Introduction

Pictures came before books, printing or writing, and were our first expression of stories. The Canadian artist Marie Day celebrated the power of cave art in her picture book Quennu and the Cave Bear, an imaginative recreation of how a young girl of the Stone Age conquered her fear of a ferocious cave bear by drawing him. The Stone Age makes a fitting start to an exhibition celebrating Canadian picture books, within which there are no boundaries of place or time. In chronological terms, the earliest painting in this exhibit is 42, the latest, only three years old. The earliest artefact shown here is nearly 3,000 years old, and the story of Quennu depicts a period over 20,000 years ago. These ancient artefacts and places are related to contemporary book art, in which Canadian illustrators seek to find the perfect medium, and the perfect expression, for every setting and story.

This exhibition began with cave art in the story of Quennu and the Cave Bear. If you missed it, you can click here or click on the "Cave Art" menu button at the top of the page to see a Flash presentation of the Quennu story. Next we move to Ludmila Zeman’s illustrations of the ancient Gilgamesh tales from Mesopotamia, along with a display of two cuneiform tablets and an illustrated scroll. This is followed by Native Canadian book illustrations. We then move to Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver, for whom the major award in Canadian Book art is named. This award was inaugurated twenty-one years ago; a list of books that have won to date is displayed. There is also a shadow-puppet show of Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver’s The Enchanted Caribou for you to enjoy. The exhibition progresses through a tour of regional Canadian book art. This is a loose definition, for artists seldom belong or remain rooted to one place. Their art may depict any people, any place in Canada, of the world, or of the realm of fantasy and fairy tales. We end with a presentation of plasticine art by Barbara Reid. When you are finished, click on the "More" menu button to find additional information about the show and links to other related sites.