The Intercontinental Packers Limited reception room murals, 1953

The Intercontinental Packers Limited reception room murals, 1953

My epiphanic moment came in the summer of 2009, when, as part of a small group of visitors to the site, I saw, for the first time, the set of mural decorations that Perehudoff had painted in 1953 for a reception room in the former Intercontinental Packers Limited plant now Mitchell’s Gourmet Foods. There was real poignancy to the visit, insofar as the murals were destined for imminent destruction because of a new highway extension whose projected path required the demolition of the plant, which was in any case already a ghost of its former self, its spaces empty except for a few remaining employees who were also scheduled to go soon. (Over the months that followed, means were found to preserve the murals, and by the end of March 2010, the walls that held them had been reduced to rubble.)

The mural decorations – despite the somewhat abandoned state I saw them in – are impressively glorious. They constitute a unified fresco composition encompassing the entirety of the room (formerly the ceiling was included within the overall colour scheme). They are figurative and depict the arts, with musicians playing their instruments; a painter with his palette and a sculptor working on a stone block, both accompanied by models; a small audience, sitting and standing; and what appears to be a couple of waiters with napkins draped over their arms. The entire design is flat, schematic, and rendered in highly saturated colours, the figures drawn with simple, expressive precision and silhouetted against the flat monochrome walls. Perehudoff had conceived his design in harmony with the general principles of Purism, the hard-edged planar version of Synthetic Cubism furthered by French artist Amédée Ozenfant (1886–1966), whose school in New York Perehudoff had attended three years earlier. Without question, the mural ensemble is a major surviving monument from Canada’s post-war decades, when painters across the country were engaged in decorative mural projects in restaurants, hotels, bus stations, corporate lobbies, and airports, many of which have since disappeared, along with the buildings that housed them.

- excerpt from The Early Work of William Perehudoff, by Roald Nasgaard

Mendel reception room at the Intercontinental Packers plant, Saskatoon, C. 1953
Photographer unknown
Courtesy of Mendel Art Gallery, and Perehudoff family.

Mrs. Clare Mendel in the Mendel family reception room at the Intercontinental Packers plant, Saskatoon, C. 1953.
Courtesy of Mendel Art Gallery and Perehudoff family.