Monday, July 02, 2012

Some Tom McNeely Art for Canada Day

Yesterday was Canada Day (and we're celebrating with a day off work today) but, as this is a labour of love, work never stops here at TI Central.

So I thought I'd present something relevant to the occasion: here's a terrific historical series describing the founding and early history of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police ("The Mounties") by one of Canada's top illustrators of the 20th century, Tom McNeely.


These illustrations appeared in a book called Historic Headlines, published during Canada's Centennial, 1967, by McClelland & Stewart.

In his introduction to the book, editor Pierre Berton wrote, "This book contains no photographs. We have preferred, instead, to ask contemporary Canadian illustrators to act as if they were on an urgent journalistic assignment - rushed to the scene of each incident with pad and pencil in the manner of a war artist..."


"... finishing certain work at their leisure..."


"... retaining the rest of it in sketchbook form."


"The result, we hope, is a new kind of Canadian history book."


Berton continues, "Certainly it is designed to tell the non-academic reader a good deal about the kind of country this has been over the past century."


I can assure you, editor Berton's efforts were successful - at least for this non-academic Canadian reader.


Since this blog concerns itself chiefly with the history of illustration - and not with Canadian history - I won't go into the details surrounding the formation of the RCMP (or "North West Mounted Rifles", as it was originally intended to be called).


Suffice to say, it is a remarkable story of larger-than-life characters engaged in harrowing circumstances and undertakings far more daunting than anything you or I will ever encounter in our genteel everyday lives. I was amazed to read what had transpired in the early days of our country.


Berton writes, "I find it both significant and ironic that every one of these true Canadian tales could provide the background for a major motion picture... but we modest Canadians have tended to downgrade our own past to the point where even strangers have failed to sense the excitement of it."


Sadly, that's too true. But hopefully these great illustrations by Tom McNeely hint at some of that exciting history and inspire some of you to seek out these stories on your own. For my part, I'll continue presenting more of the artwork in this book on future occasions.

* I had the great fortune of sharing studio space with Tom McNeely for several years. He's not only a gifted artist, he's a warm and intelligent person - a real gentleman I'm very honoured to call my friend.


If you're interested in seeing more of Tom's artwork and reading about his career, just click on the links below:

Tom McNeely, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5


  1. Thanks for this post Leif. It took me back to the mid-sixties when I was a fan of his work. Boy that drawing of the guy with the Winchester rifle is

  2. Happy Canada Day! Beautiful art, as always.