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 Helen Galloway McNicoll  (1879 - 1915)

About: Helen Galloway McNicoll
 

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Lived/Active: Quebec / Canada/England      Known for: landscape, beaches, figures, and genre painting

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Ad Code: 2
AskART Artist
from Auction House Records.
Watching the Boat
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Helen Galloway McNicoll was a painter who was born in Toronto.  While she was an infant, her family moved to Montreal, Quebec, which was to remain her Canadian home for the rest of her life.  From 1902 until her death (1), she divided her time between Montreal,  England and France.  She died in Swanage, Dorset, England.
 
Her mediums were oil and watercolour.  Her subjects are landscapes, beachscapes, women, children and genre.  Most of her works depict children or women at work or leisure in tranquil intimate rural settings.  The geographic locations are Quebec, England and France.  Her style was impressionist and plein air.  As an impressionist the effects of light, in her case bright sunlight, on the subject is a major focus of the work.
 
She studied at the Art Association of Montreal (1899-02) under William Brymner (see AskART), the Slade School of Art in London, England (1902-04) under Frederic Brown (see AskART) and at the St. Ives (see AskART glossary) artists colony in Cornwall (1904-05) under Algernon Mayow Talmage (see AskART).  She met Dorothea Sharp (see AskART) in St. Ives, and the two remained life long friends and companions.  Her travels also included France and Italy.
 
In 1913, she was elected a member of the Royal Society of British Artists (RBA), and in 1914 she was elected an associate of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts (RCA).
 
She exhibited with the RBA (1913 -1914), the RCA (1906 to 1914), the Ontario Society of Artists (1910 to 1915) and the Art Association of Montreal (1906 to 1925).  There were retrospectives of her work at the Art Association of Montreal in 1925 and at the Art Gallery of Ontario in 1999.
 
She won the Jessie Dow Prize (considered one of the most prestigious art awards in Canada) at the Art Association of Montreal in 1908, and the Women’s Art Association (Toronto) Prize in 1914.
 
There are a few personal aspects of her life that should be noted.  First, at the age of two she contracted scarlet fever, which left her deaf for the rest of her life.  She learned to lip read.  Her handicap obviously didn't prevent her from a life that would be considered adventurous, even in the 21st century.  Second, her family was affluent; the result of that financial security was that there was little interest or attempt made to sell her works during her life.  At the time of her death most of her paintings were in the possession of relatives, and they remained there for decades, probably, inhibiting exhibitions, scholarship and certainly collecting until the 1970's.
 
As a very important historic Canadian artist, her works are now avidly (2) collected.  They are also in many public collections including the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa), the Art Gallery of Hamilton (Hamilton, Ontario), the  Art Gallery of Nova Scotia (Halifax), the  Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto), the Beaverbrook Art Gallery (Fredericton), the Confederation Centre Art Gallery and Museum (Charlottetown), the Robert McLaughlin Gallery (Oshawa, Ontario), the McMichael Canadian Collection (Kleinburg, Ontario), and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
 
Footnotes:
(1) From sudden complications due to diabetes.
(2) Her highest auction price to date was for “Watching the Boat”  (25” X 30”)  which sold for $525,000.00 in 2008.  This ranks McNicoll as number 17 on the list of Canadian artists with the all time highest prices at auction.
 
Prepared and contributed by M.D.Silverbrooke
 
 

 

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