"Old Mill, St. Sauveur, Quebec"
Kathleen Moir Morris, "Old Mill, St. Sauveur, Quebec," pre-1932, with a Walter Klinkhoff Gallery label on the back, oil on panel, 10.5" x 14"
KATHLEEN MOIR MORRIS (1893 - 1996)
Born in Montreal in 1893, Kathleen Moir Morris achieved critical acclaim during the lively Quebec art scene of the 1920s and ’30s, but since then has languished as one of an almost-forgotten group of Canadian women painters.
After studying under well-known artists William Brymner and Maurice Cullen at the Art Association of Montreal (which later became the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts), in 1929 she became a member of the Royal Canadian Academy. In the 1920s — a time when the Group of Seven was forging a pervasive image of painters as virile outdoorsmen — she joined a group of 10 women artists who rented a studio in an old building on Beaver Hall Hill. These women became lifelong friends and supported each other as they rose to prominence. Known as the Beaver Hall Group, they soon began exhibiting with the Group of Seven and with each other at international exhibitions.
Afflicted with a nervous system disorder that caused her to paint with a “nervous brush,” Morris often portrayed winter scenes of Quebec and eastern Ontario — churches, markets, animals and horse-drawn carriages. Her work invites us to reflect on the changes to women’s political and social position at the time, as Quebec became increasingly industrialized and young women began leaving the farms to work in cities and towns.
Throughout her career, Morris had only one solo exhibition, in 1939. She died in 1986. Although largely overlooked by art historians and not well known by the public, her work, along with paintings by other members of the Beaver Hall Group, are becoming the subject of belated discovery. With retrospectives in recent years at the Walter Klinkhoff Gallery in Montreal, at Arthur Leggett Fine Art Antiques in Toronto, and at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre in Kingston, Ontario, Morris’s paintings have been collected by major Canadian museums including the National Gallery of Canada, the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
Old Mill, St. Sauveur, Quebec, on sale for $52,000 at LindaLando Fine Art (now Granville Fine Art) in Vancouver, is not a typical Morris painting. “Not only is it rare to come across any paintings by Kathleen Moir Morris, but this one is especially rare because it depicts a scene in St. Sauveur, far from her home in the city,” says Lando.