Until very recently, Helen McNicoll’s work had received little critical or popular notice. Although she exhibited widely in her lifetime to positive reviews in both Canada and England, during much of the twentieth century she was ignored. The efforts of feminist art historians and curators in recent decades have begun to bring much-needed attention once again to this important Canadian artist.

 

 

Key Exhibitions

 

South view of Helen McNicoll: A Canadian Impressionist at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto.
South view of Helen McNicoll: A Canadian Impressionist at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto. From left to right: The Chintz Sofa, c. 1913; The Open Door, c. 1913; Interior, c. 1910; and The Victorian Dress, c. 1914.

 

1925

Memorial Exhibition of Paintings by the late Helen G. McNicoll, R.B.A., A.R.C.A., Art Association of Montreal.

1926

Inaugural exhibition of the Art Gallery of Toronto.

1974

Helen McNicoll: Oil Paintings from the Estate, Morris Gallery, Toronto.

1975–76

From Women’s Eyes: Women Painters in Canada, Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Kingston.

1995

Visions of Light and Air: Canadian Impressionism, 1885–1920, Americas Society Art Gallery, New York.

1999

Helen McNicoll: A Canadian Impressionist, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto.

 

 

Critical Interpretations

Front cover of Helen McNicoll: A Canadian Impressionist
Front cover of Helen McNicoll: A Canadian Impressionist by Natalie Luckyj, featuring a detail of McNicoll’s Picking Flowers, c. 1912.

The most complete and accessible study of Helen McNicoll’s life and work is the exhibition catalogue for the 1999 show at the Art Gallery of Ontario, written by curator Natalie Luckyj. An important academic article by Kristina Huneault examines in depth the intersections among McNicoll’s gender, deafness, and Impressionist style. Until recently, McNicoll has not been included in surveys of Canadian art. She has fared better in studies of Canadian women artists and Canadian Impressionism.

 

Duval, Paul. Canadian Impressionism. Toronto and London: McClelland and Stewart, 1990.

 

Farr, Dorothy, and Natalie Luckyj. From Women’s Eyes: Women Painters in Canada. Kingston, ON: Agnes Etherington Art Centre, 1975.

 

Huneault, Kristina. “Impressions of Difference: The Painted Canvases of Helen McNicoll.” Art History 27, no. 2 (April 2004): 212–49.

 

Lowrey, Carol, ed. Visions of Light and Air: Canadian Impressionism, 1885–1920. New York: Americas Society Art Gallery, 1995.

 

Luckyj, Natalie. Helen McNicoll: A Canadian Impressionist. Toronto: Art Gallery of Ontario, 1999.

 

Murray, Joan. Helen McNicoll, 1879–1915: Oil Paintings from the Estate. Toronto: Morris Gallery, 1974.

 

———. Impressionism in Canada, 1895–1935. Toronto: Art Gallery of Ontario, 1974.

 

Front cover of Independent Spirit: Early Canadian Women Artists
Front cover of Independent Spirit: Early Canadian Women Artists by A.K. Prakash, featuring McNicoll’s In the Tent, 1914.

Prakash, A.K. Impressionism in Canada: A Journey of Rediscovery. Stuttgart, Germany: Arnoldsche Art Publishers, 2015.

 

———. Independent Spirit: Early Canadian Women Artists. Richmond Hill, Ontario: Firefly Books, 2008.

 

Reid, Dennis. “Impressionism in Canada.” In World Impressionism: The International Movement, 1860–1920, edited by Norma Broude, 92–113. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1990.

 

Tippett, Maria. By a Lady: Celebrating Three Centuries of Art by Canadian Women. Toronto: Viking, 1992.

 

Whitelaw, Anne, Brian Foss, and Sandra Paikowsky, eds. The Visual Arts in Canada: The Twentieth Century. Don Mills, Ontario: Oxford University Press, 2010.

 

 

Archives and Other Resources

Although McNicoll’s scrapbook and sketchbooks remain in private collections, a small archive of material relating to the artist can be found at The Robert McLaughlin Gallery in Oshawa, Ontario, including a few of her letters to her father and a small number of photographs.

 

The Canadian Women Artists History Initiative, founded at Montreal’s Concordia University in 2007, is an ongoing project to bring together scholars working on issues relating to historical Canadian women artists. Their documentation centre is an important collection of primary source materials relating to a large number of artists, including McNicoll. Their website includes a database of key artists (including biographies and bibliographies) and a collection of scanned periodical reviews.

 

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