Friday, August 13, 2010


Yvonne McKague Housser (1898-1996), a highly regarded educator and painter, studied at the Ontario College of Art before travelling to Paris to study there. Later, she studied in Vienna under Franz Cizek, Arthur Lismer’s mentor in art education for children - Lismer was an influence in Yvonne’s thinking about art. While travelling abroad, Yvonne was exposed to French modern art; Cezanne’s influence can be seen in her work.

Besides working as a painter, Yvonne was also a teacher at the Ontario College of Art. Of all the painters of that time, Lismer was the one who influenced her most. Yvonne was a founding member of the Canadian Group of Painters and an adviser for the Toronto Art Students’ League patterned after the Students’ League in New York City.

Yvonne made many sketching trips to glean subject matter for her paintings, scenes from mining towns and other villages in Northern Ontario over a ten-year period, from 1925-1935. Her friends often accompanied her: Rody Kenny Courtice, Prudence Heward and Isabel McLaughlin. Yvonne’s paintings from the North were different from those of her predecessors (paintings that gave the impression of lifeless towns) for their evidence of human habitation - details including curtains and lights shining from the windows in night scenes.

A letter from Yvonne to Paraskeva Clark in 1950 reveals her admiration for her friend’s work. Apparently Yvonne was late for an opening at an exhibition and arrived during a talk Paraskeva was giving. In a letter to Praskeva she apologized and concluded with “…perhaps before I die I shall be able to paint a bit of green foliage so that it sings - as yours does - I hope so.” This is an example of how the women artists of that time had a true appreciation for each other.

Two years after Yvonne’s marriage to Fred Housser, in 1936 he died of a heart attack. Her personal tragedy seemed to take her into a new direction in her art. She was one of the artists who was strongly influenced by the move to abstraction in the art world - she studied with Hans Hoffman in the 1950s in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

Yvonne’s work can be seen in major museums in Canada.

Selected Sources
Library and Archives Canada Artist Files
"Yvonne McKague Housser," Joan Murray (Oshawa: The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, 1995)

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