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Pen and Pencil Club of Montreal Fonds (P139)

Shadow, Poem by William McLennan, extract from Pen and Pencil Club scrapbook (detail), 1890. Transfer from McGill University, Pen and Pencil Club of Montreal Fonds P139, M966.176.9B © McCord Museum

Variations on the theme of shadow, by the Pen and Pencil Club of Montreal

"Shadow -
For the Pen and Pencil, Nov. 29. 1890 -

The heavens [crossed out] were never more calm and bright,
The world was ne'er so fair!
My path with flowers was dight,
For life was young, my heart was light,
Men crown'd me with honour & Love with delight -
I knew not Pain nor Care"

William McLennan, notary, author and prominent member of Montreal's social and cultural scene, wrote this poem for the November 29, 1890, meeting of the Pen and Pencil Club of Montreal. This work is part of a collection of painted, drawn, and written compositions on the theme of shadow. A different topic was chosen for each of the club's regular meetings, which took the form of creative workshops.

Founded several months earlier, the Pen and Pencil Club epitomized the cultural and artistic vibrancy that characterized Montreal at the turn of the 20th century. Among the club's members were influential authors, artists and architects like Stephen Leacock, John McCrae, Edmond Dyonnet, William Brymner, Ernest Cormier, and William Sutherland Maxwell. The Pen and Pencil Club archives contain numerous original works, which chronicle the emergence and consolidation of a Canadian artistic and literary scene.

A victim of the passage of time, the club disbanded in 1966.


P139 Pen and Pencil Club of Montreal Fonds. - [1890-1966]. - 124 cm of textual records. - 88 iconographic documents.

Administrative History

The Pen and Pencil Club was founded March 5, 1890, by the artists and writers R.W. Boodle, William Brymner, J. Try-Davies, Robert Harris, William Hope and John E. Logan. Its mandate was to promote the arts and literature in Montreal, while serving as a symbol of the strong ties uniting artists and authors. The meetings of this club, whose members included leading artistic and literary figures, produced a wealth of creative work.

With the exception of the year 1892, when eleven members joined the organization, this very exclusive club never admitted more than three new members each year and never had more than thirty active members at a time. Members included artists Henri Beau, Maurice Cullen, Edmond Dyonnet, Joseph-Charles Franchère, Clarence Gagnon, Louis-Philippe Hébert, Charles Huot, Alexander Young Jackson, Henri Julien, James W. Morrice and Marc-Aurèle de Foy Suzor-Coté; authors Stephen Leacock and Andrew Macphail; poets William H. Drummond, Charles Gill and John McCrae; composer Guillaume Couture; and architects Ernest Cormier, William Sutherland Maxwell and Percy Nobbs.

The Pen and Pencil Club's activities were reserved solely for members, though guests from outside Montreal were allowed. In addition, membership was for men only.

Beginning in 1893, the club organized an annual festival, while meetings were held on a regular basis. Most meetings were in members' homes, with many of them taking place in the studio of painter Edmond Dyonnet, who was a key contributor to the club, its general orientation and its achievements. Participants had to bring an artistic or literary work on the club's chosen topic to these meetings, which took the form of creative workshops. Meetings were also a forum for discussing and critiquing the works presented. In addition, the club funded the publication of some of its members' literary works.

The club's early years were characterized by a flurry of creativity that produced a number of original compositions. However, its activities began to wane shortly before the Great War.
Falling membership and a loss in creative momentum led to the club's gradual decline. The Pen and Pencil Club disbanded in 1966.

Scope and Content

The fonds of the Pen and Pencil Club covers the organization's activities from the late 19th to the mid-20th century, focussing primarily on its members' artistic and literary creations.

The fonds contains administrative documents such as minutes of meetings and governing documents. In addition, books of account, receipts, bank books, account statements and revenue and expense reports document the club's finances.

There are also documents associated with the Pen and Pencil Club's membership, creative activities and organized events, notably a list of members and some original typewritten and handwritten literary works. Furthermore, the fonds includes three scrapbooks containing unpublished artistic and literary creations by members like Edmond Dyonnet, William Brymner, William McLennan, and Thomas Joseph Workman Burgess. Composed of various drawings, watercolours, poems and essays, these scrapbooks cover the period 1890 to 1896. There is also a series of menus illustrated by members of the Pen and Pencil Club, and some sheet music. Finally, the collection includes correspondence, publications, press clippings and critiques, along with a series of photographic portraits, most of which are signed by the subject.

