A man of many talents, Harry Mayerovitch (1910-2004) distinguished himself in a number of fields. By turns architect, painter, creator of propaganda posters, author, and accordion player, Mayerovitch left a unique mark on Canada’s arts and culture landscape.
Born in Montreal to a family of Romanian Jewish immigrants, he grew up in the town of Rockland, Ontario. Returning to Montreal at age 15, he went on to study law at McGill University. There, he developed a passion for drawing and the arts and decided to switch paths, enrolling in the school of architecture and earning his degree in 1933. After working with with renowned architect Percy Nobbs, Mayerovitch entered into partnership with Alan Bernstein in 1935. The buildings he designed over the course of his career include the former Jewish Library at the corner of Esplanade and Mont-Royal (now home to contemporary dance ensemble Compagnie Marie Chouinard), the Adath Israel Academy in Outremont, and the home of former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney in Westmount.
A first trip to Europe in the early 1930s instilled in him a sense of social engagement and political awareness. Like many artists of his time, he was drawn to socialism. His Communist Party affinities led him to the design of propaganda posters and his work attracted attention. Recruited by the National Film Board (NFB), he was appointed director of its Wartime Information Board in 1940. During the Second World War, he designed numerous posters to promote the war effort and recruitment. In the following decades, his activities included his participation in an exhibition at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts commemorating the national bicentenary of Canadian Jewry (1995) and his work as chairman of the board of the theme committee for Expo 67. He also wrote and illustrated a dozen books, including The Other One (1973), How Architecture Speaks and Fashions our Lives (1996) and Way to Go (2004). In the 1950s, he drew a regular comic strip for the Westmount Examiner.
Compiled by Valérie Beauchemin, translated by Helge Dascher.
Adams, Robert. Retrospective. H. Mayerovitch : 1929-1989. Montréal: Centre Saidye-Bronfman, 1989.
“Canadian War Poster Collection,” Library Digital Collections: McGill University. Online.
Choko, Marc. Canadian War Posters : 1914-1918, 1939-1945. Laval: Éditions du Méridien, 1999.
Sicotte, Hélène. “À Kingston, il y a 50 ans, la Conférence des artistes canadiens : débat sur la place de l’artiste dans la société.” Annales d’histoire de l’art canadien 14, No. 2 (1991): 28-49.
Trépanier, Esther. Peintres juifs de Montréal : Témoins de leur époque 1930-1948. Montréal: Les Éditions de l’Homme, 2008.
*Images courtesy of Ms. Julie Dorsey, Mr. David Mayerovitch, Ms. Nina Mayerovitch Picton, Mr. Robert Mayerovitch, the McCord Museum, the Estate of Harry Mayerovitch, the Canadian Museum of History, and the JPL-A.