Category Archives: WInnipeg Art Gallery

Who Is She?

marie laurencin woman in scarf“Who is she?”  On Saturday after I gave my first tour of The French Moderns exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery a woman stayed behind to ask me about a painting that intrigued her.  It was called Femme au Foulard or Woman With A Scarf. She thought the woman in the painting looked sort of mysterious and melancholy. The gallery visitor had never heard of Marie Laurencin the artist and I had to confess I hadn’t either.  I thanked the woman for her interest and promised I’d find out more about Marie Laurencin.  


Marie Laurencin in 1912

I’ve since learned that Marie was a French artist who lived from 1883-1956.  She was an illegitimate child raised in Paris by her aloof and authoritarian mother and a mostly absentee father who was married to another woman. Like the great impressionist painter Renoir who got his start painting porcelain, Marie did porcelain painting in Sevres France before returning  to her Paris birthplace and studying oil painting.  


Group of Artists painted by Marie Laurencin in 1908 features Marie with artist Pablo Picasso to her left and writer Guillaume Apollinaire to her right. Picasso’s model and muse Fernande Olivier is leaning on her hand.

In Paris Marie met the painters Pablo Picasso and Henri Rousseau and began a six-year relationship with Guillaume Apollinaire a poet, playwright and short story writer and a great fan of the cubist art movement. Their relationship ended in 1913. Marie married a German baron in 1914. She would later divorce her alcoholic husband and never married again. 

alice in wonderland illustration by marie laurencin

Alice in Wonderland illustration by Marie Laurencin

Marie was a painter, printmaker and stage designer.  She illustrated the 1930 edition of Alice in Wonderland.

Portrait of author Somerset Maugham by Marie Laurencin

In 1936 she painted a portrait of her friend the British playwright Somerset Maugham who had a home on the French Riveria. She usually charged men double what she charged women for portraits but her Maugham portrait was a gift to him.  

Le Bal élégant, La Danse à la campagne by Marie Laurencin- 1913

Marie often exhibited with Cubist artists but her paintings weren’t typical of that art movement. Her work has been described as soft, pastel and feminine a real contrast to the vivid, geometrical work of many Cubists. A friend once said….. “there is something of a fairy wand in the brush of Marie Laurencin.” 


Tete de Jeune Fille or Head of a Young Girl by Marie Laurencin 1909

Interestingly in 1983 a hundred years after she was born the Musee’ Marie Laurencin opened in Nagano, Japan to display more than 600 pieces of Marie Laurencin’s work collected by Masahiro Takano. The museum has since been relocated to Tokyo. 


Ile de France 1940 by Marie Laurencin

There are only a handful of women whose work is displayed in The French Moderns exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. I knew about three of them, Mary Cassatt, Berthe Morisot and Gabriele Münter, but thanks to my inquisitive tour participant on Saturday I will now be able to tell future visitors I guide about a fourth woman artist Marie Laurencin.

Note: An excellent article in the Women in World History Biographical Encyclopedia provided a great deal of information about Marie Laurencin. 


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On Sunday I watched the movie Cézanne et moi.  It tells the story of the long and tumultuous friendship between French artist Paul Cézanne and French literary giant  Émile Zola.  

Le Village de Gardanne by Paul Cezanne will be part of the French Moderns exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.

I was particularly interested in learning as much as I could about Cézanne since one of his paintings will be included in the French Moderns exhibit opening tomorrow at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.  

Watching the movie Cézanne et moi is a lush visual experience, however the story hops around in time so much it gets confusing. Another thing I found confusing was trying to figure out whether Paul Cézanne was an impressionist artist.  

The movie shows him socializing with impressionist painters Auguste Renoir, Edouard Manet and Camille Pissarro.

Portrait of Mme Boursier and Her Daughter by Berthe Morisot will also be included in the French Moderns exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery

In one scene in the film Cezanne is at a picnic flirting with impressionist painter Berthe Morisot. Her work will also be in the upcoming Winnipeg Art Gallery exhibit. 

Impressionists were known for their fine brush strokes and in the movie we see Cezanne buying fine tipped brushes from an art supply store. The store owner even remarks on how different they are from the thicker brushes painters often buy. Impressionists used light colors and the art supply store owner also comments on the fact that Cezanne isn’t purchasing black paint. In multiple film scenes Cezanne is painting en plein air or outside, which was another characteristic of the impressionists. On a boat ride with his friend Émile Zola Cezanne goes on a rant about wanting to paint natural light and movement and capture emotion in his work. If you look through a check list of what describes impressionist artwork you’ll see references to light and movement and emotion as well.  