Source of title proper: Title based on the content of the fonds.

Physical description: Includes 88 photographs of Pen and Pencil Club members.
Language: The documents are in English and French.

Finding aids: The fonds includes a research paper entitled Sociability and National Questions. The Pen and Pencil Club of Montreal 1890-1914, written by Claudine Gélinas-Faucher with the help of a Max Stern-McCord Fellowship, as well as a research paper by Catherine Lambert, a student in the Masters in Art Studies program at UQAM.

Associated material:
LAC: Andrew Macphail Fonds (R2364-0-6-E).

Ville de Montréal Archives. 1924: Pen and Pencil Club Fonds (CA M001 BM083).

Centre for Research on French Canadian Culture, University of Ottawa: Edmond-Dyonnet Fonds (P9), Pen and Pencil Club series (P9/G).

General note: A menu (M997.40.85) dated April 28, 1945, produced for the Club's Annual Festival, is preserved in the McCord Museum's Paintings, Prints and Drawings collection. It features a work signed "H. R. P.," as well as the signatures of the 21 club members.


The fonds is divided into the following series and sub-series:

  • P139/A Administrative Documents
    • P139/A1 Governing documents
    • P139/A2 Financial records
    • P139/A3 Minutes. - 1890-1966. - 17 cm of textual records.
      Digitized documents: Part 01 - Part 02 - Part 03 - Part 04 - Part 05 - Part 06 - Part 07 - Part 08 - Part 09 - Part 10 - Part 11 - Part 12
    • Scope and Content: This sub-series documents the meetings organized by the club's members over its 76 years of existence. It contains minutes recording the club's administrative concerns, its artistic direction (via the meeting topics chosen and the original works presented to those assembled), the planning of various events, and the issues that led to the club's dissolution.

      Source of title proper: Based on the contents of the sub-series.

      Conservation: Many minutes were stored in ring binders and have been removed for preservation reasons.

      Language: The documents are in English.

    • P139/A4 Membership records. - [1889-1966]. - 22 cm of textual records.
      Digitized documents: Part 01 - Part 02 - Part 03 - Part 04 - Part 05 - Part 06 - Part 07 - Part 08 - Part 09 - Part 10 - Part 11
    • Scope and Content: This sub-series documents the club's members and their creative activities. In addition to a list of members, the sub-series includes files containing texts (prose and poetry) and musical compositions, several of which are original works produced for club meetings. There are also published works and several biographical texts, publications and press clippings.

      Source of title proper: Based on the contents of the subseries.

      Language: The documents are in English and French, but primarily in English.

    • P139/A5 Correspondence. - [1892-1966]. - 6 cm of textual records.
      Digitized documents: Part 01 - Part 02
    • Scope and Content: This sub-series documents over 70 years of correspondence among club members. It contains many letters of friendship and thank-you notes, as well as correspondence on topics like the club's meetings, creative activities and administration.

      Source of title proper: Based on the contents of the sub-series.

      Language: The documents are in English and French, but primarily in English.

    • P139/A6 Speeches
    • P139/A7 General information and press clippings

  • P139/B Artistic Production of Members. - 1890-1966. - 44 cm of textual records.
  • Scope and Content: This series documents the artistic and literary contributions of Pen and Pencil Club members, from its founding to its dissolution in 1966. Literary texts, sheet music, illustrated menus produced for the club's meals, and several drawings and watercolours that may be associated with creating these menus make up the bulk of the content. The series also contains three scrapbooks of miscellaneous unpublished creations by artists like painters Edmond Dyonnet, William Brymner and Robert Harris, author William McLennan, and author and scientist Thomas Joseph Workman Burgess. Comprised of drawings, watercolours, essays, poems and prose writings, these collections cover the club's initial period of existence, from 1890 to 1896.

    Source of title proper: Based on the contents of the series.

    Physical description: The scrapbooks are made up of various textual and iconographic records.

    Language: The documents are in English and French.

  • P139/C Photographs of Members

 

Last update: August 30, 2017