Art of the Month (May 2017)

Doris McCarthy, "Wavement #1", 1969, acrylic on board, overall: 90.75 x 121.5 cm. Gift of the artist, 2003

Doris McCarthy
Wavement #1, 1969
acrylic on board
overall: 90.75 x 121.5 cm
Gift of the artist, 2003

It’s impossible to summarize Doris McCarthy’s career—or her impact—in a few words. Born in 1910 in Toronto, McCarthy’s career spanned generations of Canadian art history. From her early studies with Arthur Lismer and J.E.H. MacDonald at the Ontario College of Art, to her later tutelage of artists including Joyce Weiland and Harold Klunder at the Central Technical School in downtown Toronto, she bridged a number of art movements with great agility and sensitivity.

Wavement #1 is an important work within her impressive oeuvre, its hard-edged geometric composition in great contrast to the more traditional landscape work that comprises much of her practice. Made in the late 1960s during a period of marked investigation into new ways of representing the landscape, this painting distils the essential forms of a sunny beach scene to its simplest constituent aspects. Richly coloured and boldly composed, this near-aerial view exudes the eye-dazzling aspects of sun, sand and water. Many of McCarthy’s landscape paintings were exhibited in 2010’s Doris McCarthy: Roughing it in the Bush, co-presented by UTAC (now part of the Art Museum at University of Toronto) and the Doris McCarthy Gallery at the University of Toronto’s Scarborough Campus. These testified to her restless spirit, and the endless experimentation that marked her 80-year career.

In November 2010, Doris McCarthy passed away at her beloved home, Fool’s Paradise, in her 100th year. A recipient of the Order of Canada and the Order of Ontario amongst other awards and recognitions, she was a beloved figure in the Canadian art world. Her legacy lives on in the creation of an artist residency programme at Fool’s Paradise, which McCarthy donated to the Ontario Heritage Trust for that purpose. The MacLaren owns five of her rare hard-edged abstractions, all gifted by the artist in 2004.

—EM