Scenic Landmarks of Toronto

These postcards produced by Coach House Press document 2 of the characters visible in downtown Toronto back in the 1970s.

The Queen of Sweden would appear wearing various kinds of garb. She’s been seen, for example, wearing a Christmas tree garland around her head. Alex the Holy was something entirely different. He would wheeze quite loudly and has been heard calling out the names of stops along the Trans Canadian Railway line while riding the streetcar.

Queen of Sweden
“all suffering is for good”

Of note: The above postcard showing the Queen of Sweden seems to have been appropriated by the artistic collective General Idea. An identical copy of this card is included in the UC Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) collection. The back features a stamp in reddish-purple ink of General Idea‘s well known publication FILE. It listed in the inventory as: 1995.46.258 General Idea – color postcard

Alex the Holy
“after 12 hours of dark comes 12 hours of light”

Of particular interest is how Alex the Holy happens to be holding a copy of his own image showing him sitting on the doorstep of Elizabeth’s Beauty Salon. An interview with Alex the Holy also appeared in as issue of FILE. See info on FILE, vol. 2, No. 3 (September 1973) at Specific Object.

Furthermore, and finally, an early text by John Bentley Mays about General Idea notes the following about the art collective’s approach: “The characteristic subject of the older primitivists was the beach. General Idea turns to the streets of night to find the modern savages being extinguished by the daylight of rationality: Alex the Holy, Clara the Bag Lady, the Queen of Sweden, Moondog, the man who kisses fire-hydrants, Pascal.” (Source:




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