Uninvited: Canadian Women Artists in the Modern Moment

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The Vancouver Art Gallery presents Uninvited: Canadian Women Artists in the Modern Moment, a major exhibition gathering more than 200 works of art by a generation of extraordinary painters, photographers, weavers, bead workers and sculptors.

Focusing on the 1920s, 30s and 40s, Uninvited foregrounds the production of women artists from across the country, providing a broad and diverse account of female creativity in Canada during this pivotal modern moment a century ago.

Yvonne McKague Housser, Marguerite Pilot of Deep River (Girl with Mulleins), c. 1936–40, oil on canvas, McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Gift of the Founders, Robert and Signe McMichael, © Estate of Yvonne McKague Housser
Yvonne McKague Housser, Marguerite Pilot of Deep River (Girl with Mulleins), c. 1936–40, oil on canvas, McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Gift of the Founders, Robert and Signe McMichael, © Estate of Yvonne McKague Housser

Uninvited: Canadian Women Artists in the Modern Moment

  • When: June 11, 2022, to January 8, 2023
  • Where: Vancouver Art Gallery (750 Hornby St, Vancouver)
  • Admission: Regular admission rates apply

In this monumental exhibition, organized by the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, audiences will see the work of women from all parts of our nation as they respond to a period of dramatic, and sometimes traumatic, change. Rather than pursuing the calling of landscape painting prevalent among their male peers, settler women artists in this period are notable for tackling such themes as portraiture and human psychology, urbanization, industrialized resource extraction, Indigenous culture and displacement, environment desecration and the immigrant experience. 

“The women artists in this period were basically looking at everything that their male colleagues were not,” says McMichael Chief Curator Sarah Milroy. “The settler women artists saw a nation in flux and went out of their way to respond to those changes. As well, they came to their art careers not through commercial illustration but through education in many of the leading art schools in North America and Europe. The work they made really shows that sophistication and sensitivity to traditions in Western art — if only to defy them.”

The exhibition includes artwork by members of the Beaver Hall Group of painters of Montréal, Québec (among them Anne Savage and Lilias Torrance Newton), shown alongside the paintings of artist Emily Carr, from Victoria, British Columbia, and sculptures by Toronto-based artists Elizabeth Wyn Wood, Frances Loring and Florence Wyle.

Uninvited importantly features work by a number of Indigenous women from this period as well, including Attatsiaq of Arviat, Nunavut; Sewinchelwet (Sophie Frank) of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation); Mi’kmaq quill box maker Bridget Ann Sack of Shubenacadie, NS; and Rose Runner of the Tsuut’ina First Nation, near Calgary, Alberta.

Attatsiaq, Tuilik (woman’s parka) panel, 1926–37, Manitoba Museum, Winnipeg, Collection of Winifred Petchey Marsh and Bishop Donald Marsh, Photo: Craig Boyko
Attatsiaq, Tuilik (woman’s parka) panel, 1926–37, Manitoba Museum, Winnipeg, Collection of Winifred Petchey Marsh and Bishop Donald Marsh, Photo: Craig Boyko

The contributions of women from immigrant communities are also highlighted, including the work of painters Regina Seiden Goldberg and Paraskeva Clark, as well as that of Canadian expatriates such as avant-garde photographer Margaret Watkins, who left her home in Hamilton, Ontario, for the United States and Scotland.

The title of the exhibition—Uninvited—primarily refers to the all-male membership of the Group of Seven (no women artists were invited to join the group), as well as the masculinist mythology surrounding the Group of Seven and the dynamics of inclusion and exclusion in the history of modernist art in Canada.

Uninvited is a monumental exhibition. The sheer breadth of work by artists from all parts of Canada is unforgettable, and the themes explored are central to questioning what the dominant narrative of Canadian art is and where it comes from,” said Anthony Kiendl, CEO and Director of the Vancouver Art Gallery. “This remarkable exhibition truly demonstrates the talent of women artists across Canada.”

Uninvited: Canadian Women Artists in the Modern Moment is organized and circulated by the McMichael Canadian Art Collection with the exceptional support of the National Gallery of Canada and is curated by Sarah Milroy.

The exhibition was originally conceived to coincide with, and comment on, the centenary of founding of the all-male Group of Seven. The concept for the exhibition grew out of the recognition of a gap in many museums collecting practices, which predominantly feature work by male artists from the first half of the twentieth century.

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