Prime Ministers and the Arts

Colour image of a puppet that resembles Prime Minister John Diefenbaker

A new exhibition, curated by LAC employees Madeleine Trudeau and five time podcast guest Meaghan Scanlon, weaves artwork, artifacts, documents, objects, portraits and photographs together to reveal a less formal, but equally fascinating side to our former Prime Ministers. The overarching theme of this exhibit is Prime Ministers and their relationship with the arts.

Duration: 47:33

File size: 43.9 MB Download MP3

Publish Date: June 27, 2019

  • Transcript of podcast episode 55


    Josée Arnold (JA): Welcome to "Discover Library and Archives Canada: Your History, Your Documentary Heritage." I'm your host, Josée Arnold. Join us as we showcase treasures from our vaults; guide you through our many services; and introduce you to the people who acquire, safeguard and make known Canada's documentary heritage.

    Library and Archives Canada is the main repository for documents relating to Canada's Prime Ministers. LAC not only has all the political documents relating to each Prime Minister, but also intriguing, less official and often unexpected items.

    A new exhibition, curated by LAC employees Madeleine Trudeau and five time podcast guest Meaghan Scanlon, weaves artwork, artifacts, documents, objects, portraits and photographs together to reveal a less formal, but equally fascinating side to our former Prime Ministers. The exhibition, entitled Prime Ministers and the Arts: Creators, Collectors and Muses is on right now at 395 Wellington in Ottawa. It runs until December 3rd, 2019.

    The overarching theme of this exhibit is Prime Ministers and their relationship with the arts. While walking through the exhibit you will discover four main themes. Prime Ministers as creators, collectors, muses and patrons. Madeleine tells us a bit more about each theme.

    Madeleine Trudeau (MT): Well, basically, it's the prime minister who's inspired the arts would be the muses. We have selected one prime minister from amongst all of the prime ministers to be the headliner for each of these subsections. The prime minister who's our headliner basically for the muses section is Sir John Thompson. For the prime ministers as patrons, which basically is obviously the prime ministers who have supported the arts in different ways.

    Our lead prime minister is Sir Wilfrid Laurier. For the prime ministers as collectors, which encapsulates basically all of the collecting activity of the prime minister, is whether it's developing libraries or collecting art. We've used Sir William Lyon Mackenzie King as our headliner. Creators, we are a bit looser about that. We don't have a main prime minister who's representing that section. We do have a variety of prime ministers' creations, the different types of things that they created related to the arts obviously.

    JA: In 1967, Canadian fiddler and composer Graham Townsend released an album entitled, Graham Townsend Salutes Canada's Prime Ministers. We'll be playing some of the songs throughout the episode. This one, the first track on the album, is the Sir John A MacDonald waltz.


    JA: We asked Meaghan and Madeleine how the idea for this exhibit came about. First up, Meaghan Scanlon.

    Meaghan Scanlon (MS): Well, it came from a discussion we had. I work with the Rare Book Collection here at LAC. One of the collections within the Rare Book Collection is Mackenzie King's personal library. I've been working a lot with that collection. I realized you can find out some pretty interesting things from that collection. A lot of the books are inscribed to him from people he knew or some of them were just given to him by members of the public.

    Obviously, you can learn about the kinds of things King read. Some of the books have his notes in them. The other thing I enjoyed was that Mackenzie King kept a diary and his diary has been digitized.

    JA: Wait a minute. Mackenzie King's diary has been digitized by LAC? Of course it has! There are over 50,000 pages available for you to view. All his diary entries from 1893 until 1950 are online. We even have a podcast episode all about it!

    MS: Sometimes I would find a book that had a dated inscription in it. I would look up that date in the diary to see if I could find a reference in the diary to him actually receiving that book. The context of like what might have happened that day. I thought, "This is really interesting." I became interested in prime minister's libraries and reading habits in general. I was telling Madeleine about this and then she said—

    MT: Well, [chuckles] yes, Meaghan was saying, "Wouldn't it be a great idea to do an exhibition related to this," because she knows that I work as a curator here. I also am a specialist with the art collection here. I said, "Well, that's very interesting to hear everything that you have to say about William Lyon Mackenzie King's library," because he actually also has a massive art collection, which also happens to be part of the collections here at Library and Archives.