Yet at one point in the movie Cezanne declares,  “I hate impressionists.”  Conventional wisdom on the topic says although Cezanne hung out with the impressionists, exhibited many times with them, and shared many ideas with them, he is not a true impressionist but a post-impressionist.  I read a bunch of articles about post-impressionists and was pretty puzzled.  I was glad when I came upon The Art of Seeing Monet and Cezanne by C.S. Moore because it basically said what I had already discovered….. that defining  post -impression is complex and confusing. 

That complexity and confusion not withstanding Cezanne created art, that like the film about him, will provide a lush visual experience. I am looking forward to seeing his work in person today when I get a preview of the French Moderns exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. 

Other posts…….

Talk About Defying Convention

Bold and Beautiful

Linda’s Garden


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Inuit Art Isn’t Just Soapstone Carvings

Boa-Tea by Michael Massie

Boa- Tea by Michael Massie- 1996- The Rooms Provincial Art Gallery

In the early 1990s when a small photograph of a metal artwork created by Inuit artist Michael Massie appeared in  the journal Inuit Art Quarterly the magazine received a record number of letters from outraged readers claiming metal was an inauthentic Inuit art material.  Michael Massie has been a pioneer in changing people’s attitudes about what can be considered Inuit art. A variety of his work is currently on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. 

Dr.Heather Igloliorte

Dr. Heather Igloliorte the curator of SakKijâjuk . Behind her is a map of Nunatsiavut.

Last Saturday I took a tour of the beautiful new exhibit SakKijâjuk at the Winnipeg Art Gallery with its curator Dr. Heather Igloliorte.  She told us that if art is made by an Inuit person it is Inuit art.  

Sacrilege by Jason Shiwak- 2016 – pen and ink

The artwork in SakKijâjuk was created by artists living in the Inuit communities of northern Labrador in an area called Nunatsiavut.  These artists have had little opportunity in the past to exhibit or sell their work.  The word SakKijâjuk means ‘to be visible’ and the exhibit gives Nunatsiavut artists a chance to become just that.

Artist Gilbert Hay talks about his lithograph Inuksuk

I was fortunate last Saturday to hear a number of the artists talk about their work in  person. 

Baskets by Drusilla Rich, Garmel Rich and George Rich

The variety of work in the exhibit is dizzying and delightful.  There are beautiful baskets, mitts and moccasins.

Northern Lights by Doris Saunders- 1996- Embroidery

You can see dolls, coats, photographs, embroidery, lithographs, and wood carvings. 

A Whale Drifted Into Harbor by James Anderson-1996- Slide Transparency

There are slides, collages, drawings made with felt tipped pens and others with colored pencils. 

Nanuk with Seal by Dinah Anderson- 2000- Italian marble and steatite

There are carvings but they are made not only from soapstone or serpentinite but with granite and ivory and marble as well. 

Kamek by Inez Shiwak and Jane Shiwak -2009- beaver fur, moose hide, wool, beads

Inuit art may not be what you thought it was.  Come to the Winnipeg Art Gallery and find out all the exciting things it can be!

Other posts……….

Inuit Fashion Show

Cut in Stone

Stitching a Story


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A Serendipitous Coincidence

manitoba history journalI have a book review in the latest edition of The Manitoba Historical Society Journal and the magazine couldn’t have come out at a more serendipitous time. no man's land

The book I was asked to review was No Man’s Land- The Life and Art of Mary Riter Hamilton, by Kathryn A. Young and Sarah McKinnon.  Mary Riter Hamilton a Canadian artist working in the first half of the 1900s led a fascinating life and was instrumental in helping to establish an art gallery in Winnipeg in 1912. 

easter morning by mary riter hamilton

Easter Morning-La Petite Penitente by Mary Riter Hamilton- c. 1900

The serendipitous thing is that an artwork by Mary Riter Hamilton, painted when she was studying in Europe at the turn of the century, is part of a new show that just opened at the Winnipeg Art Gallery called Defying Convention. That means I will have the perfect opportunity to share everything I learned about Mary’s interesting life story while writing my book review, with the people I take on tours at the gallery. 

What a wonderful coincidence!

Other posts……….

Talk About Defying Convention

Women Painting Men

A Serendipitous Sail


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Stories in Stone

The skylight area of the Winnipeg Art Gallery is currently home to eight stunning pieces by Inuit sculptor Abraham Anghik Ruben all made from Brazilian soapstone. 

Raven Creation by Abraham Anghik Ruben

Many of the Ruben sculptures depict Inuit legends and stories. On his website Ruben writes: “I have chosen to be a story teller for my people through the medium of sculpture. . . . I no longer speak my mother tongue, yet I need to do my part in carrying on the stories and cultural myths, legends and spiritual legacy of our people.” With his art Ruben is carrying on in the tradition of his mother Bertha Thrasher who he describes as a story teller and a keeper of traditions.  

