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 Louis Muhlstock  (1904 - 2001)

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Lived/Active: Quebec / Canada      Known for: nude female figure, landscape, and botanic painting

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Ad Code: 3
Louis Muhlstock
from Auction House Records.
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Louis Muhlstock OC, QC, LL.D, FCA, CGP, CSGA, CAS, CSPWC (1904 - 2001)

Louis Muhlstock was an important Canadian painter and draftsman.  His works have been included in numerous exhibitions of Canadian art, they are discussed in most Canadian art history books and they are in the permanent collections of over twenty major Canadian museums.  His awards include the Order of Canada and the Order of Quebec.

He was born in Narajow, Galicia (now Poland). He moved to Montreal, Quebec, Canada with his family in 1911, which is where he lived the rest of his life and died. (1)

His mediums were oil, pastel, watercolor, gouache, Conte Crayon*, charcoal, graphite, monotype* and mixed mediums.  His subjects included social commentary, figures, portraits, street scenes, genre*, interiors, still life, nudes, war workers, animals and landscapes.  His styles included Social Realism*, Realism*, Expressionism*, Plein Air* and Fauvism*. (2)

Quote: “With an acute eye for character and a profound humanity, Montreal draughtsman and painter Louis Muhlstock created a portrait of the Depression in gentle, intimate drawings of marginalized people. His paintings of deserted streets and houses, done before and after the Second World War, are spare images that convey silence and memory.” – Source: National Gallery of Canada (3)

Muhlstock’s formal art education began with evening classes at the Council of Arts and Manufacturers (AKA: Monument National) (1918 – 1920) under Edmond Dyonnet (4) and Joseph Saint-Charles. He went on to study at the Art Association of Montreal (1920 – 1223) under William Brymner and Mary Alberta Cleland; the Royal Canadian Academy [at the AAM] (1923 – 1928) under George H. Russell, Charles Simpson, Albert H. Robinson, Maurice Cullen and Edmond Dyonnet; and at the École des Beaux-Arts, Montréal (1926 – 1928). In 1929 he went to Paris, where he studied full time under Louis-François Biloul until 1931. While there, he also frequented the Académie de la Grande Chaumière* and spent summers sketching in Brittany, the Alps and Belgium. (5)

He was a member of the Canadian Society of Graphic Art* (1934), Canadian Group of Painters* (1935), Contemporary Art Society* (1939), Canadian Society of Painters in Water Colour* (1940), and the Federation of Canadian Artists* (1941). (6)

He also exhibited with the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts* (1925 – 1950); Art Association of Montreal [now Montreal Museum of Fine Arts] (1925 – 1960); Salon de la Société des Artistes Français*, Paris (1929, 1930); and the Ontario Society of Artists* (1932, 1961, 1962). (7)

His first solo show was at the Montreal Arts Club in 1932. Since then there have been public venue solo exhibitions and retrospectives of Muhlstock’s works at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (1935, 1940, 1942, 1948, 1952, 1959, 1962); Montreal Arts Club (1939, 1940); National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (1949); Windsor Art Gallery, Ontario (1976); Place des Arts, Montreal (1978); Concordia University, Montreal (1986); and the Quebec Museum of Fine Arts, Quebec City (1995).

He also took part in a four artist exhibition at the Art Gallery of Toronto (now Art Gallery of Ontario) in 1939 with Henri Masson, André Biéler and Philip Surrey; and a five artist show at the Quebec Museum of Fine Arts (Quebec City) with Franklin Arbuckle, Jean Dallaire, Jean-Charles Faucher (1907) and Maurice Raymond (1912 – 2006).

Since the 1940s Muhlstock’s works have been featured in numerous important group exhibitions such as “Canadian Art 1760 – 1943”, Yale University Art Gallery, Connecticut (1944); “400th Anniversary Exhibition”, Sao Paolo, Brazil (1946); “Forty years of Canadian Painting”, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (1949); “Canadian Painting”, National Gallery, Washington, D.C. (1950); “International Graphics Exhibition”, Lugano, Switzerland (1954); “Carnegie Institute International Exhibition*”, Pittsburgh, PA (1955); “Biennial of Canadian Painting”, National Gallery of Canada (1961); “Canadian Painting of the Thirties”, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (1967); “Canadian Painting in the Thirties”, National Gallery of Canada (1975); "Three Generations of Quebec Painting", Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art (1976); “The Laurentians: Painters in a Landscape”, Art Gallery of Ontario (1977); “Major Movements in Twentieth Century Canadian Art”, Edmonton Art Gallery [now Art Gallery of Alberta] (1978); “The Contemporary Arts Society: 1939 – 1948”, Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art (1981); “Modern Art in Quebec: 1916 – 1946”, National Gallery of Canada (1982); “Form and Figure”, National Gallery of Canada (1989); and “Defining the Portrait”, Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery, Concordia University, Montreal (2001).

He also exhibited in commercial galleries including the T. Eaton Galleries, Montreal (1936); the Picture Loan Society*, Toronto (1936, 1937, 1938, 1939, 1942, 1945); Robertson Galleries, Ottawa (1953); and Waddington Galleries, Montreal (1965).