    We started to talk about a little bit more and realize that there was all of this great material for Mackenzie King. As we just did a little bit more exploring, we realized it wasn't just Mackenzie King who had all of this different interesting type of material. We thought we had the ingredients for a really good exhibition.

    MS: We expanded it to encompass the other themes that we talked about like art inspired by the prime ministers and their support for the arts because we knew— Well, Madeleine knew there was material in Sir Wilfrid Laurier's fond like letters between him and different artists. We sort of had this general concept of prime ministers interacting with the arts world.

    Obviously, our current prime minister, Justin Trudeau, is well-known for selfies and the kind of photo-ops. There are lots of photographs of him with various people. We thought it'd be interesting to look into some of the past prime ministers and their interactions with these famous arts figures. We delved into that. Basically, the more we thought about prime ministers and the arts, the more we came up with—

    MT: The main idea was to make something that would be light-hearted, non-political, take a different angle, and a different way of looking at the prime ministers. This type of material is actually unexpected material, generally speaking, in Library and Archives collection. It's also a chance to share that type of material with the public who might not necessarily realize that we have it.

    Because most people when they think of Library and Archives collection, they'll think we probably have briefing notes and minutes from meetings and all of the political type of documents in the official prime minister's fond. They might not realize that we also have saved Mackenzie King's art collection or books from his library, which really tell a lot about his personality.

    JA: I'm very curious because you're mentioning that you discovered things along the way preparing the exhibit. In gathering the material for it, was there anything you found in the collection that was new to you or something that was very interesting perhaps? Any interesting discoveries?

    MS: Yes. Well, there was [chuckles] a lot of stuff. I don't know a lot about the art collection so for me all of the portraits that Madeleine, Madeleine created the list of things to include. That was all very interesting to me.

    MT: I hate to harp on about poor William Lyon Mackenzie King, but he really is a treasure trove. When I was going through boxes of his stuff, I actually came across a thing called The Book of Thoughts. It's was like a 19th-century journal-type thing. It was pre-printed. It had blank spaces to fill out a questionnaire to answer who your favorite artist is, who your favorite poet is, what's your favorite quote, and things like that. Actually, William Lyon Mackenzie King had painstakingly filled in every line in his own handwriting.

    Just opening this book and finding this questionnaire, it was almost as if he knew that we were going to be making this exhibition. He was providing us with certain answers. At that point, we decided he definitely had to be our headliner, our main guy for collecting because he just did such a good job of basically giving us information on his tastes in the arts in his exhibition. I did not know that book had existed. There's so many things that obviously are well-documented from his fond like his diary and a bit like that. This book, I don't think either of us were aware.

    JA: Some of Mackenzie King's artistic tastes from his 'Book of Thoughts':

    Favorite poets? Lord Tennyson, Matthew Arnold and William Shakespeare.

    Favorite composers? Beethoven and Wagner

    …and some of his favorite novelists were Sir Walter Scott and George Eliot.

    MS: Another thing we found in King's fonds that we were really excited about was Arthur Lismer, the artist from the Group of Seven. This is something I learned. Just like I said, I don't know much about art, but he was famous for always having a notebook or a pencil with him. He would doodle all the time. One day, I was looking through our archival database for photos in Mackenzie King's collection of him with his dog Pat because we had a couple of books in the library that had to do with dogs.

    I was trying to get some supporting material. I found this listing for a sketch of Mackenzie King and Pat by Arthur Lismer. That was one of these doodles that he was so known for. It looks like it's drawn on a piece of scrap paper basically, but it's a wonderful drawing. I emailed Madeleine and I said, "Look, we have to order this box." She did and we got it and we were going through it.

