winnipeg. He was the only member of Canada’s illustrious Group of Seven from the Canadian Prairies. Spending childhood summers on his grandmother’s farm in Snowflake Manitoba, FitzGerald developed a deep love for Canada’s Prairies.  He became renowned for his evocative paintings of early Winnipeg.

After leaving school at the age of fourteen, he wrote: “I worked in a wholesale drug office and finding the job not quite satisfying I felt the first real urge to draw, so I got some drawing paper, a pencil and an eraser and started work.” FitzGerald chose simple subjects for his paintings. Prairie farm scenes, his neighbour’s backyard in St.James, a potted plant in the window. All reflect the strength of the ties to his home. After the Group disbanded in 1932, FitzGerald became one of the founding members of the Canadian Group of Painters, a successor to the Group of Seven.  FitzGerald was one of few visual artists who recognized the beauty of the city and the countryside around it.

“I was more than ever impressed with the wide variations in the contours from the flatness outside Winnipeg to the gradually increasing roll of the ground as we went westward.”

Lewis Benjamin Foote (1873-1957) Born in Foote’s Cove, Newfoundland, he worked on the Summerside Journal (Prince Edward Island), where he discovered his flair for photography. He moved to Halifax and then to Winnipeg in 1902, where he became a professional photographer. For more than 50 years his photographs chronicled the development of the city. His most famous work was done in 1919 during the Winnipeg General Strike, but he was also the official photographer to the Winnipeg coroner. He was an active photographer until 1947. His extensive collection of photographs is held at the archives of Manitoba.

Directed by Jeff McKay & Laszlo Markovics

Camera and editing Jeff McKay