Thanks to member Kathy M. for this review of Painting Friends: The Beaver Hall Women Painters by Barbara Meadowcroft (1999)
This is SUCH an important book, as even in the introduction we learn that:
“Despite these achievements, the place of the Beaver Hall women in Canadian art history is uncertain. Robert Hubbard ignored them completely in his influential book, The Development of Canadian Art (1964). J. Russell Harper’s Painting in Canada: A History (1977) draws attention to the “Many outstanding women painters in the Montreal Group”, and then dismissed them in three sentences. …
“Most Canadians could name the Group of Seven. But few outside of Montreal have heard of Prudence Heward or Anne Savage. Why the discrepancy? Why is the Group of Seven so widely known and so well represented? To find out about them and their work you have to hunt in out-of-print catalogues and the storerooms of museums?
“…Women were associated with nature and domesticity, men with culture and professionalism. The qualities attributed to the artist – genius, originality and unconventionality – were considered incompatible with “femininity”. According to a 19th-century writer: “so long as a woman refrains from unsexing herself by acquiring genius let her dabble in anything. The woman of genius does not exist but when she does she is a man.” (The Modern Parisienne, 1912)
As the book explores the works of this ‘Group of Ten’ artists, one learns of the friendships these women shared. As so many women do, in so many varying fields of expertise, “the women of Beaver Hall drew strength and confidence from their painting friends.”
The various photographs (even artistic renderings) of the women scattered throughout the book, help the reader feel a greater sense of connection to each woman. (The eyes are the windows to your soul.” – William Shakespeare)
The abundance of artwork from each of these 10 friends, is thoughtfully displayed, showing the styles and favoured colour palettes, and if one looks closely enough, one can see a similarity in their work, all the while admiring the uniqueness of each piece. Its quite remarkable!
The short and easy to read book takes us all the way from the last few decades of the 1800’s – the births of some of the women, through the 1970’s when the last of the friends passes away.
We are introduced to some influences on each artist’s work as well as sweet anecdotes of their life experiences.
As one will see as they progress through each intertwined story, these women were advocates for each others’ work and leaned on each other as friends often do.
These women add a new dimension to the word ‘genius’ and certainly prove that femininity and genius are more than capable of co-existing – as these ten bright, strong, talented women found in “Painting friends” are evidence of exactly that!
As a follow-up to the Second Annual Winter Party Book Exchange, members are encouraged to write a blog post about the book they received. I will kick it off…
I received the graphic novel, Cyclopedia Exotica by Aminder Dhaliwal. I was intrigued by the title and sat down on Tuesday evening after the Winter Party and began reading. I read until it was Wednesday and then finished the book the next day. So, it is fair to say it was instantly engaging. Cyclopedia Exotica imagines a world where the cyclops and the human are parallel subspecies that now live together.
My husband was watching a “Mad About You” marathon on TV while I was reading this book. The situations the fictional characters of that 90’s sitcom find themselves in are not so different from the situations that the average cyclops experiences, so why can’t we all just get along? Unfortunately, being a visible one-eyed minority is not so easy.
Because Cyclopedia Exotica is graphic novel about a subspecies that doesn’t exist (that we know of…) the challenges minorities face are shown with humor. Still, I think most readers will put this book down and ask themselves “have I made someone feel that way?”
I really enjoyed this book and will be seeking out other titles by Aminder Dhaliwal. Thank-you to my Winter Party Exchange counterpart for giving me the chance to read this fun yet challenging slice of life.
On November 16th, 2021 CWLC Archivist Sandra E. gave a presentation on the history of the club, with emphasis on the presentation topics of the past. Sandra reminded us that since 1906, CWLC members have shared a love of reading and a knowledge of the world outside Calgary.
In the early years, Shakespeare and Browning were common topics. Then, other authors and topics began to appear. Authors such as Galsworthy were contemporary, not historical, when they were first discussed by members.
In the current era of our club, we discuss the works of a single author. In the past, members’ presentations were not always limited to specific authors or books, but included social and cultural events. In a time when travel outside of Canada, topics such as “Mrs. Palmer’s trip to the Old Country” are also found in the archives.
On November 9, 2021 member Lyn K. presented on Australian author Joan London. Ms. London is best known in Canada for her novel “The Golden Age”.
“The Golden Age” is a fictionalized account of the real Golden Age home, which nursed young patients during the mid-1950’s polio outbreak in Australia. The author show’s the resilience of children in the face of a deadly and life altering illness and the compassion of the staff who try to bring art and joy into the lives of these children.
Lyn K. discussed the similarities and differences between the polio epidemics of the early 20th century and the current Covid-19 outbreak.
On November 2, member Maryliz Q. presented on the works of Australian author Kate Grenvillle. Ms. Grenville’s trilogy “The Secret River” explores the emotional lives of early Australian transported settlers and their descendents, as well as the Indigenous people’s they displaced. Kate Grenville’s fiction looks beyond the dates and facts to provide history with emotional depth. Her major themes are colonization, the class system, loss, and what land ownership means.
Kate Grenville’s most recent fictional work is the novel “A Room Made of Leaves”, a “fake memoir” of a wife of a well known Australian magnate. A video clip of Kate Grenville discussing this book in a virtual book launch by the National Library of Australia can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hCuGEdqUIkw.
Maryliz was able to contact Kate Grenville, who responded to questions about what it means to be an Australian writer and why she chose the genre of historical fiction.
Member Rose I. presented on the works of Australian author Graeme Simsion on October 26, 2021. Mr Simsion is a polymath amd successful businessman with degrees in IT and data modelling. Mr. Simsion’s best known work is the trilogy “The Rosy Project” , which uses humour to explore what happens when data modelling is applied to affairs of the heart.
The sharp wit of the book is illustrated in the reading, which Rose said was intensely real and thus difficult to read. To me the reading illustrated that using science to avoid awkward social situations can create awkward social situations.
Rose’s favourite work by Mr. Simsion is the novel “Two Steps Forward”, about what people seek and find as pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago.
Member Sandra E. described Janet Frame’s work as exploring the dichotomy between the inner and outer worlds in her October 19th, 2021 presentation on the New Zealand author. Ms. Frame is known for her fictional work “Owls Do Cry”, her autobiography ” An Angel at My Table” and her short stories.
While Ms. Frame had mental health challenges, Sandra emphasized that she should be recognized for sensitive literary work rather than be defined by her personal circumstances. Frequently drawing on the naive perspective of children, Ms. Frame showcases the dichotomy between what is said and what is meant.
Sandra read from the short story “You Are Now Entering the Human Heart”, which uses metaphor to describe the petty cruelties people inflict on each other.