Mary Heister Reid Chrysanthemums, A Japanese Arrangement

Mary Heister Reid Chrysanthemums, A Japanese Arrangement, c1895, oil on canvas ©Art Gallery of Ontario

Quiet Harmony: The Art of Mary Hiester Reid

November 1, 2000 - February 4, 2001


When Mary Hiester Reid died in Toronto in 1921, the Art Gallery of Toronto (now AGO) responded by mounting the largest single-artist retrospective in its history. Today, almost 80 years later, her work is little known - a fate shared by virtually all the female artists of her generation. Reid's artistic vision, expressed through her flower still-lifes, interiors and landscapes, integrated the beauty of Nature into domestic life. Her poetic colour harmonies and exquisite sense of composition embrace an ideal of refined taste and artistic expression. The exhibition Quiet Harmony: The Art of Mary Hiester Reid will revive her name and present her work for public viewing once more.

Born an American citizen, Mary Hiester studied with Thomas Eakins, a controversial teacher at the Pennsylvania Academy of Art during the early 1880s. It was here that she met her future husband, a Canadian, George Agnew Reid. The couple settled in Toronto in 1885, becoming central figures in the local art community. Mary was one of the first women accepted into the Ontario Society of Artists and the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.

Reid's paintings capture the beauty that surrounded her everyday life. At the time of her death, she was celebrated for her "study and interpretation of Nature in those aspects that appealed most to her...[g]limpses of spring and autumn woodland, moonlit vistas, gorgeously colourful gardens, lovely skies, divinely tinted "ends of evening," and the countless flowers of the fields...." Her friend and colleague, C.W. Jefferys remarked, "The number of [Canadian] painters of distinction is as yet small, but in the short list of those who have shed light upon the path and given direction to the early steps of Canadian Art, the name of Mrs. Reid will always have a prominent role."

Guest curators Brian Foss and Janice Anderson have selected forty-five paintings from many private and public collections. Their essays, in the fully illustrated catalogue which accompanies the show, explore the life and work of Mary H. Reid, with a special emphasis on her relationship to the burgeoning women's rights movement that was so vital at the time.

Generously supported by

Supported by

The Department of Canadian Heritage Museums Assistance Program

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