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Rethinking Professionalism

Rethinking Professionalism: Women and Art in Canada, 1850-1970

Kristina Huneault
Janice Anderson
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    Rethinking Professionalism
    Book Description:

    The history of women and art in Canada has often been celebrated as a story of progress from amateur to professional practice. Rethinking Professionalism challenges this narrative by questioning the assumptions that underlie the category of artistic professionalism, a construct as influential for artistic practice as it has been for art historical understanding. Through a series of in-depth studies, contributors examine changes to the infrastructure of the art world that resulted from a powerful discourse of professionalization that emerged in the late- nineteenth century. While many women embraced this new model, others fell by the wayside, barred from professional status by virtue of their class, their ethnicity, or the very nature of the artworks they produced. The richly illustrated essays in this collection depict the changing nature of the professional paradigm as it was experienced by women painters, photographers, craftspeople, architects, curators, gallery directors, and art teachers. In so doing, they demonstrate the ongoing power of feminist art history to disrupt patterns of thought that have become naturalized and, accordingly, invisible. Going beyond the narratives of recovery or exclusion that the category of professionalism has traditionally encouraged, Rethinking Professionalism explores the very consequences of telling the history of women's art in Canada through that lens. Contributors include Annmarie Adams (McGill University), Alena Buis (Queen's University), Sherry Farrell Racette (University of Manitoba), Cynthia Hammond (Concordia University), Kristina Huneault (Concordia University), Loren Lerner (Concordia University), Lianne McTavish (University of Alberta), Kirk Niergarth (Mount Royal University), Mary O'Connor (McMaster University), Sandra Paikowsky (Concordia University), Ruth B. Phillips (Carleton University), Jennifer Salahub (Alberta College of Art & Design), and Anne Whitelaw (Concordia University).

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-8683-3
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-xvi)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-xvii)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xix-xxviii)
    Kristina Huneault and Janice Anderson

    • 1 Professionalism as Critical Concept and Historical Process for Women and Art in Canada
      (pp. 3-52)
      Kristina Huneault

      Writing in 1920, the American feminist Elizabeth Kemper Adams noted the anomalous situation of women working as artists in relation to the structures and expectations of the professional sphere. To be a woman and an artist at the beginning of the twentieth century was, it would seem, something of a slippery business; exceptional, individual, and immeasurable, the nature of her professionalism was difficult to define. Almost a century later, the essays assembled in this volume both bear Kemper Adams’s observations out and add to them. That art remains uneasily positioned as a profession among others is witnessed by its virtual...


    • 2 “What Would He Have Us Do?”: Gender and the “Profession” of Artist in New Brunswick in the 1930s and 1940s
      (pp. 55-82)
      Kirk Niergarth

      In the autumn of 1953,Canadian Artpublished Toronto-based critic George Elliott’s “What Have Amateurs Done to Canadian Art?” According to Elliott, “hundreds of dozens” of amateur painters had “brought turmoil into Canadian art since their post-war preeminence began.” One of the most difficult problems for the contemporary gallery-goer, Elliott wrote, was “to distinguish between the work of the anxious amateur and the embryo artist.” Worse still, not only were amateurs confusing audiences by exhibiting their work, they were selling it! “The economics of art are precarious at best,” Elliott mourned, “but the sale by an amateur tends to encourage...

    • 3 The Rewards of Professionalization: Alice Lusk Webster and the New Brunswick Museum, 1933–53
      (pp. 83-105)
      Lianne McTavish

      An image from 1924 shows three unidentified members of the Ladies’ Auxiliary of the Natural History Society (NHS) of New Brunswick standing inside their society’s museum in Saint John (Fig. 3.1). Normally devoted to the display of local birds, insects, and geological specimens, the museum had been temporarily transformed into an “Oriental bazaar,” a fund-raising event at which the ladies served tea and cake while dressed in Japanese, Chinese, and Indian costume. The next two photographs (Figs. 3.2 and 3.3) were taken eleven years later, in the new museum building that replaced the nhs Museum when it became a provincially...

    • 4 “A Story of Struggle and Splendid Courage”: Anne Savage’s CBC Broadcasts of The Development of Art in Canada
      (pp. 106-132)
      Alena Buis

      In January and February 1939 Montreal artist and educator Anne Douglas Savage (1896–1971) (Fig. 4.1) gave an eight-part series of radio lectures entitledThe Development of Art in Canada. Broadcasted nationally by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) on Sunday evenings, her twenty-five-minute talks traced a chronological progression through Canadian art, with each lecture focusing on one or two key individuals and a final segment commenting on contemporary artists and cultural trends. Recordings of the talks are not known to be extant and little information on why Savage was chosen to give them exists, but from the typescripts preserved in...


    • 5 Hannah Maynard: Crefting Professional Identity
      (pp. 135-167)
      Jennifer Salahub

      Hannah Hatherly Maynard (1834–1918) was a British-born, middle-class Victorian woman who was seduced by “the mysterious art” of photography in the 1850s and by the turn of the last century was a celebrated, self-employed professional photographer working in Victoria, British Columbia. The obstacles she overcame were daunting, although perhaps not unfamiliar in the history of art. She was a woman artist, an artist with little, if any, formal training, a woman running her own business, and an outspoken advocate of a new art form, all the while working in an outpost of an outpost of the British Empire.


