Philip Henry Howard Surrey
(1910 - 1990)
Philip Henry Howard Surrey was active/lived in Quebec, Manitoba / Canada. Philip Surrey is known for Painting, commercial art, draftsman, printmaking, teaching.
Philip Henry Howard Surrey
Biography from the Archives of askART
Philip Henry Howard Surrey CM, LL.D., RCA, FCA, CAS, CSGA, EGP (1910 - 1990)
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Philip Henry Howard Surrey (AKA: Philip Surrey) was an important
Canadian painter, draftsman, commercial artist, journalist (1),
printmaker and educator. Most exhibitions that examine 20th century
Canadian art include his paintings, most comprehensive Canadian art
history books illustrate and discuss his work, and most major Canadian
museums have Philip Surrey pieces in their permanent collections.
He was born in Calgary, Alberta; lived in Winnipeg, Manitoba (1921 -
1924); Vancouver, B.C. (1924 - 1937); and Montreal, Quebec (1937 -
1990) where he died. (2)
His mediums include oil, watercolor, acrylic, gouache*, charcoal,
chalk, Conte Crayon*, pastel, pencil, felt pen, ballpoint pen, pen and
ink, ink wash, posters, etching* and serigraph*. His most well known
paintings are of urban street scenes focusing on a solitary figure or a
small group of pedestrians negotiating a sidewalk or intersection. His
subjects are figures, portraits, interiors (restaurants, bars), nudes,
social commentary, dreams, sports (hockey, softball), genre*,
landscape, cityscape, mountains, lakes and beach scenes. Almost all of
his works have at least one human figure in them. Most locations are
the Canadian cities and countryside near where he lived, particularly
Montreal. There are also works from his travels in the Arctic (c.1958)
and Mediterranean (c.1964). His styles are Realism*, Expressionism*,
Surrealism* and Social Realism*. AskART have some good illustrations.
Quote: "Each individual is alone, cut off. Each wonders how others cope
with life. A work of art is a particularly complex statement, valuable
because packed with meaning..." and "Like icebergs, four-fifths of our
personalities lie below the surface; of the fifth that shows, only part
can be expressed in conversation. The only effective outlet for all
deeper feelings and thoughts is art." - Philip Surrey (c. 1949) (4)
Surrey's art education includes classes with Alexander Musgrove (5) in
Winnipeg (c. 1923); night school at the Winnipeg School of Art,
Manitoba (1927 - 1928) under Lionel LeMoine Fitzgerald and George
Overton; the Vancouver School of Art, B.C. (1931 - 1936) under J.W.G.
MacDonald and Frederick Varley; and the Art Students League of New
York* (1936 - 1937) under Frank Vincent DuMond and Alexander Abels. (6)
Surrey worked as a commercial artist at Brigdens Limited, Winnipeg
(1924 - 1929) and Cleland-Kent Engraving, Vancouver (1929 - 1936). He
was a photo and feature editor for Standard Newspaper [later Weekend
Magazine] in Montreal (1937 - 1964) and he taught drawing at Concordia
University, Montreal (1965 - 1975). (7)
He was a founding member of the Eastern Group of Painters* (1938), the
Contemporary Art Society* (1939), and the Montreal Men's Press Club
[now Montreal Press Club] (1948). He was a member of the Royal Canadian
Academy of Arts*, Federation of Canadian Artists*, International
Association of Plastic Arts, Canadian Society of Graphic Art*, and the
Print and Drawing Council of Canada*. (8)
Since the 1930s his works have been featured in numerous important
themed Canadian exhibitions like the "All Canadian Show" National
Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (1932 and 1933); the New York World's Fair
(1939); "Contemporary Painting in Canada", Addison Gallery of American
Art, Andover, Massachusetts (1942); "Canadian Art 1760 - 1943", Yale
University Art Gallery (1944); "The Painter and the City", Art Gallery
of Hamilton, Ontario (1953), "Canadian Painting of the Thirties", Art
Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (1967); "Panorama of Painting in Quebec:
1940 - 1955", Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art (1967); "Canadian
Painting in the Thirties", National Gallery of Canada (1975);
"The Arts of Quebec", Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art (1974);
"Three Generations of Quebec Painting", Montreal Museum of Contemporary
Art (1976); "Major Movements in Twentieth Century Canadian Art",
Edmonton Art Gallery [now Art Gallery of Alberta] (1978); "The
Contemporary Arts Society: 1939 - 1948", Montreal Museum of
Contemporary Art (1981); "Modern Art in Quebec 1916 - 1946", National
Gallery of Canada (1982); "Vancouver Art and Artists: 1931 - 1983",
Vancouver Art Gallery, B.C. (1983); "Brigdens of Winnipeg", Winnipeg
Art Gallery (2001); "Defining the Portrait", Leonard & Bina Ellen
Art Gallery, Concordia University, Montreal (2001); and "This is
Montreal!", Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery (2008). (9)
He also exhibited in the B.C. Artists Annual, Vancouver Art Gallery,
B.C. in 1932, 1934 and 1936; with the Canadian Group of Painters* in
1937, 1939 and 1942; and at the Art Association of Montreal [now
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts] between 1938 and 1963.