Sedna the Enchantress by Abraham Anghik Ruben

The story of Sedna is told in the piece Sedna The Enchantress.  Sedna was a young Inuit woman whose father put her in a boat to try to help her escape from her husband who had turned out to be someone different than she thought when she married him.  When the vengeful husband tries to sink their boat the father cuts off all his daughter’s fingers and pushes her into the sea in order to save his own life.  Sedna becomes a mermaid and the ends of her fingers turn into all the creatures that live in the ocean.  

Raven Creation Myth by Abraham Anghik Ruben

The story of The Raven is illustrated in three pieces in the current Ruben display.  The Raven created the world from a snowball that formed on his wing. The snowball grew and grew. As Raven landed on the snowball his beak moved back to reveal a human head and his wings moved back to reveal feet and hands.

Raven Creation Myth by Abraham Anghik Ruben

Raven formed the plants and trees from bits of clay.  A pea pod plant burst open and people came out. Raven made animals from clay.  One that didn’t turn out as Raven planned was a large serpent and Raven killed it to protect his human creations. He threw stars into the sky to remind human beings that he was their creator and protector. 

First Flight- Abraham Anghik Ruben

Two contrasting pieces in the exhibit depict a shaman.  In one the shaman is joyfully turning into a bird

Silent Drum by Abraham Anghik Ruben

and in the other the shaman has died and has been buried in a shallow grave.

Shaman and Bear Spirits by Abraham Anghik Ruben

In an interview given for a  2013 article in the Arctic Journal Ruben says both his grandparents and great grandparents were keepers of the shaman tradition. ”The shaman is an intermediary between the physical and spiritual world. But also carries on oral traditions, myths and legend,” Ruben explains. 

Shaman’s Transformation by Abraham Anghik Ruben

Ruben traveled by dog team as a child with his parents hunting polar bears, caribou and beluga whales.  In 1957 when he was seven years old he was sent to residential school and remained there for almost a decade. It was an experience Ruben describes as “the dark night of my soul.”

Raven Spirit Protector by Abraham Anghik Ruben

After leaving school he went to the University of Alaska and studied at the Native Art Center there.  He has gone on to become one of Canada’s most successful and well-known Inuit sculptors. 

His work is displayed next to that of Norvel Morriseau at the Winnipeg Art Gallery in an exhibit entitled Shaman Stories. 

Other posts……..

Oviloo Tunille

Bright Bold and Beautiful




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Talk About Defying Convention

“I don’t want to trickle out. I want to pour until the pail is empty- the last going out in a gush, not in drops.”

Emily Carr said that to her family and friends who tried to stop her from going to paint in the forests of British Columbia in the last years of her life.  Dealing with ongoing mental and physical health challenges Emily was determined to continue painting.  She said to a friend, “I must go into the forest again.  The forest still has something to say to me and I must hear it.” 

tree movement emily carr 1937-1938

Tree Movement by Emily Carr 1937-1938- Winnipeg Art Gallery Collection

An article in Macleans magazine written a few years after Emily’s death in 1945 says “trees danced for her and she made them dance in her paintings. Gangling tree tops were ballet dancers bowing to nature.”

emily carr in her caravan

Emily Carr and her animals in her caravan -Photo from the British Columbia archives

Never one to bow to the conventions of society Emily would camp out in the woods later in her life in a large caravan she dubbed “The Elephant” with her menagerie of animals-  her dogs- she raised sheep dogs and had many other canine pets. She also had cats, a pet monkey Woo, a white rat, a parrot, canaries and chickens. 

emily carr -cove- winnipeg art gallery

Cove by Emily Carr- Collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery

Emily is one of the artists featured in a current exhibition at the Winnipeg Art Gallery called Defying Convention.  Emily snubbed convention in so many ways. She was a troublesome child who tore her clothes climbing trees and fences. She talked to cows and embarrassed her sisters with her outspokenness. She studied in Europe in 1900 and again in 1910 but her paintings didn’t sell when she returned to her home in Victoria British Columbia.  They were too unconventional. 

totem and trees 1912

Totem and Trees by Emily Carr 1912

Spending time in First Nations communities in British Columbia was certainly an unconventional thing for a single unaccompanied  woman to do in the early 1900s, especially traveling there in a dugout canoe and by horseback. But Emily did just that. She forged many important relationships in these communities and her First Nations friends nicknamed her Kleewyck- ‘The Laughing One.’ Emily documented the totem poles and scenes of daily life in the villages she visited. 

Silver gelatin print of Emily Carr in her studio in 1939 by Harold Mortimer-Lamb

Photograph of Emily Carr by Harold Mortimer Lamb 1939 

Even Emily’s appearance was unconventional.  Defying the fashion trends of the day she dressed in loose-fitting smocks, wore orthopedic stockings and covered her hair with a net cap. 