    • 6 From Amateur to Professional: The Advertising Photography of Margaret Watkins, 1924–28
      (pp. 168-193)
      Mary O’Connor

      In her early fifties, the Canadian photographer Margaret Watkins (1884–1969) confirmed in a letter to her cousin that she had given up “my home and profession” to look after her spinster aunts who lived in Glasgow.¹ That Watkins saw herself as a professional was not surprising. She had trained in the Clarence H. White School of Photography, a school that emphasized “use in art” and future employment as well as fine technique and design in photography.² She exhibited her photographs in solo shows in New York City and in juried shows around the world, winning prizes in the United...

    • 7 “I Weep for Us Women”: Modernism, Feminism, and Suburbia in the Canadian Home Journal’s Home ’53 Design Competition
      (pp. 194-224)
      Cynthia Imogen Hammond

      An elegant, spare page in the February 1953 issue of theCanadian Home Journal(CHJ) announced to its mostly female readership that they would be participants in a nationwide design event of historic proportions. The significance of this participation was clear: “You, the Public, you, a parent, will be vitally concerned in this unique project. Here, for the first time in Canada’s publishing history, a great national magazine seeks to meet your housing needs and your neighbors’ by inaugurating a series of annual competitions for all members of the architectural profession in Canada…This will be for the express purpose of...

    • 8 Kathleen Daly’s Images of Inuit People: Professional Art and the Practice of Ethnography
      (pp. 225-258)
      Loren Lerner

      Kathleen Daly Pepper (1898–1994) possessed all the credentials typical of a professional artist of her era. Born in Toronto into an affluent family, she studied at the Ontario College of Art and graduated in 1924 with a particular interest in drawing and painting. A short time later she left for Paris for two years of post-graduate studies. Upon her homecoming she returned to the Ontario College of Art for another year of schooling, this time with the goal of developing proficiency in etching. As an artist, Daly was an active member of several professional societies, including the Ontario Society...

    • 9 The Girls and the Grid: Montreal Women Abstract Painters in the 1950s and Early 1960s
      (pp. 259-282)
      Sandra Paikowsky

      The received and simplified history of Montreal abstract painting, beginning with the early 1950s and continuing into the first years of the next decade, suggests that the period can be divided into two main categories: the Automatiste or gestural mode, and the Plasticien or geometric approach. This is certainly the easiest way to categorize the concerns of a complex and sometimes turbulent art milieu and it is also a convenient way to sidestep the important question of abstraction’s relationship to the city’s modernist representational painting. A further factor that has not been given its due consideration is the significant participation...


    • 10 “I Want to Call Their Names in Resistance”: Writing Aboriginal Women into Canadian Art History, 1880–1970
      (pp. 285-326)
      Sherry Farrell Racette

      As bell hooks points out in “Aesthetic Inheritances: History Worked by Hand,” writing an inclusive art history is no easy task. Until very recently, Aboriginal women have been written out of Canadian art history, or rather art history has been written around us. How do we write ourselves in? It falls far beyond simple insertion; the erasures are far too deep. Insertion presumes a simple forgetfulness, an oversight, a neglecting of the obvious. Insertion assumes a presence. It implies a shared mode of history, a common belonging to a collective archive, and an agreed-upon understanding of what it means to...

    • 11 From “Naturalized Invention” to the Invention of a Tradition: The Victorian Reception of Onkwehonwe Beadwork
      (pp. 327-356)
      Ruth B. Phillips

      American needlework writer Florence Hartley had words of high praise for the artistry of Onkwehonwe¹ women in her 1859 handbook,The Ladies’ Hand Book of Fancy and Ornamental Work: “The bead-work of the North American Indians is among the most beautiful. The Canadian Indian women sell large quantities to the visitors to the Falls of Niagara, and a great deal of it finds its way to our large cities. It is of every imaginable form, and generally is done on a bright scarlet ground with pure white beads. It is very successfully imitated by the lovers of this kind of...

    • 12 Professional/Volunteer: Women at the Edmonton Art Gallery, 1923–70
      (pp. 357-379)
      Anne Whitelaw

      In 1978 a room in the Edmonton Art Gallery (EAG) was dedicated to the memory of Maud Bowman (1875–1944), one of the founders of the Edmonton Museum of Arts (EMA) in 1923, and its first director.¹ The small room on the second floor, mostly used to display the gallery’s collection of Canadian art, was hung with paintings acquired during Bowman’s tenure at the museum (1923–43). The official opening of theMaud Bowman Gallery was a traditional affair, featuring a Sunday tea hosted by the gallery’s Women’s Society, a group of middle-class women accustomed to serving refreshments at similar events....

    • 13 “Marjorie’s Web”: Canada’s First Woman Architect and Her Clients
      (pp. 380-400)
      Annmarie Adams

      How did Canada’s first registered woman architect establish a network of clients? This chapter uses the analogy of a spider’s web to examine how the life membership of Esther Marjorie Hill (1895–1985) in the Victoria Handweavers’ and Spinners’ Guild in Victoria, British Columbia, led to commissions for kitchen renovations and her life-long interest in functional domestic design. Its major contribution to our historical understanding of women’s organizations is its approach through oral, visual, and built sources. Based on interviews with Hill’s friends and clients, newspaper articles about her life, documentation of extant projects in Victoria, and Hill’s papers held...

  10. Contributors
    (pp. 401-404)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 405-432)
  12. Index
    (pp. 433-443)