    I remember the moment that we uncovered the sketch. We were like "Oh, there it is." Right away, you know who it is. It's going to be in the second rotation of the exhibition. Some of the items will switch out halfway through. The Lismer sketch will come in probably in midsummer. That was really exciting for us because we were like, "That's perfect for the portrait wall."


    MT: Basically, just three or four lines that it gives the complete essence of the prime minister.

    JA: Here is more Graham Townsend, and his song, W.L. Mackenzie King Strathspey.


    JA: We asked Meaghan and Madeleine a 'behind the scenes' question. What is involved in getting an exhibit at LAC off the ground? What sort of work goes into producing one?

    MT: There's two major parts. The first part is actually deciding what's going to be in the exhibition. That's really a lot of research. The second part is deciding how it's going to be in the exhibition. That is a type of work that involves interpretation on our part. It also extends to a huge team of LAC support workers basically, including, for example, conservators who basically look at the items we've selected and decide how they can be shown— literally, how they can be shown like whether or not we need to frame them in a certain way to care for them and things like that. It's these two large areas and it really includes a vast group of people all working together. We are only the tip of the iceberg really.

    MS: We started out doing our research and looking at the different things we might have. Our role is to synthesize that and figure out, "Okay. How does this flow thematically? What are our groupings? How are we going to put it together? Is it coherent? How do we present this idea?" We write the texts. From there, everybody else comes in. I don't work in exhibitions.

    I have worked on exhibitions before, but my permanent job is not in exhibitions. This was my first time doing an exhibition with original items. That was really interesting. I got to help with the installation. I was helping hang art and put things in cases and that was really fun. It's a massive, massive undertaking. There's many, many people involved.

    JA: What type of art can people see while they are visiting the exhibition?

    MT: There's a variety of types of art. I think from the very beginning, as we said, the genesis of the idea was this dual thing with the art collection and the library of Lyon Mackenzie King. From the very beginning, there was this idea of having a wall of art that was related to all of the prime ministers. Not just that it's a wall of art, but it's a wall of very good art or a very important art.

    One of the elements of the exhibition is what we call the portrait wall or the famous portrait wall, even informally between us, because each of the portraits included in that space in the exhibition is either by a significant artist. For example, Meaghan mentioned the Arthur Lismer sketch, so that's a Group of Seven artist, or it's a famous portrait for some reason or rather it's just well-known within Canadian society. For example, the portrait of Kim Campbell where she appears to not be wearing any clothing became quite famous.

    MS: You should say she's holding her robes in front of her. [laughs]

    MT: Indeed. That wall basically is almost like a feature element. I would say, well, there's two feature elements. The fabulous re-creation of William Lyon Mckenzie King's library will be one of them and the portrait wall will be the second one. It's something that we do rotate through because we had so many wonderful portraits to show and the collection is just so strong.

    There's one rotation where we are able to show a few more different examples. Like I said, it's a chance to see some really interesting photographs, oil paintings, and watercolors. They're just, we think, really great examples of ways in which the prime ministers inspired artists.

    MS: A few pencil sketches too.

    MT: That's right.

    JA: Choosing must have been hard when you were going through everything you wanted to show. Were there any items of interest that didn't make it into the exhibition?

    MT: This is always the case when you work in an exhibition. I don't think that there's ever been a time where you don't regretfully say, "This is a wonderful thing, but we must set it aside." This is especially true with Library and Archives collections because the collections are incredibly vast and are really strong and full of really rare, important items. For me when I got going looking at caricatures, I had this whole series of different caricatures by different artists all showing Pierre Trudeau engaged in various arts activities like painting, dancing, drawing, all sorts of types of activities.

    MS: Playing a cello

    MT: Playing a cello. I regretfully had to lay those aside. They're going to stay tuned because I'm going to be preparing a blog featuring these wonderful caricatures because we just simply didn't have room for them. We do have caricatures in the exhibition and I encourage you to come see the ones that we did choose. There is one Pierre Trudeau caricature of him executing a very well-done pirouette.

