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THE HISTORY OF MEDALLIC ART
In the domain of medallic art, it is no secret that the art medal has a long history. For centuries, art medals have been subjects to represent a gesture of honour or recognition for humanity.
The art medal was born in the period of the Renaissance, primarily with artist Antonio Pisano or Pisanello (c.1390–1455). This moment is decisive for the art medal, because the making of a medal was from now on consciously considered as a form of artistic expression. Aristocrats and wealthy patrons saw to it that the medal became a symbol of achievement. Tradition established that a specially designed medal was given as a sign or record of recognition to honour or reward one person or a group of individuals.
Even before the Renaissance, medals were always part of our societies as long as societies can remember. In fact, coins of ancient times were the ancestors of medals. Often these coins had portraits of rulers or heroes on them. This eventually led to the medallions of Ancient Rome. These medallions were made larger than coins and they were often given as gifts, and sometimes they were worn as jewellery. When struck medal coins were produced in large numbers in the early eighteen hundreds, the art medal received even more attention for its intimacy between the artist and the viewer. In more recent years, for example in France, artists such as Braque, Giacometti, Matisse, Moore and Picasso explored the realms of medallic arts to extend their individual forms of expression. Dora de Pédery-Hunt, Canada’s most prominent medallic artist, created one of the earliest Canadian art medals in 1961 for the Canada Council. Today, in many parts of our world, including Canada, we witness a renewed interest in this very ancient art form, the making of a humble hand-held sculpture- “a monumental miniature.” Though many countries in Europe have had their well established art medal societies for a while, Canada was left without one since 1965, until recently.
The time had come to create the Medallic Art Society of Canada or MASC. Del Newbigging, sculpture student and longtime friend of Dora de Pédery-Hunt, called for the formation of Canada’s new medal society in July 2000. He invited a group of artists, who gathered at a round table to discuss the possibilities of reviving a proper focus on medallic arts. His major inspiration was Canada’s Dora de Pédery-Hunt, who amongst many other of her important medals, created the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II on all current Canadian coins.
Today, MASC reaches out beyond Canadian borders with members from Ireland, England, United States and Australia.