For some time I have been wanting to write a series of short blog posts about Paraskeva Clark’s contemporaries, and other female Canadian artists in our history. The first one is on Prudence Heward.
Prudence Heward (1896-1947) was a major figure painter in the 1920s and 1930s when landscape painting dominated Canadian art, especially in English Canada where the Group of Seven held sway. Heward grew up in a large Montreal family - her father was a business man, an executive of the Canadian Pacific Railway.
Heward’s mother encouraged her daughter’s interest in art, who studied at the Art Association of Montreal and in Paris, where she met Isabel McLaughlin. The two became friends and often went sketching together. Heward was a co-founder of the Canadian Group of Painters, the group that formed in 1933 in Toronto after the Group of Seven disbanded. She was also a part of the Montreal circle known as the Beaver Hall artists, friends who shared their love of painting and were active in the Montreal art world.
Using a brilliant colour palette, Heward’s paintings of women showed that she saw them as strong, complex people, not as weak and passive, which is how many artists of the day portrayed them. She exhibited her work and won several awards for her painting and was included in international exhibitions of Canadian art in the 1920s. Her paintings now hang in Canada’s major collections.
Unfortunately Heward suffered from fragile health, and in 1939 her nose was injured in a car accident, which intensified her asthmatic condition. She went to California for treatment in the late forties and died there in 1947.
Barbara Meadowcroft, "Painting Friends: The Beaver Hall Women Painters" (Montreal: Véhicule Press, 1999).
Library and Archives Canada www.collectionscanada.ca "Prudence Heward"
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