BCD#30

Blind Contour Homage #30 – “Parachute Riggers” – 1947 Paraskeva Clark

 

Born Paraskeva Avdeyevna Plistik in St.Petersburg, Russia, Clark was one of three daughters to working class parents. Her mother made artificial flowers to supplement the family’s income and her father managed a grocery store. They worked hard to afford their children an education. After graduating in 1914, she worked as a clerk in a shoe factory and attended evening classes at the Petrograd Academy of Fine Arts. She was recruited to paint sets for theatres and met her first husband Oreste Allegri Jr., an Italian scene painter. They married in 1922 and had a son, Benedict. They made plans to emigrate to France but Allegri drowned during the summer. Clark decided to move to Paris and live with her in-laws. Even though her late husband’s family was well connected in the art world, she had little time for art while caring for her son and doing domestic work for them.

When her son was 6, he was sent to boarding school during the week so Clark took a job at an interior design shop. There she met Philip Clark, a visiting Canadian accountant. The two kept a long distance relationship until he revisited in 1931 and they decided to marry. They moved to Toronto and shortly after, her 2nd son, Clive was born.

Clark’s entry into the Toronto art world was facilitated by her husband’s membership in the Arts and Letters Club (he was a talented pianist). She was encouraged to send her “Self Portrait,”(1931–32), to the annual juried exhibition of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in November 1932. It was the first time she exhibited. She exhibited extensively after that and was accepted to the Canadian Group of Painters in 1936.

As a young woman, she faced many financial challenges in Russia. Clark felt passionately about the role and responsibility of the artist: “Those who give their lives, their knowledge and their time to social struggle have the right to expect great help from the artist. And I cannot imagine a more inspiring role than that which the artist is asked to play for the defence and advancement of civilization.”

These beliefs and her strong attachment to her homeland fuelled not only her art but her political activism. She was appointed by the National Gallery of Canada to record the activities of the Women’s Divisions of the Armed Forces during World War II. “Maintenance Jobs in the Hangar #6, Trenton RCAF, Station,” 1945 is part of that series.

Clark’s eldest son, Benedict was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1943. Her concern and sadness over his illness would seriously affect her productivity as an artist. He never lived independently. In 1974, she shared a show with him during which the National Gallery of Canada purchased her piece “Myself” (1933). Many exhibitions of her work and new projects featuring her art came about in these later years of her life, including a 1982 film by the National Film Board of Canada, Portrait of the Artist as an Old Lady.

Philip Clark died in 1980, and after living for a time in a nursing home Paraskeva Clark suffered a stroke and passed away on August 10, 1986, at the age of 87.

Clark had been a member of the Canadian Group of Painters, the Canadian Society of Painters in Water Colour, the Canadian Society of Graphic Art, the Ontario Society of Artists, and the Royal Canadian Academy. Much of her art now resides at the National Gallery of Canada and the Art Gallery of Ontario.

 

Born: October 28, 1898, St.Petersburg, Russia
Died: August 10, 1986, Toronto

 


Visit the events page to see where Marlene’s Blind Contour Homage will be showing.  This is a series of paintings celebrating the work of Canadian female artists.

 

BCD#29

Blind Contour Homage #29 – “Island of Rocks” – Florence McGillivray

“She was the best.” Tom Thomson on Florence McGillivray

Although relatively unknown now, Florence McGillivray was a leading Canadian artist in her time. Born to a wealthy family (her father was a Scottish immigrant with a well-situated farm in Whitby, Ontario), McGillivray’s early talent as an artist was encouraged through private lessons with esteemed southern Ontarian artists. McGillivray capitalized on this good fortune by charging 25 cents to her friends and classmates for lessons sharing what she had learned. She added to her earnings by selling her paintings in local fairs.

This youthful shrewdness characterized McGillivray’s entire career; talent, good fortune, and keen curiosity ensured that she remained abreast of leading artistic movements, figures, and techniques. Travelling to Europe in 1913, she studied in Paris’s Academie de la Grand Chaumiere, earning admiration when her painting Contentment was exhibited in the prestigious Salon des Beaux-Arts. In Paris, she was mentored and encouraged by Matisse, Simon, and Menard, and she studied “Realist, Nabis and Fauvist palettes and pictorial construction,” which she imported to Canada when she was forced home after the outbreak of World War I. Back in Ontario, she mentored Tom Thomson, who declared McGillivray one of the best painters in Canada. In fact, Katharine Lochnan (McGillivray’s great-great niece) and art historian Sarah Stanners argue that McGillivray had the single greatest influence on Thomson’s work, solving the mystery behind the European styles in Thomson’s work.

Yet, despite her connection with the Group of Seven, McGillivray’s name does not receive the same level of recognition. This oversight is due in part to her family’s wealth; her comfortable lifestyle meant she was not forced to sell her paintings. But she has also been overlooked because of her gender. Art historian Regina Haggo explains that it “was difficult for a Canadian woman to become a professional artist a hundred years ago. Women were supposed to get married, have babies and stay at home. And because McGillivray was female, her work was undervalued by critics and ignored by art historians. … Moreover, taming nature with a brush was a job for a man. Women were deemed to be intellectually incapable of painting landscape. A woman artist was expected to paint pretty images of domestic life.”

But McGillivray rejected expectations for female artists. Instead, she used “the palette knife, masses of colour, and a strong black line around forms” to develop her signature style—a method influenced by her interactions with European artists, but cultivated independently as she experimented throughout her career. Her entire life was spent seeking creative inspiration and education. Just as she painted landscapes of the Gatineau valley, Labrador, and Newfoundland, she also travelled widely abroad—to Trinidad, Jamaica, the Bahamas, Alaska, and beyond—in search of new vistas and styles. When she died in Toronto in 1938, she left behind an enormous body of work. Only in recent years has it been rediscovered and celebrated for its significant contribution to the Canadian modernist movement.

Born: 1864, Whitby, Ontario
Died: 1938, Toronto

Sources:

Allen, W.C. “Following Florence.” Gatineau Valley Historical Society. http://www.gvhs.ca/publications/utga-following-florence.html

The Florence McGillivray Project. “Florence’s Stories.” https://florencemcgillivray.ca

Haggo, Regina. “Florence McGillivray Tamed Nature with a Brush.” Hamilton Spectator, January 7, 2017. https://www.thespec.com/whatson-story/7050268-regina-haggo-florence-mcgillivray-tamed-nature-with-a-brush/

Lochnan, Katharine and Sarah Stanners. “The Group of Eight.” Canadian Art, October 10, 2017. https://canadianart.ca/features/the-group-of-eight/

Murray, Joan. Tom Thomson: Design for a Canadian Hero. Dundern Press, 1998.

Prakash, A.K. Independent Spirit: Early Canadian Women Artists. Firefly Books, 2008.

 


Visit the events page to see where Marlene’s Blind Contour Homage will be showing.  This is a series of paintings celebrating the work of Canadian female artists.