Cobalt is a town in Ontario, Canada, which had a population of 1,118 at the 2016 Census. In the early 1900s, the area was heavily mined for silver; the silver ore also contained cobalt. By 1910, the community was the fourth highest producer of silver in the world. Canadian artist Yvonne McKague Housser’s depictions of Cobalt ranged from the downright scruffy to the homey and cozy to the faceted and austere as she wrestled with her subject matter. Some of her larger paintings of Cobalt, made later in her Toronto studio, express a bold utopian vision of industry in the North, a view she relates in her letters to friends.
In Deserted Mine Shaft, Cobalt (1932) McKague Housser relates a scene that she would have been very familiar with. The silver mines were operated by Canadians and new immigrant workers arriving from all over the world in pursuit of opportunity. This influx displaced the indigenous inhabitants of the region, though the Group of Seven and their circle continued to present Canada as an unpeopled land ripe for the taking.
Photographed in the Vancouver Art Galley in Vancouver, BC.