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 Doris Jean McCarthy  (1910 - 2010)

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Lived/Active: Ontario/Alberta / Canada      Known for: landscape, snowscene and coastal view painting, teaching

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Ad Code: 3
Doris Jean McCarthy
from Auction House Records.
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Doris Jean McCarthy (AKA: Doris McCarthy) is a painter, sculptor, printmaker, educator and author.  She was born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.  In 1913, her family moved to Toronto, Ontario, which is still (as of 2009) her home.
Her primary mediums are oil, watercolour, acrylic, gouache, woodblock print, lithograph and mixed mediums.  Her subjects are landscapes, seascapes, harbours, figures, genre, still life, religion and the Arctic.  Quote: "In my first year in the Arctic (1972) I met my first iceberg and I went crazy about icebergs..." – Doris Jean McCarthy.

Her most well known styles are Fauvism* and Plein Air*; however, she has tried others.  The locations of her paintings come from her extensive travels in Canada and around the world (see below).
Quote: “My original ambition to become a professional artist, and particularly, an interpreter of the Canadian landscape, began under the influence of the Group of Seven* while I was still in my teens.  Later, when I was teaching senior art students, I felt impelled to explore abstraction*, minimalism*, color field*, and other fashions of the day.  My work still reflects some of the disciplines I learned in these exercises.  But my inspiration remains the landscape, not what any other artist has said about it.”  And “On-location paintings are only finished when I have brought them indoors and lived with them for a while and made the necessary revisions.  The pressure of time, the discomfort, and the excitement that are part of outdoor painting prevents completion on the job.” - Doris Jean McCarthy (speech 2004 ).
She studied at the Ontario School of Art (1) (1926 - 1930) under Arthur Lismer, J.E.H. MacDonald, John William Beatty and Emanuel Hahn and did graduate studies at the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London, England (1935 - 1936) under John Skeaping, Frederick James Porter and John Farleigh (see all teachers in AskART).  She also earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Toronto in 1989 (2).
The core of her teaching career is 40 years (1932 - 1972) at Toronto's Central Technical School.  However, she also taught (children’s classes) at the Art Gallery of Toronto (3) (1930 –1935), at Moulton College, Toronto (1931-32), and summer school for the Ontario Department of Education in stage design and marionettes (1938, 1939).
Her travels are extensive. She has visited every province and territory in Canada.  Her foreign travels include a 14 month sabbatical in Europe (1950 - 1951), as well as visits to Japan, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Australia, Antarctica, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, India, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Turkey, Greece, Egypt, Italy, Spain, France, Ireland, England and the U.S A.(4)
Quote: "The sketches, photographs, and memories that I bring back from a painting trip give me material for painting large works in the studio.  I plan a large canvas in thin acrylic paint: quick to dry, easy to change.  This is the most critical stage.  I am creating something that must have a life of its own, able to give its energy back to me.  When is this underpainting finished?  When I can see on the canvas the pattern, the tones, and even the colours that are right and that make me eager to get on with it in oil paint." - Doris Jean McCarthy
She is a member of the Ontario Society of Artists (1945) and its past President (1964 - 1967), a member of the Canadian Society of Painters in Water Colour (1952) and its past President (1953 - 1958), and an honorary Senior Signature member of the Federation of Canadian Artists (2000).  She became an Associate of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 1951 and an Academician in 1976 (5).
In addition to exhibiting with the above organizations she has also exhibited with the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (1955, 1957, 1961), the Canadian Group of Painters* (1955, 1956) and was included in the landmark exhibition  “Canadian Women Artists of Today”  at Riverside Museum, New York (1947).  The McMichael Canadian Art Collection (Kleinburg, Ontario) had a solo exhibition of her work in 1992, and she has been the subject of over 40 other solo exhibitions.
Her works are in many private and corporate collections. They are also in several public collections including the Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto), the Art Gallery of Hamilton (Ontario), Museum London (Ontario), the MacKenzie Art Gallery (Regina, Saskatchewan), the Robert McLaughlin Gallery (Oshawa, Ontario), the Art Gallery of Mississauga (Ontario), the Ottawa Art Gallery (Ontario), the Tom Thomson Memorial Art Gallery (Owen Sound, Ontario), the Nickle Arts Museum (Calgary), the Glenbow Museum (Calgary), the Art Gallery of Alberta (Edmonton), and the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa).  The Doris McCarthy Gallery, on the Scarborough campus of the University of Toronto, is the home of her personal and artistic archives.  St. Aidan's Anglican Church in Beaches (Toronto), Ontario houses a collection of her religious subject art including paintings, wood sculptures and a wall hanging.
Her numerous awards and honours include one of Canada’s highest honours the Order of Canada CM (1986); the Province of Ontario’s highest honour the Order of Ontario (1992); five honorary doctorates (U of Calgary - 1995, Nipissing U - 1998, U of Toronto - 2001, Trent U - 2002, U of Alberta - 2002); an Honorary Fellowship from The Ontario College of Art and Design (1990); and the William Kilbourn Award in recognition of her lifetime contribution to the arts in the City of Toronto (1999). Also, the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the Centenary Health Centre Foundation, Scarborough, Ontario was named in her honour (1998) and The Gallery on the University of Toronto, Scarborough, campus was renamed the Doris McCarthy Gallery in 2004.
She has written four autobiographical books the most recent, Doris McCarthy: My Life, was published in 2006 (see all in AskART book references).  There is also the film documentary Doris McCarthy: Heart of a Painter (1983) by Wendy Wacko.
(1) Called the Ontario School of Art from its founding in 1876 to 1931, the Ontario College of Art from 1931 to 1996 and the Ontario College of Art and Design from 1996.
(2) Earning the degree took 15 years, she took courses at the U of T from 1975 to 1989 and graduated with honours.  
(3) Renamed the Art Gallery of Ontario in 1966.
(4) A notable 1948 visit to Umberto Roberto Romano's (see AskART) studio in Gloucester, Massachusetts 'influenced her to use colour more vividly and courageously'. It inspired her fauvist landmark work of the same year (a painting of her home in Toronto) titled "Post Romano, Fool's Paradise". There are more recent paintings from her visits to the Arizona and New Mexico deserts in the late 1990s.
(5) Her RCA diploma work titled "Iceberg Fantasy before Bylot" (c.1974) was deposited by her at the National Gallery of Canada in 1976 (Bylot Island is 500 miles north of the Arctic Circle on the north side of Baffin Island).
* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see AskART Glossary
Prepared and contributed by M.D. Silverbrooke.