    MS: With the queen observing him of course

    MT: The queen observing him and commenting. We won't say what she said.

    MS: [laughs] I was thinking about this too. We originally thought we might include some information related to things the prime ministers had done while they were in office to support the arts. We eventually decided not to include any of their political activities because we thought it's more fun to just—

    MT: Apolitical.

    MS: Go with the unofficial side.

    MT: Even on the side of the patrons too, there's so many letters between the important Quebec artist Suzor-Coté and Wilfrid Laurier. So many choices and it was just regretfully that there's one where it's basically Laurier wades into art criticism. He was writing about a painting of Jacques Cartier that Suzor-Coté has recently completed and that Suzor-Coté is hoping to sell to the government really to have placed on the walls at the Senate.

    That never went through. Wilfrid Laurier, he took the time to write to Suzor-Coté and help him out a bit with some criticisms of the Jacques Cartier figure. He was suggesting to Suzor-Coté that his Jacques Cartier was just a bit too handsome, so he should change him a little bit and so things like that. That letter, I just regretfully could only use a quotation from rather than the whole letter, but there's so many wonderful letters like that.

    JA: The artist Madeleine is referring to here is the French Canadian painter and sculptor Marc-Aurèle de Foy Suzor-Coté.

    MS: Another thing. Very early on, keeping with the theme of prime ministers' libraries and their reading habits, I had started looking at compiling literary references made by the prime ministers if they were known to have quoted a certain book in a speech or whatever. We just didn't have a place for that, unfortunately, but that was fun.

    MT: Of course, I've even been asked about this since the exhibition opened. People saying, "Where is the Trudeau dress," which, of course, is a crown jewel of our collection.

    Of course, we chose deliberately not to include it because it's been shown quite a lot very recently around Ottawa and another traveling exhibition that LAC has had. Again, it's a campaign. It's a paper dress that was made for the campaign workers who worked on the first campaign for Pierre Trudeau. It's got a wonderful portrait on the front of it. It's a wonderful, wearable piece of art, but we did not neglect to include fashion in the exhibition.

    MS: That's right. Paul Martin very kindly lent us from his own collection the Paul Martin Canadian shirt. The story behind that is there's this Turkish knock-off clothing line called Paul Martin Canadian. Basically, the story is that the guy who started the fashion line needed a name for it and I think he googled. I don't even know what he googled, [chuckles] but he found Paul Martin's name. He thought, "Paul Martin Canadian. That sounds classy." He went with that. There's this shirt that's very, I would say— I don't know. How would you describe the print? Bright? [laughs]

    MT: Well, it's a very dark blue with very bright gold. Turns out jaguars

    MS: We call it a tiger print shirt. We were wrong. We apologize for the error. [laughs] Anyway, there is a photo of Paul Martin wearing the shirt. I feel like Paul Martin would not be offended if I said, normally, he's a pretty conservative dresser and so it's not really his style. When you see the shirt, you don't think, "Yes, Paul Martin definitely." We have that in the exhibition and it's really great. It's a funny story and we really appreciate him lending us the shirt.

    JA: On which occasion that he wear it?

    MS: I think he just wore it for a photo shoot with Maclean's. I don't think he ever actually wore it to an event or anything.

    MT: He was an extremely good sport because Maclean's actually did an article about this Paul Martin Canadian clothing line and featured a shirt and featured Paul Martin as fun.

    JA: Another track from Graham Townsend Salutes Canada's Prime Ministers. Here's the Sir Mackenzie Bowell jig.


    JA: We asked our guests, which Prime Minister created the most art?

    MS: I guess Pierre Trudeau, right? [laughs]

    MT: Yes. That's a tough one. We talked about this a lot between ourselves because it's the element of the exhibition that seems to intrigue people the most, but there's different ways of creating and types of creations. Most of them wrote things. Of course, we include the literary arts as one of the arts in our exhibition because of our emphasis on the prime ministerial libraries. In a large way, the prime minister's role has almost been more as muses and as patrons and as collectors.