Emily Carr with her pets in the backyard of her boarding house on Simcoe Street in Victoria BC. -Photo from the archives of the British Columbia Royal Museum

Emily made a living by running a boarding house and was known by her tenants for her eccentricities and her quick temper. She only had time to paint after a busy day of tending to her house and boarders and pets. 

klee wyckEmily’s statement at the beginning of this blog post that she didn’t want to trickle out of life certainly came true. In the last five years of her life her career as a writer flourished and ‘gushed’. Her first book Klee Wyck won the Governor General’s Literary Award in 1941 and her second novel The Book of Small was named Book of the Year in Canada in 1942.  Just before her death in 1945 she completed her autobiography Growing Pains.

Even after her death Emily defied convention by becoming a success when many people thought she never would. Sadly she did not live long enough to witness the eventual popularity of her artwork. Emily usually sold her paintings for $35-$50.  In 2013 a painting of Emily’s sold for over $3 million. 

The Defying Convention exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery includes work by Emily Carr and many other women who defied convention in various ways as they tried to find a place for themselves in the male dominated art world of the early 1900s.  

Other posts………

Women Painting Men

Klee Wyck



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Women Painting Men

There’s a brilliant new exhibition at the Winnipeg Art Gallery called Defying Convention. It features female Canadian artists who were defying convention in the first half of the twentieth century by trying to earn a place for themselves in an art world dominated and controlled by men. 

Western Industries (Steel Pour, Vulcan Iron Works- Winnipeg ) c. 1939 by Georgie Wilcox

Western Industries (Steel Pour, Vulcan Iron Works- Winnipeg ) c. 1939 by Georgie Wilcox- an iron works would have been considered rather a hazardous place for a woman to be painting in the 1930s

This is a rich exhibition that I absolutely love so it will probably give rise to any number of blog posts but this one was inspired by a group of grade eight boys I was touring through Defying Convention. I told the boys the exhibit was a collection of work by women artists and they pointed to the painting above and asked, “Why are there men in the paintings then?”  I had to clarify that the artists and not the subjects of the paintings were women, but those boys got me thinking of how men are portrayed by women in the exhibit. 

The Village Blacksmith by Marion Nelson Hooker 1905

The Village Blacksmith by Marion Nelson Hooker 1905

It probably would not have been considered very ‘proper’ in 1905 for a woman to paint a half nude blacksmith especially for Marion Nelson Hooker who was very active in the traditional Anglican church. Marion Nelson Hooker did paint this brawny blacksmith when she was still a single woman. In 1907 she moved from Ontario to Selkirk Manitoba to marry a widower with six children. A condition of the marriage was that she would be allowed to continue her painting. Her new husband provided her with a studio for doing just that.

At the UN by Pegi Nicol MacLeod c.1945

Pegi Nicol MacLeod was a Canadian painter living in New York City  when Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson commissioned her to do a painting of the United Nations General Assembly.  Pearson was very involved with the United Nations after World War II, serving as the President of the General Assembly and earning a Nobel Prize for his work as a peacekeeper.  A similar United Nations painting of Pegi Nicol MacLeod’s  sold recently at the Mayberry Gallery in Winnipeg.   Pearson commissioned the United Nations paintings so you might think he would have asked  Pegi Nicol MacLeod to paint him at the speaker’s podium, but the person at the podium in this one looks suspiciously like a woman.  I know this painting must have been done in 1947 because that is when the second session of the United Nations General Assembly was held in Flushing Meadow New York in an old exhibition hall. The third session was held there too in the fall of 1949 but by then Pegi Nicol Macleod had died.  Pierre Berton gives a detailed and colorful description of this meeting in a November 1947 article in Macleans magazine. The photo in the magazine matches Pegi’s painting.  In the sea of men she has painted Pegi Nicol MacLeod appears to have included three women- one on the podium and two to the far right.  According to Pierre Berton’s article the wives of many of the delegates were in attendance and the ushers were women but the head of the Indian delegation was also 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. 

The Boy With a Red Cap by Lucille Casey MacArthur 1891-1898

This boy looks like he is must be in his late teens. He has a classic face, seems to be bare chested and his hair and cap have a a softer quality about them in contrast to his rather sharp features.  The Boy With A Red Cap was painted by Lucille Casey MacArthur who moved to Winnipeg from Mississippi with her husband in 1884. She studied in Europe and on her return to Winnipeg held an exhibition that some say was well attended because of Lucille’s nude section of paintings. She was definitely a defier of convention. 

You don’t want to miss the Defying Convention exhibit. This blog is just a tiny taste of the variety of pieces on display by nearly forty different women brave and determined enough to make their way in what was definitely a man’s world or art in the early 20th century. 

Other posts………

Children Are Going To Love Her

Klee Wyck

Transferring the Real to the Unreal


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