Mary Evelyn Wrinch painting at Bass Lake, Ontario c. 1905-1910. Private Collection
“Give people their flowers while they can still smell them.”
Though the origin of this familiar adage is unknown, it has been powerfully expressed by some of history’s most influential people, from Anne Frank to Kanye West. While the list of living artists due for roses is long, the sentiments of this famous proverb can also be used for those no longer with us—who may not have received the bouquets they were owed. This includes Canadian artist Mary Wrinch, who was a leader in printmaking, landscape painting and watercolour portraiture. An upcoming exhibition of her selected works from the AGO Collection will illustrate exactly why.
On view starting September 26 in McLaughlin Gallery (galleries 201 and 247), Mary Wrinch: Painted From Life is the first public display of the AGO’s watercolour miniature portraits on ivory, painted by Wrinch in the early 1900s. The portraits are all under 10 square centimetres in size, yet they manage to display a striking and complex use of colour, applied with a paintbrush that could be as fine as a single hair. Most depict women from Toronto, usually from the arts community, vividly documenting the unique fashion style of the time, and telling us much about feminine self-expression. While their identities are unknown today, the sitters’ personalities shine through in the miniatures, which were painted from life instead of from photographs.
Additionally the exhibition features a selection of Wrinch’s linoblock prints of Canadian landscapes and botanicals. In her prints, she compressed colour, light and shadow into basic forms to create simple yet realistic representation. A series of Wrinch’s carving blocks and working proofs are also displayed as examples of her highly technical printmaking method.