Biography from Odon Wagner Gallery:
Born in Calgary in 1910, the daughter of a construction engineer, she had an early interest in art and when her father settled in Toronto she was able to take greater advantage of art training to prepare herself for a career in this field. She entered the Ontario College of Art in 1925 and studied under Arthur Lismer, J.E.H. MacDonald, J.W. Beatty and Emanuel Hahn. She graduated from the O.C.A. with an Honours Diploma and Special Prize in 1930.

She became a founding instructor with Arthur Lismer's Children's classes at the Art Gallery of Toronto (1930-35); taught at Moulton College, Tor. (part time 1931-33) and became full time teacher at the Central Technical School, Tor. (1933-). At the Technical School she taught drawing, painting, stage design and history of art. Each summer she travelled in Canada or abroad in search of subjects for her canvases; over the years she visited the following places; in Quebec - near Hull to Mont Laurier, then on the Gaspé coast (1933); Barachois de Malbaie, Gaspé (two months, 1934); Georgian Bay (1935); took post graduate study at the Central School of Art and Crafts, London, England, under John Skeaping, John Farleigh, and others (1935-36); Revelstoke, B.C. (1937); taught summer school for Ontario Department of Education in stage design and marionettes (1938); again at summer school, Dept. Ed. and one month painting at Georgian Bay (1939); Barachois de Malbaie, Gaspé (1941) and in the following summers painted elsewhere.

By 1942 she was becoming known to a larger number of Canadian collectors and during her exhibition at the Mellors Gallery The Toronto Telegram4 noted, "Doris McCarthy, a young Canadian artist of excellent promise, has a charming exhibition at the Mellors Fine Art Galleries. Miss McCarthy is especially successful generally with her snow scenes, though the outstanding painting is `Rocky Shore, Georgian Bay' a large, strong, warmly painted composition of rocks, with bright sunlight on her water. This is a boldly conceived composition and very skilful in the texture painting of the rocks. Miss McCarthy has also done some delightful Haliburton scenes, and a particularly charming thing, too, is `Snow Pattern Ste.Adesle,' a most interesting study in circular pattern with delicate color notes on the snow. There is also a number of Atlantic seaboard paintings, ..." In Mayfairs in 1945 special attention was given to her Atlantic subjects as follows, "Very few painters have a really personal interest in them, and when the boats of the Gaspé are painted, they usually are merged with the landscape. Not so with Miss McCarthy. She paints each boat as if she expected to sail in it.” One of her paintings of boats was reproduced with this article and following caption, "Calgary-born Doris Jean McCarthy travels to Gaspé not so much to paint landscapes as to paint boats. She has painted scores of them and has a penchant for doing boats rocking idly by a wharf or tied to buoys in quiet waters.”

The following year her canvas ‘Heart's Eye View of Barachois’ (scene of an inlet with boats, shoreline;-farm: houses and receding rural landscape) was purchased by the Art Gallery of Ontario, and has been valued at forty thousand dollars.6 She took sabbatical leave from the Central Technical School during 1950-51 to paint in Europe. She was elected an Associate of the Royal Canadian Academy in 1951 and had been made a member of the Ontario Society of Artists in 1945 (Pres. 1964-67); the Canadian Society of Painters in Water Colour, 1952 (Pres. 1953-55; 56-58) and her canvases have been hung in many of the exhibitions of these societies. During her 1970 exhibit the Globe & Mail7 noted, "At Gallerie Ustel (Tor), Doris McCarthy and Jocelyn Taylor make their own spring song by filling two galleries with their work. Miss McCarthy is still caught up with the idea of reducing landscape to a set of rhythms. For her Wave Movement series, Miss McCarthy turns to water, and here the study of rhythm and play of color really click into place. The rhythms are strongest when she leashed them, as in the painting of the khaki-green rock with white spume. In `Mist on the Swamp', where the colors are similarly muted, the vibrancy is stronger than in one like Georgian Bay...." She also exhibited at the Gutenberg Gallery Ltd. in 1971. Her commissions -include: a mural for the Children's Room of the Earlscourt Library, Dufferin St., Tor. (1933); 9 ft. banners for the Chancel' ofSt. Aidan's Anglican Church also crèche figures (1957).8 Purchase Award, Minneapolis Biennial, 1957.

She is represented in the permanent collections of the Art Gallery of Ontario; Art Gallery of Hamilton; London Public Library and Art Museum; and in many private collections. Doris McCarthy passed away in 2010, at the age of one hundred years.

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