Before he became the prime minister of Canada Lester B. Pearson was the Canadian ambassador to the United States. He played an important role in the founding of the United Nations in 1945.
When the international organization met for only the second time in an old exhibition hall in Flushing Meadow New York in 1947, Pearson decided the momentous occasion should be recorded by an artist.
He chose a Canadian artist who happened to be living in New York at the time, Pegi Nicol MacLeod. She did a number of paintings of the session.
Since Pearson commissioned the United Nations paintings you might think Pegi Nicol MacLeod would have painted him at the speaker’s podium, but the person at the podium in this artwork looks suspiciously like a woman.
Pierre Berton gives a detailed and colourful description of this meeting in a November 1947 article in Maclean’s magazine.
The photo in the magazine matches Pegi’s painting.
In the sea of men, Pegi appears to have included three women- one on the podium and two in the bottom right corner of the painting. According to Pierre Berton’s article, the wives of many of the delegates were in attendance and the ushers were women. The head of the Indian delegation was a woman Mrs Vijaya Lakasmi Pandit. Could she be one of the two women on the right or is she at the podium?
Pierre Berton also mentions the names of some female journalists at the meeting and if you look in the press box just underneath the podium some of the journalists could be women. I think it is interesting that in a meeting dominated by men Pegi chose to include quite a number of women in her painting.
Sadly in 1949 Pegi Nicol Macleod died of cancer. She left behind more than a thousand works of art including her paintings of one of the first meetings of the United Nations.
Pegi Nicol Macleod is also well known for her paintings of women who served in Canada’s armed forces.