The public venues for Surrey's solo, retrospective and duo exhibitions
include the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts [with Louise Gadbois] (1949);
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts [with York Wilson] (1955), Quebec Museum
of Fine Arts, Quebec City (1960 and 1966), Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
[with G. Fiori] (1961), Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art ["Philip
Surrey: Painter in the City"] (1971); and the Canadian Cultural Centre,
Paris (1972). He had four man shows with Andre Bieler, Henri Masson and
Louis Muhlstock at Art Gallery of Toronto [now Art Gallery of Ontario]
in 1939 and with John Lyman, Eric Goldberg and Goodridge Roberts at the
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 1949.
The venues for his commercial gallery group and solo exhibitions
include Galerie Antoine, Montreal; Watson Galleries, Montreal; Galerie
Gilles Corbeil, Montreal; Roberts Gallery, Toronto; and Walter
Klinkhoff Gallery, Montreal.
Surrey's works are very actively traded on the Canadian auction market,
they are in numerous private collections, and they are in many
important public collections.
According to the Canadian Heritage Information Network* there are a
total of 208 Surrey works in the permanent collections of Canadian
museums. They include: Museum London (Ontario), Winnipeg Art Gallery
(Manitoba), Quebec Museum of Fine Arts (Quebec City), Montreal Museum
of Fine Arts, Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art, Art Gallery of
Hamilton (Ontario), Art Gallery of Greater Victoria (B.C.), Joliette
Art Museum (Quebec), Beaverbrook Art Gallery (Fredericton, New
Brunswick), Owens Art Gallery (Sackville, N.B.), Sherbrooke Museum of
Fine Arts (Quebec), Art Gallery of Nova Scotia (Halifax), Vancouver Art
Gallery (B.C.), Art Gallery of Alberta (Edmonton), Agnes Etherington
Art Centre (Kingston, Ontario), Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto),
Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery (Concordia University, Montreal),
Canadian War Museum (Ottawa), Canadian Museum of Civilization
(Gatineau, Quebec), and the National Gallery of Canada, which has 7 of
The Firestone Art Collection* of the Ottawa Art Gallery has 90 Philip
Surrey works in its permanent collection, which appears to be the most
of any museum; these are not included in the above Canadian Heritage
Information Network* count. (10)
The National Archives of Canada also has a collection of Philip Surrey
material; it includes his personal papers, correspondence, work logs,
Margaret Surrey's unpublished biography of Philip Surrey (and diary
excerpts), exhibition catalogues, reviews, technical notes, 291
photographs and 253 original works in pencil, charcoal, watercolor,
pastel, felt pen, and pen and ink; including some preparatory drawings
for oil paintings. (11)
Among his numerous awards and honors are First Prize at the Spring
Exhibition of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (1953); the Canadian
Centennial Medal (1967); and an honorary degree from Concordia
University in 1981. (12)
In 1982, Philip Surrey was awarded one of Canada's highest honors - the Order of Canada (CM). The citation reads:
"Ever since settling in Montreal in 1937, and becoming a founding
member of the Contemporary Arts Society, he has been the leading
exponent of urban landscape painting in Canada. His Montreal street
scenes convey an emotive vision of the modern city, with its anonymous
crowds and individual solitudes. His expressive style and a poetic
humanitarianism constitute a unique contribution to Canadian
A general note about sources: With thanks to the National Gallery of
Canada and curator Charles C. Hill, we have two very valuable original
sources of data on Philip Surrey. First, between 1933 and 1979 Surrey
submitted seven information forms to the National Gallery detailing his
education, travels, associations, teaching and other activities to the
date submitted. Second, on September 14, 1973, in preparation for the
exhibition "Canadian Painting in the Thirties", Charles C. Hill sat
down with Surrey and recorded over three hours of conversation with him
about his activities and associations. Both of these are available
online, the addresses are listed below. They are the primary sources of
names and dates used in this biography. Additional sources used are
cited in the respective paragraph footnotes.