    However, there's just Pierre Trudeau does stand out because we do have his amateur photographs in the exhibition, which are basically photographs of architecture, architectural forms. Things like standing at the very top of the staircase and photographing from the top and repeating geometric forms. He did a series of photographs like that, it seems. Those are included as part of his fond and were a lot of fun. We included those in the exhibition. There's a youthful poetry by our dear friend William Lyon Mackenzie King.

    JA: Very prolific.

    MS: Yes, he was. He recorded everything. His fonds is, as we've said, incredibly rich. There's so much in there. I would like to mention two other prime ministers. Stephen Harper, of course, is known as a musician. I'm not sure if he's the only prime minister, but he might be in fact. The other one I find interesting is Mackenzie Bowell because he started out as a printer's assistant.

    I'm not sure how old he was. He may have been a teenager or something, but he probably was doing things like setting type and running a printing press. No doubt, his hands were inky all the time. I work with rare books. To me, I definitely think of printing as an art. Bowell, he worked his way up. Well, later on in his life, he was a newspaper publisher. He owned his own newspaper before he became prime minister. I find that really interesting.

    When I talked to my mother about the exhibition, she said the thing she found most interesting was that Alexander Mackenzie was a stonemason before he got into politics. I don't know. When you think of the arts, maybe stone masonry is not the first thing that comes to mind. He was working with his hands. He was creating things. I find that really interesting as well.

    MT: There's a whole document and tradition like your mother was saying about the Scottish stonemasons. Some of the work is really, really intricate and beautiful. They're doing restorations even on Parliament Hill of that work.

    JA: You both touched on how prime ministers created art, how they inspired people to create art that they collected. Which one supported art the most?

    MT: Well, I think that in our deliberations when we're trying to decide who was going to be our main figure for the patron's section we did, it did come down strongly in favor of Sir Wilfrid Laurier simply because we had so many varied arts figures who owed their careers to him. I already mentioned the painter Suzor-Coté, but there's a few others obviously.

    MS: There was Pauline Johnson or Tekahionwake, the poet. She got letters of introduction from Laurier when she went on a European tour. That really helped her kind of get in with society there, made it easier for her to make connections. She wrote him letters where she expressed her appreciation for that. Also, there was Éva Gauthier, the opera singer, who actually was Laurier's niece. He paid for her musical education and she was a very celebrated singer, so that was a big one as well.

    MT: That's right. The first person to sing Gershwin songs.

    MS: That's right. The first classical singer.

    MT: The first classical singer.

    JA: To learn more about and even listen to recordings of Éva Gauthier, visit the Virtual Gramophone database on LAC's website.


    MS: We keep talking about Mackenzie King, but [chuckles] one of the things I find really interesting is King was an early supporter of Yousuf Karsh. Probably one of the most well-known Canadian arts figures, I would think, right? Because it was King who arranged for Karsh to photograph Churchill, resulting in the famous portrait of Churchill. If you look at Karsh's website, you'll see he basically credits King with really opening a lot of doors for him. He says that the Churchill photo was the turning point in his career. That's another really interesting story.

    JA: I know we keep promoting past episodes of the podcast, but we also have an episode on the famous Canadian photographer Meaghan mentions, Yousuf Karsh. It's way back in episode 23. Give it a listen!

    But first, give this a listen. It's Graham Townsend again with the Sir Wilfrid Laurier reel….


    JA:  I'm going to pick a prime minister at random. Can you tell me what art relates to them in the exhibit? What about Arthur Meighen?

    MS: Arthur Meighen was a big fan of William Shakespeare. Arthur Meighen actually had a speech that he would give called, "The Greatest Englishman of History." That was all about how Shakespeare was the greatest Englishman of history. [chuckles] The text of the speech was printed in a book which Mackenzie King had a copy of the book in his library. Meighen's book is actually in the King library display.

