John Arthur Fraser

From: "Canadian Men & Women of the time 1898"
Ed. By Henry James Morgan, Toronto, Published by William Briggs, Richmond Street West, 1898
(photo by Wm. Notman 1866, collection: McCord Museum)

FRASER, John A., R.C.A., was born in London, England in 1838, and is the son of the late John Fraser ("Cousin Sandy") a writer who in the sixties, by his caustic, but never unfair or cruel verse, put many a prominent but delinquent Canadian politicians "in purgatory." 

As a young man he entered upon the full study of art, and with such success, that before he was 20, he was in the receipt of a respectable income from portrait painting. Owing to his father's failure in business, the family emigrated to Canada, and in 1860, Mr. Fraser found himself compelled to enter the employ of Wm. Notman, Photographer to the Queen, Montreal. His advent, in that city was coincident with the formation of the Montreal Art Association. Later, he assisted in the formation of the Society of Canadian Artists, which was the first genuinely artistic organization incorporated in Canada.

In 1868, he removed to Toronto, as resident partner in the Notman & Fraser business, and in 1873, along with a few coadjutors organized the Ontario Society of Artists, of which he was the 1st V.P. In 1880, on the establishment of the Royal Canadian Acadamy of Art, he was appointed by its founder, by the Marquis of Lorne, a charter member. 

In 1883, severing his  connection with photography, he went to Chicago, and subsequently to Boston. In 1886, the present Lord Mount Stephen, for whom he had executed some commissions, furnished him with transportation facilities over the newly-constructed C. P. Railway. He spent the whole summer painting over the Rocky Mountain divide, and the result of his labours was a series of pictures, which were exhibited in London, N. Y., and Boston, attracting much public notice and eliciting generally unstinted praise from the press. 

His contributions to the art display in the Ind. and Col. Exhibition, London, drew from the Professor of Painting to the Royal Academy, in his published report, this statement : "Indeed, in many  respects he may be said to be the founder of a new school of landscape painting.'' This was written in recognition of the fact noticed and commented on by other authorities, that in the absence of any congenial models for imitation in Canada, breaking away instinctively from the old conventions through close and eager and earnest observation of the truths of nature in her varying moods, he had really, though unconsciously, anticipated that art movement which through procedure from deliberate choice by abler men on exactly the same lines that from sheer necessity he had followed, has subsequent to the remarks of the prof. above quoted, produced the greatest art sensation of modern times under the name of "Impressionism," or the "Impressionistic School." 

In 1888 Mr. Fraser went to Europe, worked altogether in. the open air in Scotland and England, and one of his pictures received the unusual honour of being hung on the line at the Royal Academy Exhibition in 1889. On his return - in consequence of a disorder contracted  through working in all weathers out of doors - to the U. S., he took up his residence in N. Y.; where he has enjoyed a fair share of success;  his works and personality having received fair and instant recognition from. his brother artists. He has been elected a member of the Board of Control of the most successful art organization, " The American Water-Colour Society" and a member of the Committees of Management of the Salmagundi and N.Y. Water-Colour Clubs. 

In 1891, the only year in which he submitted any works for its acceptance, the Salon, in the Champs Elysees, Paris, hung the full number accorded to any exhibitor. The place of honour, viz., the centre of the line, was filled by " Mauvais Temps," which the great French critic, M. Lejendre, pronounced "strongly original," while another of his pictures, "Au Coeur d'Ecosse," was hung on a separate panel in the best room devoted to Aquarelles the celebrated "Friedland, 1807, " by Meissonier, was placed in exactly the same position at a subsequent exhibition and all the critics complimented his pictures highly. 

In 1893, the International jury at the World's Columbian Exposition awarded him the only medal for watercolours given to Canada; subsequently the Cotton States Exposition gave him the medal for watercolours ; and in 1894 the Montreal Art Association watercolour prize was given to him. Among those who to-day are prominent in the art of Am., and were for years his private pupils, are Horatio Walker, N. A. D.,  Henry Sandham, R.C.A., and Wm. Lewis Fraser ; and in his public capacity as a teacher in the Ontario School of Art, it was his good fortune for some time to direct the earlier studies of G. A. Reid, R.C.A., Ernest E. Seton Thompson and others whose unusual talents have secured recognition and distinction. 

During the last two years, though ill-health has seriously interfered with Mr. Fraser's. efforts, he is not without hope that he may yet produce better representative work than any he has hitherto done.

Address: 156 East 92nd St., New York.

Occurences during printing: John Arthur Fraser died at New York, January 1, 1898

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