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 Mary Alexandra Bell Eastlake  (1864 - 1951)

/ EEST-lake/


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Lived/Active: Ontario/Quebec / Canada/England      Known for: modernist and realist figure, village scene, portrait and marine painting

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Ad Code: 3
Mary Alexandra Eastlake
from Auction House Records.
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Mary Alexandra Bell Eastlake (1864 – 1951)

A prominent Canadian painter, Mary Alexandra Bell Eastlake (nee Bell; aka: M.A. Bell) was born in Douglas, Ontario; raised in Almonte, Ontario and Carillon, Quebec; she lived in England (1893 to 1939); and died in Ottawa, Ontario. She has an important place in Canadian art history as one of Canada’s first professional women artists. She travelled extensively in Britain and Europe; as well as to Africa, Asia, Japan, South America and the South Pacific. She was the second woman elected to the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. She exhibited with the Royal Academy* (London, England), the Paris Salon*, the Art Association of Montreal* and the Ontario Society of Artists*. Her works are in several museum collections including the National Gallery of Canada. (1)(2)

Her mediums were oils, watercolors, pastels, Conte crayon*, pen & ink, graphite, and enamel jewelry. Her subjects were portraits, landscapes, figures, mother and child, cityscapes, snowscapes, harbors, villages, genre* and allegory*. The people and locations depicted are from Canada and her travels around the world. Her styles included Realism*, Impressionism*, Plein Air Painting* and Post Impressionism*. AskART Images have some excellent illustrations of her oeuvre.

Her education included studies at the Art Association of Montreal* (c.1883 – 1885) with Robert Harris; at the Art Students League of New York* (c.1885) with William Chase; and at the Academie Colarossi*, Paris (c.1890 – 1891). Bell taught art briefly (1892) at the Victoria School (building now part of Concordia University), Montreal. (3)

Eastlake’s travels between 1893 and 1939 included Britain, Europe, Morocco, Bolivia, Japan, the Philippines, Hong Kong, China, Thailand, Tahiti and New Zealand.

Eastlake was elected an Associate of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 1893 (resigned when she married in 1897); she along with Mary Hester Reid, who was elected at the same time, were the second and third women members of the RCA, behind Charlotte Schreiber. Eastlake was also a member of the Women's Art Association of Canada, the Pastel Society of London, the Women’s International Art Club; and the Boston Water Color Society* (1904 – 1908). (3)

She exhibited with the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts* (1887 – 1943), the Art Association of Montreal* (1888 – 1943), the Paris Salon* (1889), the Ontario Society of Artists* (1892), and the Royal Academy* (1894 – 1903). She also exhibited with the Royal Institute of Oil Painters, the London Pastel Society and the New English Art Club*.

Her works were included in the “World’s Columbian Exposition*”, Chicago (1893); the Toronto Industrial Exhibition [later renamed Canadian National Exhibition] (1894); the “Pan American Exposition”, Buffalo, New York (1901); the Canadian National Exhibition, Toronto (1923, 1927 and 1939); the “British Empire Exposition”, Wembley, England (1924); and in the National Gallery of Canada Annual exhibition (1928).

She was the subject of solo exhibitions at the Art Association of Montreal* in 1923 and the Art Gallery of Toronto (now Art Gallery of Ontario) in 1927.

According to the Canadian Heritage Information Network* and individual museum websites, her works are in the permanent collections of the Agnes Etherington Art Centre (Kingston, Ontario), Art Gallery of Greater Victoria (B.C.), Art Gallery of Hamilton (Ontario), Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto), Beaverbrook Art Gallery (Fredericton, New Brunswick), Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (Quebec), Robert McLaughlin Gallery (Oshawa, Ontario), and the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa).
(1) Please note: Research for this artist was collected for two different last names – Bell and Eastlake. Our subject signed her canvases M.A. Bell until her marriage to English painter Charles Eastlake in 1897, after that she signed M.A. Eastlake. Source: A Dictionary of Canadian Artists A to " 5th edition (1997) (see AskART book references).

(2) Researchers, please note some additional details and dates for Eastlake residences: Montreal (c.1885, 1887 – 1889, 1927, and 1939 – 1941); Paris (c.1889 – 1892); Almonte, Ontario (c.1893 and 1941 – 1951); St. Ives, Cornwall (c.1893 – 1897); Croydon, England (c.1894, 1900 and 1925); London, England (c.1901 – 1903 and 1908); and Surrey, England (c.1933). Sources: A Dictionary of Canadian Artists A to F 5th edition (1997), Catalogue of the National Gallery of Canada Ottawa: Canadian Art Volume One A – F (1988), and Royal Canadian Academy of Arts: Exhibitions and Members, 1880 – 1979 (1981) (see AskART book references).

(3) Please note: The brief Eastlake biography in the Women's Art at the World's Columbian Fair & Exposition, Chicago 1893 website does not mention the Academie Colarossi*, but it does say that Eastlake studied in “Paris with Laurens [Jean Paul?], Bouguereau [William Adolphe?], Fleury [Tony Robert-Fleury?], and Courtois [Gustave?].” This is our only source with this information.

Benezit Dictionary of Artists (2006), English version (see AskART book references)

Biographical Index of Artists in Canada (2003), by Evelyn de Rostaing McMann (see AskART book references)

A Dictionary of Canadian Artists A to F"5th edition (1997), by Colin S. MacDonald (see AskART book references)

Home Truths: A Celebration of Family Life by Canada’s Best-Loved Painters (1997), by Joan Murray (see AskART book references)

By A Lady (1992), by Maria Tippett (see AskART book references)

A Dictionary of Folk Artists in Canada from the 17th Century to the Present (1988), by Blake McKendry (see AskART book references) [with inclusions of popular portrait, topographical, genre, religious, and decorative artists of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries]

Catalogue of the National Gallery of Canada Ottawa: Canadian Art Volume One A – F (1988), general editors Charles C. Hill and Pierre B. Landry (see AskART book references)

Canadian Who’s Who: Index 1898 – 1984 (1988), by Evelyn de R. McMann (see AskART book references)

Royal Canadian Academy of Arts: Exhibitions and Members, 1880 – 1979 (1981), by Evelyn de R. McMann (see AskART book references)

Passionate Spirits: A History of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, 1880 – 1980 (1980), by Rebecca Sisler (see AskART book references)

Art Gallery of Ontario – The Canadian Collection (1970), by Helen Pepall Bradfield (see AskART book references)

Early Painters and Engravers in Canada (1970), by J. Russell Harper (see AskART book references)

Agnes Etherington Art Centre (1968), by Frances K. Smith (see AskART book references)

The National Gallery of Canada: Catalogue of Paintings and Sculpture, Volume III (1960), by R.H. Hubbard (see AskART book references)

The Fine Arts in Canada (1925), by Newton MacTavish (see AskART book references)

Canadian Section of Fine Arts: British Empire Exposition, London, 1924 (1924), by National Gallery of Canada (see AskART book references)

Canadian Heritage Information Network* (website)

Canadian Women Artists History Initiative* (website)

Women's Art at the World's Columbian Fair & Exposition, Chicago 1893 (website)

Cornwall Artists Index (website)

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary

Written and contributed by M.D. Silverbrooke.

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at
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