    There's also an audio recording of Meighen delivering that speech, which is available in our collection. I don't think you could go buy it in the store today, but LAC does have a copy on vinyl. I believe, here's a good fact for your pub trivia, Arthur Meighen is the only prime minister ever to release an album because of the speech. We were hoping to include the audio of the speech in the exhibition, but it just didn't quite work out. The book is the main thing we have for Arthur Meighen.

    JA: Meaghan and Madeleine couldn't include the Arthur Meighen speech on Shakespeare in the exhibit, but here at the podcast, we were able to get our hands on a copy for you to listen to….

    [Meighen clip]

    JA: What about Sir John Thompson?

    MT: He is the headline figure basically or the main figure for our muses section, which is the largest section of the exhibition. Of course, many other prime ministers feature strongly in it. We used Thompson because there's such a moving story about him. He basically inspired one of the earliest major attempts at securing an art commission in this country.

    Basically, Thompson died suddenly while he was lunching with Queen Victoria. It was a very astonishing and devastating news. It threw the country into widespread mourning. Queen Victoria herself became involved because, obviously, he was in England. She wanted to show him every mark of respect. There was a funeral for Thompson in London or in England, pardon me, at Windsor Castle.

    She personally did certain things like she placed the wreath on the coffin. There's a tag on the wreath that was signed by her. She wrote a condolence letter to Lady Thompson. Also, meanwhile, the whole country was wrapped up in this whole period of extraordinary public mourning. We've kind of seen some things like that in the modern times. You can kind of get a sense of what it must have been like. It was an artist, Frederic Marlett Bell-Smith, who was basically, of course, also moved by the occasion.

    He also thought perhaps this might be an opportunity to move forward in his art career and perhaps secure a commission with the government of Canada. He was actually hoping that, eventually, his large canvases and he was going to create a series of canvases featuring the funeral and arrival of Thompson's body. He was hoping that this would kind of secure his career and that he would basically be responsible for one of the first major art commissions in the country.


    JA: Frederic Bell Smith travelled from Canada to England to arrange sittings with Queen Victoria, and he eventually created three paintings relating to Thompson's death. The funeral paintings are very accurate, and a veritable who's who of those in attendance.

    MT: We see Queen Victoria obviously in them as well as certain other interesting figures of the day.

    MS: Sir Charles Tupper, a future prime minister, is there at the funeral. Because I think at the time, he was the ambassador to Britain.

    JA: Because of its size, the original painting of Thompson's funeral by Frederic Bell Smith couldn't be included in the exhibition. It was too large to fit into the exhibition room! It measures 7 1\2 by 11 feet!

    MT: Library and Archives also has some artifacts of the era that we included as well such as the wreath tag that's signed by Queen Victoria and the condolence letter. This sort of is an interesting example of the way in which the death of a prime minister really inspired this widespread mourning and also inspired artists. We also have some portrait miniatures that were inspired by this really tragic occurrence basically as well as the monumental cycle of paintings.

    MS: The other interesting fact about that series of paintings is that one of the three was destroyed in the Parliament Hill fire in 1916.

    JA: That's a big loss.

    MS: Literally big, yes. [laughs]

    MT: We do have a photograph that was taken of it. That is what we use in the exhibition in order to give the viewer a sense of what the three paintings would have looked like together.

    MS: I think you didn't mention Queen Victoria had Thompson's body sent back to Canada on her fastest warship. One of the paintings shows the ship arriving in Halifax. That's the one that was destroyed.

    MT: Exactly. As a mark of her respect again as well as creating the wreath, writing the letter, she was her fastest ship, the Blenheim. It was painted black in order to show respect for Thompson's death. It was a very big thing. It was a big thing on both sides of the Atlantic basically. It was really something that inspired art as well.

