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The Practice of Her Profession

The Practice of Her Profession: Florence Carlyle, Canadian Painter in the Age of Impressionism

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  • Book Info
    The Practice of Her Profession
    Book Description:

    In The Practice of Her Profession, Susan Butlin draws on unpublished letters and family memoirs to recount Carlyle's personal and professional life. She explores Carlyle's artistic influences, her relationships with artist colleagues and encounters with the cultural worlds of Paris, New York, and early twentieth-century Canada, and provides a detailed examination of Carlyle's paintings. Butlin's vivid description of the artistic life of women of this era, from access to art training to the important role of women's art societies, introduces readers to Carlyle's many accomplished contemporaries - Helen McNicoll, Mary Reid, Laura Muntz, Sarah Holden, Sydney Tully, Elizabeth McGillivray Knowles, and others.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-7525-7
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    Susan Butlin
    (pp. xv-xx)

    Florence Carlyle (1864–1923) was both a woman painter and a painter of women. She was an artist who invented herself because there were few examples to emulate or maps to follow on the journey she chose to make. Role models for the kind of strategically organized, self-defined career that Carlyle lived were rare in Canada when she began to establish herself in the 1880s. She found unusual ways of doing so, such as working part of the year at lucrative calendar art commissions for a New York firm. Her life and career as an artist were prototypical examples of...

    (pp. xxi-2)
    (pp. 3-6)

    The evening of 28 February 1902 in Toronto was crisp and clear. Under a starstudded sky, horses and buggies pulled up in swift succession outside 165 King Street West for the opening-night private viewing of the Ontario Society of Artists thirtieth annual exhibition. Within, the voices and laughter of the people thronging the galleries rose above the sounds of the musical ensemble. They were all there, the leaders of Toronto society and the Canadian art world.

    Florence Carlyle stepped down from the taxi. Entering the gallery, she passed her large oil of quarrelling lovers (fig. II), hung in the place...

  8. PART ONE FORMATION, 1864–1890

    • 1 First Lessons 1864–1883
      (pp. 9-18)

      What must a woman have in order to work as a professional artist. She needs food and shelter, tools, materials, and education. She must have a source of inspiration, something about which she feels it is worth making art. And, not insignificantly, she requires support. That aspiring women artists today have access to these things may be taken for granted; however, the reality was very different in Canada in the 1860s when Florence Carlyle was born. At this time a woman’s family and the broader social context could either facilitate or discourage her pursuit of a career. Without a doubt...

    • 2 Contacts 1883–1890
      (pp. 19-36)

      With parents who believed in the value of education, Florence Carlyle and her sisters, Maud and Lillian, were considerably better off in this regard than most girls of their generation. Typical of the era, instruction in the social arts was accorded equal importance with formal education in their early life. Emily Carlyle, coming from a prosperous family background and given the family’s central position in Woodstock, ensured that her daughters acquired the accomplishments considered essential by society. She taught both her sons and daughters the rudiments of music on the family piano; in addition, the girls were instructed in the...

  9. PART TWO EMERGENCE, 1890–1899

    • 3 The Bohemia of Paris 1890–1896
      (pp. 39-68)

      In Paris the Peels helped Florence Carlyle find accommodation and briefly introduced her to the city before they travelled on to Rome. Carlyle had the choice of several housing options for foreign women students resident in Paris at this time. The most expensive choice was to take up residence in apensionor a hotel “run on more or less dull or English lines.” This option offered respectable housing for unchaperoned women living and studying in the city.

      Three years after Carlyle’s arrival, American philanthropists and Paris’s Protestant community, concerned with the perceived lax moral life of the growing number...

    • 4 Brass and Copper: Alternatives and Strategies 1896–1899
      (pp. 69-100)

      Carlyle’s reunion with family and old friends in Woodstock occupied the summer. Will and Lillian had both married while Carlyle was abroad, and Ernest and Edwin were away pursuing studies at university. Carlyle now shared the house with her father, still a county school inspector and active in town council affairs, her mother, her younger sister Maud, and Russell, the youngest, who was going to school in Woodstock.

      Friends and relatives were curious about her time abroad, and the request, “Tell me about your life in Paris,” frequently recurred. As one contemporary wrote, her “lips opened to answer, and then...


    • 5 The Village 1899–1903
      (pp. 103-129)

      Greenwich Village began life as a Dutch and later an English settlement, “Green Wich,” two miles outside the town of New York. In the early nineteenth century it became a thriving suburb, its Washington Square the centre of fashionable life. As New York City expanded northwards, however, Greenwich’s residential district, with the exception of Washington Square, declined somewhat. While it attracted writers such as Edgar Allan Poe, it was not until the turn of the century that it began to acquire a reputation as a mecca for artists and writers.

      The hustle and bustle of the city did not penetrate...

    • 6 Acclaim 1903–1911
      (pp. 130-166)

      The Osborne Company’s description ofThe Girl with the Laughing Eyesreveals that Carlyle’s work for the company communicated a compelling narrative, a quality highly valued in commercial work of the time. In autumn 1903, after attending Osborne’s exhibition of winning paintings in New York, Carlyle lost no time in beginning the work for her contract with them.

      For her second try at establishing herself in the New York art world, she moved into a studio-apartment in a more up-market area north of the Village, at 67 West 23rd Street in the Chelsea neighbourhood of Manhattan. Her new address reflected...

    • 7 Losses and Gains 1911–1914
      (pp. 167-194)

      The death of William Carlyle put into question the living arrangements of the household. There was some question as to whether or not Emily Carlyle would continue living alone in the family home. Formerly a force for numerous charitable activities, in recent years she had been hampered by failing eye-sight and led a retired life. Alternatives for her were few. Both of Carlyle’s sisters were married and either lived at some distance or had young families to care for. Her brothers worked as engineers in England or in countries remote from Canada such as Russia and Argentina. Reluctant to have...


    • 8 Resolutions 1915–1923
      (pp. 197-224)

      By 1915 the war had begun to create difficulties for artists in Canada. With the outbreak of hostilities in Europe and the furious Canadian war effort at home, economies had become obligatory. In September 1915 Canadian art, which had enjoyed minimal pre-war encouragement from local patronage, was increasingly viewed as a luxury and was receiving “even scantier support than formerly,” in the words of Canadian photographer-critic Harold Mortimer-Lamb.

      Canadian artists were finding it difficult to sell their work to keep “the wolf from the door.” The Canadian public was not expecting outstanding art production since, as one critic wrote, “in...

  12. APPENDIX Short Biographies of Women Artists Mentioned in the Text
    (pp. 225-234)
  13. NOTES
    (pp. 235-276)
    (pp. 277-304)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 305-309)