Artwork by Dorothy Elsie Knowles,  The River with Hills

Dorothy Knowles
The River with Hills

acrylic on canvas
signed, titled, dated May 8, 1986 and inscribed “AC-20-86” on the reverse
49.25 x 73.5 ins ( 125.1 x 186.7 cms )

Sold for $24,780.00
Sale date: May 29th 2018

Private Collection, Toronto
Dorothy Knowles was raised on a farm in Saskatchewan with no intentions of becoming an artist; rather, she enrolled in the biology program at the university in Saskatoon. Upon her graduation in 1948, a friend convinced her to enroll in a six-week summer art course given by the University of Saskatchewan at Emma Lake, led by Reta Cowley and James Frederick Finley. Knowles’ interest in painting blossomed and she returned to the workshops in following years.

From these Emma Lake workshops, Dorothy Knowles took art critic Clement Greenberg’s advice to continue painting from nature and she discovered the importance of working en plein-air. The artist found it difficult to find time to station herself outside for extended periods of time to paint while raising her three daughters. She produced some finished paintings outdoors but she often made sketches and took photographs to use back in the studio. “The River with Hills”, dating to 1986, would have been painted after her children had grown, thus enabling her to spend more time outside.

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Dorothy Elsie Knowles
(1927) RCA

Dorothy Elsie Knowles was born on April 7, 1927 in Unity, Saskatchewan. She grew up on a farm overlooking a Prairie valley and initially had no plans to become a painter, studying biology at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon between 1944 and 1948. At the time of her graduation, a friend persuaded her to enroll in a six-week summer course given by the University of Saskatchewan at Emma Lake. The course was led by Reta Cowley from Saskatoon and James Frederick Finley from the Ontario College of Art and under their guidance young Dorothy found a proclivity for art. Upon her return to Saskatoon she continued to study painting under Eli Bornstein and Nicholas Bjelejac at the University of Saskatchewan between 1948 and 1952. While taking a summer class at the Banff School in 1952, she decided to study art in England, eventually enrolling in the Goldsmith School of Art in London. Of influence on her was another London institution, the National Gallery, where she particularly admired the works of Piero di Cosimo, Piero della Francesca, Veronese, Ucello, and Renoir. In the 1960's, when artist's and critics workshops were de rigueur, she attended workshop by the American painter Herman Cherry (1961), the critic Clement Greenberg (1962), Kenneth Noland (1963), Jules Olitski (1964), Lawrence Alloway (1965), and Michael Steiner (1969). All of these had varying degrees of influence on her work, changing her style from a heavy impasto favoured by Greenberg to a more fluid technique preferred by Noland. Most importantly she discovered the importance of working directly from nature. Thus, weather permitting , she worked out of doors, at times producing finished paintings, at times sketches and photographs which she used in the studio. However, her technique was fundamentally different from that employed most visibly by the Group of Seven. While the studio works by members of the Group differ drastically from their essential out-of-doors sketches, Knowles uses both nature and photographs from nature in the same manner so that the results are in every respect comparable.