Artwork by Isabel McLaughlin,  Backyards

Isabel McLaughlin

oil on canvas, laid on canvas
25 x 26 ins ( 63.5 x 66 cms )

Auction Estimate: $20,000.00$15,000.00 - $20,000.00

Price Realized $40,800.00
Sale date: June 15th 2022

Collection of the artist
Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa, 1983
Private Collection
Three-person exhibition with Isabel McLaughlin, Prudence Heward and Sarah Robertson, Scott & Sons Gallery, Montreal, 1934
Five-person exhibition with Isabel McLaughlin, Paraskeva Clark, Rody Kenny Courtice, Kathleen Daly [Pepper] & Yvonne McKague [Housser], Malloney Galleries, Toronto, 1936, no. 13
Rody Kenny Courtice, B. Caghill Haworth, Yvonne McKague Housser, Isabel McLaughlin, Ontario Society of Artists Little Picture Exhibition, Print Room, Art Gallery of Toronto, 1940
An Exhibition of Paintings by Isabel McLaughlin and Margaret Luke McLaughlin [Alexandra Luke], Adelaide House (Y.W.C.A.), Oshawa, 1946, no. 3
“Paintings by Isabel McLaughlin”, Hart House, Toronto, 1948, no. 4
“Tribute to Ten Women Artists,” Sisler Gallery, Toronto, 1975, no. 13
Three-person exhibition with Isabel McLaughlin, Yvonne McKague Housser and Kathleen Daly Pepper, Heliconian Club, Toronto, 1979 “Isabel McLaughlin: Recollections”, Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa, 1983, no. 15
Joan Murray, “Isabel McLaughlin: Recollections”, Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa, 1983, page 16, reproduced page 41: “Backyards, which both Harris and Jackson liked, shows her firm grasp of structure and spatial depth”
Joan Murray, “Home Truths”, Toronto, 1997, reproduced page 28: McLaughlin “painted this canvas in her studio on the fourth floor of the Royal Bank building in Toronto, at the northeast corner of Bloor and Yonge streets. This is a view from the window, looking down
into the fascinating patterns of the backyards of nearby houses. As she painted, she sometimes smelled peppermint wafting up a central ventilation shaft from the lower floors of the building, which was mostly occupied by dentists’ offices”
Fred Housser, ‘The Amateur Movement in Painting’, “Yearbook of the Arts in Canada, 1928-1929” (ed. Bertram Brooker), Toronto, 1929, pages 89-90
‘Women Painters Exhibiting Work’, “Gazette” (Montreal), 8 May 1934
Arthur Lismer, ‘Work by Three Canadian Women’, “Montreal Star”, 9 May 1934
As a young painter, Isabel McLaughlin lived in Toronto and had design talent to burn. The paintings she did in her late twenties and thirties constitute her major offering to Canadian art. They were often, to some extent, big, strongly painted scenes of the urbanscape or landscape that were pictorially powerful renderings, if also indicative of her admiration for the work of friends such as Lawren Harris. However, they manage to look refreshing and even commanding, a tactic reminder of the artist’s gift for pattern, colour and shape. Paintings such as “Backyards” have compositions with a blocky solidity, almost an allegory of the artist holding fast to her roots in the earth of painting itself. She was an artist who interacted wryly and resourcefully with the world of art before her, and the painting indicates both how quickly she was developing at this point (only three years after graduation from the Art Students’ League in Toronto), but also how fixed she already was on giving her work her own distinctive quality. With recollections supplied by the Group of Seven shows before her (by 1930, Canada’s “National School”), the artist focused on the scene from her studio window, pushing the potential of painting to deliver a jolt. It speaks volumes about the era’s imperatives of steely ambition and personal audacity and comes across as a persuasive argument for the ability of women artists of the period. As Fred Housser wrote, two years earlier, in an article of 1929, that McLaughlin was “one of the boldest young women painters we have. ...Her compositions are intensely modern in feeling...characterized by great thoroughness of search and real power, together with originality of expression and a fine structural sense.”

McLaughlin herself knew the value of this painting as the opening salvo of her contribution to Canadian art. As one of her most important paintings, she used it in every exhibition she could. In 1934, in an exhibition at Wm Scott & Sons in Montreal with Prudence Heward and Sarah Robertson, “Backyards” was singled out for praise in the “Montreal Gazette” as “well handled and sound in colour.” Arthur Lismer in the “Montreal Star” also mentioned the painting when he described McLaughlin as the “most modern” of the three painters in that “her paintings are definitely subjective in motive and execution -- a design is made of snowy roofs [as here] or trees and houses, or a shoreline of spruce and the depths of tangled bush country. The treatment is mostly a question of relationships of forms and colors to the design or pattern of her idea, and is carried out boldly and uncompromisingly.”

McLaughlin also used the view from her studio window in her painting “Budding Hyacinths” (c. 1933) in the collection of the Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa.

The artwork’s frame is the original. The studio in which McLaughlin painted this work was one previously occupied by Lawren Harris.

We extend our thanks to Joan Murray, Canadian art historian, for contributing the preceding essay.
“Backyards”, a work by celebrated Canadian female painter Isabel McLaughlin, attracted ample pre-sale interest and sold for $40,800, doubling the estimate to set an auction record in the Spring 2022 Live Auction. McLaughlin herself knew the value of this painting as the opening salvo of her contribution to Canadian art. As one of her most important paintings, she presented it in every exhibition she could.

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Isabel McLaughlin
(1903 - 2002) Canadian Group of Painters

Born in Oshawa, Ontario, the daughter of Mr. & Mrs. R.S. McLaughlin, she studied at the Ontario College of Art, Toronto; the Art Students’ League, New York; the Scandinavian Academy, Paris, and in Mexico. She held her first solo show at the Art Gallery of Toronto in the winter of 1933, when the Toronto Globe notes, “Miss McLaughlin has become interested in a section of Canada, unexplored by artists, namely, Northern Ontario mining settlements. Kirkland Lake and Cobalt are represented in the group of paintings which also includes the Ottawa, Quebec, Muskoka, and Southern Ontario landscapes in the neighborhood of her home at Oshawa and in Toronto. City streets, which have held tenaciously to a few colorful cottages of an earlier day, standing wedged between newer structures have gained the interest of this young artist…. The work exhibits a fine sense of design – a quality well expressed in the still-life drawings and plant studies. A series of watercolors, named “Here and There in Toronto,” reveals the fact that the artist likes to place on canvas those familiar and unnoticed pictures that we meet and should see every day from windows or a street corner.”

Subsequently, she exhibited at Scott & Sons, Montreal jointly with Sarah Robertson, and Prudence Heward (1934); at Malloney Galleries, Toronto, with Rody Kenny Courtice, Kathleen Daly, Yvonne McKague and Paraskeva Clark (1936); Picture Loan Society, Toronto (1937). In 1933, she became a founding member of the Canadian Group of Painters and exhibited often with this society. In her earlier work, she was influenced by the Group of Seven but then she moved toward a more simplified modern approach. Even in the 1960’s, she was still very much interested in landscapes. She lived and died in Toronto. Represented in the collections of: National Gallery of Canada; Art Gallery of Ontario; Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Queen’s Univ., Kingston; The McMichael Conservation Collection, Kleinburg, Ont., and elsewhere.

Literature Source:
"A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, Volume 4: Little - Myles", compiled by Colin S. MacDonald, Canadian Paperbacks Publishing Ltd, Ottawa, 1978