Friday, September 21, 2012

(No. 215) Economical Insurance, Joe Belth & great art

"Economical Mutual Insurance Co.,  Joseph Belth and some great art exhibitions past, present and future"

by Alastair Rickard

For decades the American Joseph Belth has been, for me and many others in and out of the North American life insurance industry, a model for what a thoughtful and well informed critic of the business should be. For decades he has edited and published a leading insurance periodical in the U.S. -- the monthly INSURANCE FORUM "for the unfettered exchange of ideas about insurance".

I have known and admired Joe Belth for some years and have written for the INSURANCE FORUM previously. After I started doing columns on about the proposed demutualization of Economical Mutual Insurance, the Waterloo Ontario property and casualty company, Joe asked me to do an article for his readers on the subject.

I accepted the invitation and that article, one which Joe has entitled "The Shocking Terms of a Proposed Canadian Demutualization", appears in the October 2012 issue of the INSURANCE FORUM (Volume 39, No.10).

In an editor's note following my article Joe Belth said, referring to "the shocking ccnsorship details" about which I had written (i.e., the federal Dept of Finance's treatment of certain submissions to Finance on a proposed demutualization regime) that "I am incensed. I have submitted comments over the years to federal and state agencies in the U.S. and have never experienced censorship. I would welcome comments from readers on this matter."

Concerning the INSURANCE FORUM visit: www.the


The Canadian painter Homer Watson was born in 1855 in Doon, Ontario near what was then the town of Berlin (the name of which was changed to Kitchener during World War I). By the mid-1870s he had become a serious artist, by the mid-1880s his name was becoming well known.

In 1880 one of his paintings, "The Pioneer Mill", was purchased by the Canadian Governor-General the Marquis of Lorne and his wife Princess Louise as a gift for her mother Queen Victoria. The Queeen liked it so much she asked them to buy her another Watson painting. They did: "The Last of the Drought".

With two of his paintings in the Queen's art collection Watson's career took off. He travelled extensively and prospered (until the stock market crash in 1929) having settled in his home and gallery in Doon.

That property has been preserved and is a permanent space open to the public. Currently a special exhibition of Watson's work is on view ( it concludes Sept 30): "Reliving Royal History: A Homer Watson Exhibition".

This exhibition features the two Watson paintings acquired by Queen Victoria. They have been lent to the exhibition from the Royal Collection as have other works from the National Gallery of Canada and elsewhere.

If you enjoy (as I do) landscapes, especially ones that are dark in tone, you are likely to enjoy this Homer Watson exhibition.

For information visit


A 'heads up' for a major and rather unusual exhibition that will be at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto from Oct.20, 2012 through Jan. 20, 2013: "Frida & Diego: Passion, Politics and Painting". It has been co-organized by the Museo Dolores Olmedo in Mexico City, the High Museum of Art, Atlanta and the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Today in Canada and the U.S. Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera are likely the best known Mexican artists. In part this is the result of the 2002 Hollywood movie "Frida" starring Salma Hayak as Frida and Alfred Molina as Rivera.  I thought the performances were better than the movie itself (Hayak was nominated for a best actress Oscar for her performance) and the English actor Molina always delivers a superior performance.

Kahlo (b. 1907) and Rivera (b.1886) married in 1929 and had a turbulent, dysfunctional relationship which did not end until her premature death in 1954. Kahlo had a serious traffic accident at age 18, the physical effects of which blighted her life. Both were as passionate about politics as painting.

Pat and I attended a 2002 exhibition "Places of their own" at the Vancouver Art Gallery in which Kahlo was one of three featured female artists ( the other two were Georgia O'Keeffe and Emily Carr).

The upcoming exhibition at the AGO is unusual because it brings together for a non-Mexican audience the work of Kahlo and Rivera. It will feature 90 original works from three major Mexican collections as well as loans from North American museums and private collectors plus more than 60 photographs taken of the two artists during their lives.

For information on the exhibition "Frida & Diego: Passion, Politics and Painting" running from Oct. 20, 2012 to Jan. 20, 2013, visit


Earlier this summer I wrote columns about two noteworthy art exhibitions: the Van Gogh exhibition at the National Gallery in Ottawa ( column No. 204, posted June 29, 2012) and the Picasso exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto (column No. 197, posted May 7, 2012).

Both exhibitions have ended and their success with the public was impressive.

The Picasso exhibiton at the AGO which ended Aug.26 was its fourth most attended exhibition ever drawing almost 309,000 visitors during its 17 week run.

The Van Gogh exhibition which opened May 25 and closed on Labour Day drew a 15% higher attendance than the National Gallery had projected (230,000). It was more than twice the 109,000 of the previous summer's Caravaggio exhibition and the best exhibition attendance at the National Gallery since 1997's "Renoir's Portraits".




blog archive: to access back numbers of RickardsRead, go to the blog archive listing which appears beside every column as it appears on the site and use the links

to set a "Google alert" for new columns as they are posted on, go to: