Konstalbum-Helen Galloway McNicoll

Helen Galloway McNicoll ca 1906 F: 14 Dec 1879 in Toronto in Canada D: 27 Jun 1915 in Swanage in England

Helen McNicoll (right) - Photo

Robert Harris - Portrait of Helen McNicoll 1910

Helen McNicoll - The Barbican, Plymouth 1888

Helen McNicoll - Marketplace 1893

Helen McNicoll - Belgian Peasants

Helen McNicoll - By the Lake

Helen McNicoll - By the River

Helen McNicoll - Children by a Stream

Helen McNicoll - Ducks on a Pond

Helen McNicoll - Farm Lane, Quebec

Helen McNicoll - Feeding the Ducks

Helen McNicoll - Harbour Scene

Helen McNicoll - In the Fields

Helen McNicoll - In the Garden, Lady with Parasol Strolling with her Companion

Helen McNicoll - Minding Baby

Helen McNicoll - Landscape with Cows ca 1907

Helen McNicoll - Picking Fruit

Helen McNicoll - Wheat Stooks

Helen McNicoll - Easter Lilies ca 1907

Helen McNicoll - Fishing ca 1907

Helen McNicoll - Feeding Time ca 1907

Helen McNicoll - The Little Worker ca 1907

Helen McNicoll - The Farmyard ca 1908

Helen McNicoll - A Wayside Farm ca 1908

Helen McNicoll - White Sunshade II, ca 1909

Helen McNicoll - A Welcome Breeze ca 1909

Helen McNicoll - Midsummer 1909

Helen McNicoll - Reaping Time ca 1909

Helen McNicoll - Fishing Boats at Anchor ca 1909

Helen McNicoll - Boats in France ca 1910

Helen McNicoll - The Sailboat ca 1910

Helen McNicoll - The Market Cart, Brittany 1910

Helen McNicoll - An English Beach ca 1910

Helen Galloway McNicoll - Beneath the Trees ca 1910

Helen McNicoll - Buttercups ca 1910

Helen McNicoll - Children on the Rocks ca 1910

Helen McNicoll - Girl with Parasol ca 1910

Helen McNicoll - In the Shadow of the Tree 1910

Helen McNicoll - Interior ca 1910

Helen McNicoll - On the Beach ca 1910

Helen McNicoll - Orchard ca 1910

Helen McNicoll - Sunny Days ca 1910

Helen McNicoll - The Foot Bridge, Venice ca 1910

Helen McNicoll - The Fruit Vendor ca 1910

Helen McNicoll - Gathering Flowers ca 1911

Helen McNicoll - Haystacks ca 1911

Helen McNicoll - Minding Baby 1911

Helen Galloway McNicoll was the daughter of David McNicoll and Emilie Pashley.

The eldest of eight children and deaf from a childhood bout of scarlet fever, Helen McNicoll was an artist known for her plein air, Impressionist style of painting. About 1885, after her father had become general passenger agent of the Canadian Pacific Railway, the family moved from Toronto to Montreal; by 1903 David McNicoll would be first vice-president of the CPR. Helen began her first serious art training under William Brymner* at the Art Association of Montreal. Brymner’s advocacy of outdoor painting and the Impressionist style clearly would play a critical role in her development as a painter who, an obituary would note, “in striking contrast to the prevailing type of feminine painter constantly applied herself to new problems of light, line and beauty.” Unlike her contemporary Emily Carr*, McNicoll enjoyed financial security and, as one critic observed, “was not obliged either to potboil or make extravagant bids for attention in order to secure a living.” From 1904 to 1906 she pursued her studies at the Slade School of Fine Art in London and at St Ives, Cornwall, under Algernon Mayow Talmage. Afterwards she took a studio in France. There, according to a contemporary Montreal newspaper, she worked “incessantly . . . taking tours through the countryside for fresh material.” The first public acknowledgement of her skill as a painter occurred in 1908, when at age 28 she was awarded the first Jessie Dow Prize for Painting from the Art Association of Montreal. She returned to England, where she shared a studio and painting expeditions in Yorkshire and London with her close friend, British artist Dorothea Sharp. A member of the Royal Society of British Artists and vice-president of the Society of Women Artists, Sharp may have played a role in McNicoll’s election to the Royal Society of British Artists in 1913. The modernity of McNicoll’s high-keyed palette and painterly style was not universally accepted by the Royal Society. Writing to her family, she recounted that “the older members . . . didn’t like my things,” but another member had said that “it will be a bitter pill for some now that . . . [Helen McNicoll] is elected.” Between 1913 and her death two years later McNicoll exhibited 11 paintings with the Royal Society of British Artists.

In 1914, at age 34, McNicoll was elected an associate member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. Throughout her sojourn in England and Europe, she had continued to exhibit annually with the Royal Canadian Academy and with the Art Association of Montreal. The Art Association would exhibit her paintings posthumously in 1922 and 1925.

Her sudden death from diabetes at age 35 was a loss noted in Saturday Nightand Beck’s Weekly (Montreal). No memorial exhibition took place until 1925, however, when the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts mounted for one week a retrospective exhibition comprising 141 paintings and sketches drawn primarily from the collection of the McNicoll family. In 1970 the Granite Club of Toronto arranged an exhibition and in 1974 the Jerrold Morris Gallery in Toronto offered 28 works from the McNicoll estate.

Primarily a painter of working women and maternal themes in outdoor settings, McNicoll drew her subject-matter from the tradition of Impressionist women painters such as Berthe Morisot and Mary Cassatt, while acknowledging the “new woman” of the modernist age. Works such as Under the shadow of a tent (c. 1914) and Young mother in the shade (c. 1914) are especially effective in representing intimacy and bonding between women and the changing representation of maternity. A reviewer in the Family Herald and Weekly Starnoted that “her style is broad and simple and she follows the modern school of sunlit effects without any affectation, but absolute sincerity.” Contemporary women artists such as Florence Carlyle, Laura Muntz Lyall, and Emily Carr serve to position McNicoll’s art within the broader community of serious female artists whose exploration of female experience, nature, and techniques of painting have been largely marginalized within the history of Canadian art.