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 Jori Smith  (1907 - 2005)

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Lived/Active: Quebec / Canada      Known for: portrait, still life, figure, landscape and mural painting

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from Auction House Records.
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Jori Smith CM, LL.D, RCA, CAS, EGP   (1907 – 2005)

Jori Smith (AKA: Marjorie Smith) was an important Canadian painter and draughtswoman.  A follower of the School of Paris*, early in her career she created some of Canada’s most advanced art.  Hundreds of her paintings and drawings are in the permanent collections of Canadian museums. (1)

She was born in Montreal, Quebec, lived there or in its environs most of her life and died there. (2)

Her mediums were oil, watercolor, pastel, pencil, colored pencil, felt pen, ballpoint pen, charcoal, brush and ink, pen and ink, and mixed mediums.  Her subjects were portraits, nudes, figures, still life, interiors, landscapes, street scenes, cityscapes, French Canadian culture, and genre*.  Her styles were Realism*, Expressionism* and Fauvism*.  AskART have some good illustrations of her work. (3)

The painting locations are the cities and countryside near where she lived as well as from her extensive travels around the world.  In the early 1930s, an important component of her life’s work was created when she worked with her husband Jean Palardy (see AskART) and ethnologist Marius Barbeau to record the 200 year-old Habitant culture in the Charlevoix region of Quebec.  (Habitants is the name given to French settlers who farmed along the St. Lawrence Gulf and River in what became the Province of Quebec.)  In 1998, Smith wrote and illustrated a book about the experience titled, Charlevoix County, 1930 (see AskART book references). (4)

Her formal art education includes the Art Association of Montreal (three months in 1922) under Randolph Hewton (5); the École des Beaux-Arts, Montreal (1923 – 1928); and the Council of Arts and Manufacturers at the Monument National, Montreal (c.1922 – 1928) under Joseph Saint-Charles and John Y. Johnstone.  She also took classes with Edwin Holgate (1930). (6)

Though she attended the École des Beaux-Arts for five years and was a star pupil, winning numerous awards, she describes her parting from the institution as being "expelled" by the director Charles Maillard (NGC – June 18,1930).  No reason for the expulsion was given by Smith, however Maillard was considered a staunch academician; in 1945 he was forced into retirement when the students lead by Alfred Pellan and Pierre Gauvreau disagreed over the inclusion of controversial works in a student exhibition.

Quote: "I studied years at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Montreal, but wish to ignore the fact for I owe it nothing." – Jori Smith (NGC information form dated September 2, 1937).

Smith traveled frequently and extensively throughout her life: England, France, Spain – 1934/1935; Haiti – 1946; Guatemala, San Lucas, Antigua – 1948; Italy, France –  1950/1951; France, Spain – 1952; Spain, Greece – 1956; Switzerland, Spain, Germany – 1957; Singapore, Ceylon, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Spain, Majorca, France, Italy – 1958/1959; France – 1969; Ibiza, Sardinia – 1971; and  Portugal – 1978. The National Archives have hundreds of her drawings and paintings from these travels in its collection. (7)

She was a charter member of the Eastern Group of Painters* (1938) and the Contemporary Arts Society* (1939) (8).  In addition to exhibiting with them, she also exhibited with the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts* in 1933; the Art Association of Montreal (now the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts) numerous times between 1928 and 1956; the Arts Club of Montreal in 1937; and the Canadian Group of Painters* in 1942, 1946, 1949 and 1956. (9)

Since the 1940s her works have been included in many important exhibitions that examine modern art and modern art in Canada such as: “Contemporary Painting in Canada”, Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, Massachusetts (1942); “Canadian Women Artists”, Riverside Museum, New York (1947); 3rd International Contemporary Art Exhibition”, New Delhi, India (1957); “From Women's Eyes: Women Painters in Canada”, Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Kingston, Ontario (1975); “Canadian Painting in the Thirties”, National Gallery of Canada (1975); "Three Generations of Quebec Painting", Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art (1976); “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); “Redefining the Still Life”, Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery, Concordia University, Montreal (1999); “Defining the Portrait”, Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery (2001); “The School of Women: 50 Canadian Artists”, Joliette Art Museum, Quebec (2003); and “Canadian Women Modernists: The Dialogue with Emily Carr”, Vancouver Art Gallery, B.C. (2008). (10)

Her works have also been the subject of solo exhibitions at the Picture Loan Society*, Toronto (1937); the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (1964); and the Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery – “Jori Smith: A Celebration” (1997).