Muhlstock’s works are very actively traded on the Canadian auction market, they are in many private collections, and they are in most of the major public collections.

According to the Canadian Heritage Information Network*, there are 152 Louis Muhlstock works in the permanent collections of Canadian museums. They include: the Agnes Etherington Art Centre (Kingston, Ontario), Art Gallery of Alberta (Edmonton), Art Gallery of Greater Victoria (B.C.), Art Gallery of Hamilton (Ontario), Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto), Beaverbrook Art Gallery (Fredericton, New Brunswick), Canadian War Museum (Ottawa), Joliette Art Museum (Quebec), La Pulperie (Chicoutimi, Quebec), Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery (Concordia University, Montreal), Mendel Art Gallery (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan), Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art (Quebec), Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (Quebec), Museum London (Ontario), Owens Art Gallery (Sackville, N.B.), Quebec Museum of Fine Arts (Quebec City), Robert McLaughlin Gallery (Oshawa, Ontario), Sherbrooke Museum of Fine Arts (Quebec), Vancouver Art Gallery (B.C.), Winnipeg Art Gallery (Manitoba), and the National Gallery of Canada, which has 19 works.

Among his awards and honors is one of Canada’s highest –  Officer of the Order of Canada [OC] (1990) and one of Quebec’s highest – Chevalier de l’ordre du Québec [QC] (1998). He also received an Honorary Doctorate from Concordia University, Montreal (1978). (8)


A general note about sources: With thanks to the National Gallery of Canada and curator Charles C. Hill, we have two very valuable original sources of data on Louis Muhlstock.  First, between 1928 and 1960 Muhlstock submitted three information forms to the National Gallery detailing his education, travels, associations and other activities to the date submitted. Second, on September 15, 1973, in preparation for the exhibition “Canadian Painting in the Thirties”, Charles C. Hill sat down with Muhlstock and recorded one hour and thirty-six minutes of conversation with him about his activities and associations.  Both of these are available online, the addresses are listed below. They are the primary sources of names and dates used in this biography.  Additional sources used are cited in the respective paragraph footnotes.

NGC information form – undated (c. 1928) –

NGC information form – August 22, 1939 –

NGC information form – June 6, 1960 –

NGC audio tapes dated September 15, 1973 –

(1) Sources: NGC information forms; and "The Collector's Dictionary of Canadian Artists at Auction" (2001), by Anthony R. Westbridge and Diana L. Bodnar (see AskART book references).

(2) Sources: AskART Images; and museum illustrations and descriptions of mediums in the Canadian Heritage Information Network* data base.

(3) Source: National Gallery of Canada Artist’s Page.

(4) All artist teachers and artist associates mentioned in this biography, except those with bracketed dates after their names, have their own pages in AskART.

Note: Undated information form c. 1928 lists his teacher at the École des Beaux-Arts, Montréal as Mr. Charpentier. In his 1936 NGC information form Stanley Cosgrove [see AskART], who studied at the École des Beaux-Arts from 1929 to 1935, identified the teacher as Henri Charpentier (1888 – 1967). Source: Cosgrove June 8, 1936 NGC information form –

(5) Sources: NGC information forms and audio tapes.

Note: Several sources say that Muhlstock taught private art classes in the 1930’s, for example: “To make ends meet Muhlstock taught drawing (from the figure) at his Ste. Famille Street studio.” – "A Dictionary of Canadian Artists" (1974), by Colin S. MacDonald (see AskART book references). However in the 1973 interview with Charles C. Hill, Muhlstock said, he never taught any classes, he went on to say, that the studio attendees were merely sharing the costs of models for figure drawing. [Possibly, given Muhlstock’s impressive resume, even by the 1930s, the sessions could have been described by the attendees as classes to clients and others. – MDS]. Source: NGC audio tapes dated September 15, 1973.

(6) Sources: NGC information forms and audio tapes; "A Dictionary of Canadian Artists" (1974), by Colin S. MacDonald (see AskART book references); and Canadian Society of Painters in Water Colour –

(7) Exhibition sources: NGC information forms and audio tapes; Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art*; the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art and the Art Gallery of Ontario, both have extensive archived catalogue summaries online; "A Dictionary of Canadian Artists" (1974), by Colin S. MacDonald; “Four Decades: The Canadian Group of Painters and their Contemporaries, 1930 – 1970” (1972), by Paul Duval; "Art Gallery of Ontario – The Canadian Collection" (1970), by Helen Pepall Bradfield; “Canadian Painting in the Thirties” (1975), by Charles C. Hill; “Modern Painting in Canada” (1978), by Terry Fenton and Karen Wilkin; and "The Collector's Dictionary of Canadian Artists at Auction" (2001), by Anthony R. Westbridge and Diana L. Bodnar (see AskART book references).

(8) Sources: Governor General of Canada –; Secretariat of the National Order of Quebec –; and Concordia University Archives –

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

Prepared and contributed by M.D. Silverbrooke.



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