Helen Galloway McNicoll, Interior, c. 1910. Oil on canvas

Helen Galloway McNicoll, Interior, c. 1910. Oil on canvas, overall: 55.9 x 45.9 cm. Purchase, 1976. © Art Gallery of Ontario, 75/100.

The Open Door: Mary Hiester Reid and Helen McNicoll

October 10 – Ongoing

Admission is always FREE for AGO Members, AGO Annual Pass Holders & Visitors 25 and under. Learn more.

Located in Fudger Rotunda.

EXHIBITION OVERVIEW

Painters Mary Hiester Reid (1854–1921) and Helen McNicoll (1879–1915) were two of the first women to achieve success as professional artists in Canada. Although opportunities for women were limited in the late 1800s and early 1900s, both Hiester Reid and McNicoll travelled abroad to study art, eventually returning to Canada with their own distinct styles. This exhibition, which combines work from the Art Gallery of Ontario's Permanent Collection with key loans, presents a focused look at the progressive and risk-taking careers of these turn-of-the-century artists. In an era when social norms dictated formality, their paintings publicly engaged with home life and femininity in complex ways, radically broadening traditional conceptions of female spaces and the potential for women to pursue careers as professional artists.


ARTWORKS FROM THE EXHIBITION

Mary Hiester Reid, At Twilight, Wychwood Park

Mary Hiester Reid, At Twilight, Wychwood Park, c. 1911. Oil on canvas, overall: 76.2 x 101.6 cm. Bequest of Mary Hiester Reid, 1922. © Art Gallery of Ontario, 634.

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Mary Hiester Reid, A Fireside

Mary Hiester Reid, A Fireside, 1912. Oil on canvas, overall: 61.2 x 46 cm. Purchase, 1987. © Art Gallery of Ontario, 87/174.

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Helen Galloway McNicoll, The Little Worker

Helen Galloway McNicoll, The Little Worker, c. 1907. Oil on canvas, overall: 61 x 51.3 cm. Purchase, 1983. © Art Gallery of Ontario, 83/238.

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Helen Galloway McNicoll, Landscape with Cows

Helen Galloway McNicoll, Landscape with Cows, c. 1907. Oil on canvas, overall: 90.5 x 71.1 cm. Gift of Mrs. R. Fraser Elliott, 1977. © Art Gallery of Ontario, 77/7.

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ARTISTS' OVERVIEW

Mary Hiester Reid American-born Mary Hiester Reid studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Art in the mid-1800s before settling in Toronto in 1885. She steadily gained critical acclaim for her painted floral still lifes, interiors, and landscapes. A central figure in the local art community, she opened her studio to the public and organized her own solo exhibitions. Hiester Reid distinguished herself as a professional artist and achieved great success despite the blatant gender discrimination of the time. When she died in 1921, the Art Gallery of Toronto (now the AGO) mounted a show of her work—the largest single-artist exhibition in its history to that date. Helen McNicoll

Over her ten-year career, Helen McNicoll achieved considerable international success. She studied painting in England, where she embraced Impressionism—the artistic movement defined by broad, quick brushstrokes simulating natural, reflected light. McNicoll, celebrated for her sunny, rural landscapes and depictions of women and children, favoured painting outdoors, en plein air. Domestic themes, although previously dismissed by critics as too feminine and romantic, had become popular subjects for Impressionist painters by the end of the 1800s. McNicoll explored these themes through scenes of young children and rural working women engrossed in their activities. Her paintings broke down the rigid boundaries between the public and private spheres and presented a version of femininity that defied stereotypes


Mary Heister Reid - past events

PAST TALKS AND EVENTS

Talks
Close Looking: Mary Hiester Reid and Helen McNicoll
Monday, October 19, 11 am

Join author Molly Peacock and curator Renée van der Avoird as they discuss historical Canadian artists Mary Hiester Reid and Helen McNicoll. Two of the first women to achieve success as professional artists in Canada, Hiester Reid and McNicoll radically broadened traditional concepts of femininity, domesticity and the potential for women to pursue careers as artists. This Close Looking talk accompanies the exhibition 

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