Smith’s works are avidly collected in Canada; and they are in numerous public collections. According to the Canadian Heritage Information Network* there are 646 of her paintings and drawings in the permanent collections of museums across the country. They include: the Vancouver Art Gallery (B.C.),  Art Gallery of Alberta (Edmonton), Owens Art Gallery (Sackville, N.B.), McMichael Canadian Art Collection (Kleinburg, Ontario), Agnes Etherington Art Centre (Kingston, Ontario), Robert McLaughlin Gallery (Oshawa, Ontario), Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery (Concordia University, Montreal), Quebec Museum of Fine Arts (Quebec City), Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art, Joliette Art Museum (Quebec), Sherbrooke Museum of Fine Arts (Quebec), Canadian Museum of Civilization (Gatineau, Quebec) and the National Gallery of Canada, which houses 12 of her works.

The National Archives of Canada also has a large collection of Jori Smith material. It includes textual records, photographs, travel photographs, correspondence, memorabilia and printed material documenting her career; material relating to her husband Jean Palardy and his family; manuscripts by Marius Barbeau and Jori Smith; diaries; postcards; reproductions of her artwork; and drawings, paintings, sketchbooks, and scrapbooks. (11)

Among her numerous awards and honors are the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts’ Jessie Dow Prize* in 1955; an honorary degree (Doctor of Laws, honoris causa) from Concordia University, Montreal in 1988; membership in the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 2000; and the Quebec National Assembly Medal in 2001. (12)

In 2002, Jori Smith was awarded one of Canada’s highest honors – the Order of Canada (CM). The citation reads:

“She has played a groundbreaking role in the development of Canadian painting. She was a key figure in the 1930s in initiating Canada's modernist art movement, notably as a co-founder and the only woman member of the Eastern Group of Painters. An artist of international repute, she is particularly known for her landscapes and children's portraits. Much of her art expresses her irresistible enthusiasm for life and reflects the richness and diversity of Quebec's culture, in particular, the rustic charm of the Baie Saint-Paul area. She has exhibited her works here and abroad, and they are part of many public and private collections. Her exceptional career serves as a source of inspiration for younger generations.” (13)


(1) “Jori painted under the name Marjorie Smith until 1934 then signed her work Jori Smith for the remainder of her life.” Source: "A Dictionary of Canadian Artists" (1974), by Colin S. MacDonald (see AskART book references).

(2) Source: National Gallery of Canada artist’s page –

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

(4) Sources:
     National Gallery artist’s page: “It was in 1930 that Smith and her husband Jean Palardy went on their first painting trip to the Charlevoix region. Over the next decade, they spent long periods in the area, renting a house for two years, boarding with various families, and eventually buying their own summer house in Petite-Rivière-Saint-François. For two summers, they traveled around the region with the ethnographer Marius Barbeau, assisting him in his study of the Charlevoix culture. Immersed in the rural community, Smith drew great inspiration from the people she came to know. At the same time, she opened her door constantly, both in the Charlevoix and in Montreal, to many artists and intellectuals, including her closest friends Jean Paul Lemieux, Marian Scott and John Lyman, as well as Goodridge Roberts and Alfred Pellan.”

Note: Smith married Palardy in 1930; they separated in 1957 and divorced.

(5) All artist teachers, and artist associates mentioned in this biography have their own pages in AskART.

(6) Sources: Information forms deposited by Smith with the National Gallery of Canada in 1930, 1937, and 1978 are the core sources for much of the data on education. The NGC Information forms can be viewed at: NGC – June 18,1930 –;  NGC – September 2, 1937 –; and NGC – December 2, 1978 – Source for the Maillard / Pellan reference – page 220 “The Concise History of Canadian Painting” (1973), by Dennis Reid (see AskART book references).

(7) Sources: "A Dictionary of Canadian Artists" (1974), by Colin S. MacDonald (see AskART book references); the titles, places and dates on paintings and drawings in the Canadian Heritage Information Network* data base; and Canadian Women Artists History Initiative* –

(8) Source: Canadian Women Artists History Initiative* –

(9) Source: Ibid.

(11) Exhibition sources: Ibid; the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art and the Art Gallery of Ontario, both have extensive archived catalogue summaries online; "The Collector's Dictionary of Canadian Artists at Auction" (2001), by Anthony R. Westbridge and Diana L. Bodnar; and “Modern Painting in Canada” (1978), by Terry Fenton and Karen Wilkin (see all books in AskART book references).

(12) Source: Canadian Women Artists History Initiative* –

Royal Canadian Academy of Arts –; Archives Canada –"jori"+AND+"smith"&spi=-;

and Concordia University –

(13) Source: Governor General of Canada –

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

Prepared 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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