    MS: Another fact that I actually learned at pub trivia is that when Sir Charles Tupper died in England, his body was also sent back to Canada on the Blenheim.

    JA: Here is the Sir John S.D. Thompson Jig.


    JA: How about Jean Chrétien?

    MS: Jean Chrétien is featured on the portrait wall. There is a famous photo of him by the photographer Andrew Danson, who did a series called Unofficial Portraits where he basically set up politicians with his camera and then left them alone to take their own portraits. Jean Chrétien, yes. You may have seen the photo of Jean Chrétien giving the Boy Scouts salute. That's the photo. Also, on our celebrity photo-op wall, we have a photograph of Jean Chrétien with Dan Aykroyd where Dan Aykroyd is playing— What is Dan Aykroyd playing? Jean Chrétien is playing the trombone. Jean Chrétien is an amateur trombonist.

    MT: It's a saxophone.

    MS: Saxophone? The Blues Brothers, right? That's on our celebrity wall along with photos of Pierre Trudeau with John Lennon and Yoko Ono and Mackenzie King with Shirley Temple and Paul Martin with Bono. There is also a photo of Jean Chrétien with Bono which we did not use. That was another thing that we sadly had to cut. In that photo, Jean Chrétien is actually wearing Bono's sunglasses

    MT: I'll just add to that every single one of the prime ministers' features in a timeline that we created that isn't your average ordinary timeline because each of the featured prime ministers, all of them basically, has a fun fact about their relationship with the arts included under their picture. It's not just a way of reminding yourself about who all the prime ministers were once you come into the exhibition. Though, it does do that. It's also a way of getting yourself into the mood of the exhibition.

    JA: I'm going to throw another one at you. Maybe you can tell me what art relates to John Diefenbaker. What can we see that relates to him in the exhibition?

    MS: Well, there is a pencil caricature of Diefenbaker by Alma Duncan, who is, I think, a noted artist. Also, we have a book that belong to John Diefenbaker in our collectors' section. That was interesting because the book also had belonged to Sir John A. Macdonald at one point. Diefenbaker either bought it or it was given to him. We just thought that was kind of interesting to see how the prime ministers touched on each other's collections because Mackenzie King also has at least one book in his library that belong to Macdonald.

    MT: Don't forget our stuffed, Diefenbaker.

    MS: Oh, that's right. Yes. [laughs]

    MT: We have a three-dimensional caricature of Diefenbaker. One of four that are making appearances throughout the exhibition. These were originally created for an exhibition of caricatures at the Winnipeg Art Gallery by Ottawa artist Heather Danilovich.

    MS: Heather Danylewich!

    MT: Pardon me. They are absolutely wonderful. They're made out of cloth and fur.

    MS: Well, fake fur.

    MT: They're caricatures so they completely exaggerate Diefenbaker's jowls.

    MS: Right now, if you go in the first rotation, you'll see the three-dimensional caricatures of Sir John A. Macdonald and Pierre Trudeau. The Pierre Trudeau one, he has a silk rose in his lapel. He's wearing like a tweed jacket. Macdonald has this corduroy vest. They're really beautifully-made and very fun

    MT: That's right. Over the top. At the same time, they carry the message of the exhibition very well because here we have a very strong example of the prime ministers as a kind of inspiration, but also reflecting the artist herself as well.

    JA: Prime Ministers and the Arts: Creators, Collectors and Muses is on now, until December 3rd, 2019, at 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa. Admission is free.

    If you'd like to learn more about Prime Ministers at Library and Archives Canada, please visit us online at

    Thank you for being with us. I'm Josée Arnold, your host. You've been listening to "Discover Library and Archives Canada—where Canadian history, literature and culture await you." A special thank you to our guests today, Madeleine Trudeau and Meaghan Scanlon.

    This episode was produced and engineered by David Knox.

    If you liked this episode, you are invited to subscribe to the podcast. You can do it through the RSS feed located on our website, Apple Podcasts, or wherever else you get your podcasts.

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