NGC May 22, 1933 - http://cybermuse.gallery.ca/cybermuse/servlet/imageserver?src=DO9338&ext=x.pdf.
NGC Aug. 31, 1945 - http://cybermuse.gallery.ca/cybermuse/servlet/imageserver?src=DO9339&ext=x.pdf.
NGC June 3, 1960 - http://cybermuse.gallery.ca/cybermuse/servlet/imageserver?src=DO9340&ext=x.pdf.
NGC Jan. 1963 - http://cybermuse.gallery.ca/cybermuse/servlet/imageserver?src=DO9341&ext=x.pdf.
NGC Aug. 17, 1965 - http://cybermuse.gallery.ca/cybermuse/servlet/imageserver?src=DO9342&ext=x.pdf.
NGC Dec. 18, 1978 - http://cybermuse.gallery.ca/cybermuse/servlet/imageserver?src=DO9343&ext=x.pdf.
NGC (c.1979 +) - http://cybermuse.gallery.ca/cybermuse/servlet/imageserver?src=DO9344&ext=x.pdf.
NGC audio tapes dated September 14, 1973 -
(1) On the NGC information form completed after 1979, he writes "Have
earned living as journalist most of my life." As noted in the
text, he worked as a newspaper editor for over 27 years and in
semi-retirement was kept on as an associate editor. Source: NGC (c.1979
(2) Sources: NGC information forms and audio tapes.
Note: In the audio tapes, Surrey said, he lived in a lot of different
places in the first eleven years of his life, while his parents pursued
business opportunities. He mentioned Vancouver, San Francisco, Sidney
(Australia), Java, and England; and went on to say 'we moved every
three months'. Other sources add India, Malaysia and Switzerland to the
list. See "Modern Painting in French Canada" (1967), by Guy Viau
(AskART book references); and Archives Canada -
(3) Sources: AskART Images; and museum illustrations and descriptions
of mediums in the Canadian Heritage Information Network* data base.
(4) Source: National Gallery of Canada Artist's Page - http://cybermuse.gallery.ca/cybermuse/search/bio_e.jsp?iartistid=5296.
(5) All artist teachers and artist associates mentioned in this biography have their own pages in AskART.
(6) Education sources: NGC information forms and audio tapes.
(7) Sources: Ibid.
(8) Sources: Ibid.
(9) Exhibition sources: Ibid; A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, Volume
9 (online only) (2009), by Anne Newlands and Judith Parker; the
Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art and the Art Gallery of Ontario,
both have extensive archived catalogue summaries online; Four Decades:
The Canadian Group of Painters and their Contemporaries, 1930 - 1970
(1972), by Paul Duval; Vancouver: Art and Artists 1931 - 1983 (1983),
by Luke Rombout; Art Gallery of Ontario - The Canadian Collection
(1970), by Helen Pepall Bradfield; Canadian Painting in the Thirties
(1975), by Charles C. Hill; Modern Painting in Canada (1978), by
Terry Fenton and Karen Wilkin; and The Collector's Dictionary of
Canadian Artists at Auction (2001), by Anthony R. Westbridge and Diana
L. Bodnar (see AskART book references).
(10) Source: Ottawa Art Gallery -
(11) Source: Archives Canada -
(12) Sources: NGC information forms and audio tapes; "A Dictionary of
Canadian Artists, Volume 9 (online only)" (2009), by Anne Newlands and
Judith Parker; and National Gallery of Canada Artist's Page
(13) Source: Governor General of Canada - http://www.gg.ca/honour.aspx?id=1629&t=12.
* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see
Prepared and contributed to askART by M.D. Silverbrooke.
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