Artwork by Florence Emily Carlyle,  The Studio

Florence Carlyle
The Studio

oil on canvas
signed lower right
35.25 x 21.5 ins ( 89.5 x 54.6 cms )

Auction Estimate: $30,000.00$25,000.00 - $30,000.00

Price Realized $102,000.00
Sale date: December 1st 2022

Belanger Estate
William Smith, Montreal, 1963-1964
Pinney's, auction, Montreal, 4 October 1988, lot W81 as "The Artist's Studio"
Kaspar Gallery, Toronto as “The Artist in Her Studio”
Master’s Gallery Ltd., Calgary as “The Studio”
Private Collection
Possibly “Twenty-Second Annual Exhibition”, Royal Canadian Academy of Artists, Gallery of the Ontario Society of Artists, Toronto, 1901, no. 27 as “Panel Picture of Self”
J.S. McLean Centre for Indigenous + Canadian Art, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, 2018 as “The Studio”
Joan Murray, “Florence Carlyle Against All Odds”, London, Ontario, 2004, pages 14, 34
At eighteen years of age Florence Carlyle attended a lecture by Oscar Wilde on The Aesthetic Movement. Wilde’s words on domestic decorative arts had a profound evangelizing influence on the young artist. The tenets of the Aesthetic Movement were to find the beauty in the everyday object, as well as in the every day. A cult of beauty that was soon reflected in Carlyle’s artistic sensibility. As Joan Murray notes, “Early on in [Carlyle’s] paintings she included choice, beautiful objects as symbols of aesthetic beauty. She did so to glorify the expression of what Wilde had described in his lecture as the ‘noblest side of his [man’s] nature in the noblest way, to show the world how many things he can reverence, love and understand’.” Carlyle also highly regarded The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, specifically the painters Sir John Everett Millais and William Holman Hunt. These painters rejected the traditional academic tradition for a naturalistic form in art. Murray writes that Carlyle “would have been sympathetic, and she seems to have been drawn to the type of model sometimes found in the work of Millais and Rossetti, one with ruddy colouring and long auburn hair.”

Carlyle had returned to Woodstock by the fall of 1900 from her sojourn in New York City, to be elected a member of the Ontario Society of Artists. Carlyle supported herself, working as an illustrator for magazines and calendars. By 1902 she had a studio in London, Ontario and sought to teach the next generation of women artists. Carlyle understood the sphere of professional practice and what it could mean for a woman, encouraged by her own mother who recognized her talent with a paintbrush.

Carlyle has captured a moment of soulful reverence in this painting, both sensitively rendered and powerfully executed. A tall, elegant figure with bright auburn hair stands in a moment of meditation, clad in a long black dress reaching the ground, a glass bowl in her hands. The scene is bursting with visual anchors, from the table filled with books and decorative objects, to the chair that has been moved away from the desk and piled high with books, to the array of paintings on the walls in the background. Carlyle has filled the interior with information, seducing the viewer with the decorative details and the narrative mystery. The inclusion of decorative objects in her paintings was to acknowledge the aesthetic side of art and acknowledge that the figure was aesthetically aware, strongly reflecting the tenets of the Aesthetic Movement.

This early work by Carlyle perhaps depicts herself within her own studio, preparing the room as the next setting for a composition, artfully arranging the decorative objects into a still life vignette. Carlyle aptly articulated the precise details and rich textures of the scene, bathed in the effect of light and shade. The lush treatment of colour and the soft light that floods the room allows the figure to appear almost ethereal within the quiet room. A glimpse of the important and recognizable painting, “The Tiff”, in the background of the composition at right is intriguing. “The Tiff” won the Ontario Society of Artists’ annual prize in 1902 and the coveted silver medal at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition, which confirmed Carlyle to be one of the country’s foremost artists. This large romantic painting had occupied her autumn of 1901 – her brother Russell posed as the man and one of her sisters as the woman, gathering around the family dining room table. Critics raved about this painting in their reviews. The public prestige of the accolades this artwork received elevated the young female artist to a new level in the Canadian art world. “Self-Portrait” (c.1902, collection of Florence Johnston) is possibly on display as well, another testament to the artist’s productivity at the time.

As Murray argues, Carlyle “painted many images of women in states of solitary self-absorption… combined a quiet moment with a suggestion that women were creatures of sensitivity and intelligence. Her subject would have been considered natural to women and the private sphere.” The dress, stance, auburn hair, and aesthetic transcendence of the female figure within this composition certainly reflects the naturalistic aim of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and those painters Carlyle so admired.

The Belgian writer, mystic and member of the Aesthetic Movement, Maurrice Maeteerlinck “poetically referred to a glass jar as the vessel of the inner soul, both shielded and separate from the outside world.” Carlyle utilized a decorative object in both “The Tiff” and “Panel Picture of Self”, imbuing the object as a vessel, suggesting the inner world of Carlyle, reflecting her spiritual essence, imagination, and faith to her art. This exquisite painting is rich with complexity and presence. Carlyle’s technical skills, married with her deft handling of colour and light to capture an ambiguous moment is what sets her apart as a true talent with the paintbrush.

We extend our thanks to Joan Murray, Canadian art historian, for her assistance in researching this artwork.

This painting achieved the second highest selling value at auction for Florence Carlyle with “The Studio” selling for $102,000 in the Live Auction of An Important Private Collection of Canadian Art on December 1st, 2022.

Share this item with your friends

Florence Emily Carlyle
(1864 - 1923) RCA, OSA

Born in Galt, Ontario, a distant relation to Thomas Carlyle, British author and historian, her patents moved to Woodstock when she was only three. Her mother organized an art class and brought in Paul Peel, art teacher from New York; he had been active in London, Ontario before going to the United States. Peel encouraged her to continue her studies in Paris, France. She travelled there with Peel and his sister and studied for six years under T. Robert- Fleury, Jules Lefebvre, and Adolphe Bouguereau. She returned to Canada in 1896 and established a studio at London, Ontario, and also at Woodstock.

A painter of landscapes, figures and domestic interiors, her work was described by E.F.B. Johnston in these words, “her figured depend to a considerable extent upon the fine massing of rich colour, and frequently the value of line in long sweeping curvature is better illustrated in her work than in that of any other Canadian is quite beyond question that her art shows talent of a high order.” She was one of the first woman members of the Royal Canadian Academy in 1897 (ARCA). In 1893 she was awarded a silver medal at Chicago.

She spent the summer os 1897 in British Columbia with the Canadian Alpine Club and painted scenes of the mountains. She settled in New York in 1899 where she opened a studio and enjoyed a large market for her work. In 1900 she was elected a member of the Ontario Society of Artists and in 1901 won honourable mention for her painting at Buffalo, New York. She settled in England in 1912.

During the First World War, she did hospital work and sold her finest paintings to aid the Red Cross as well as serving in the Women's Land Army. She was forced to retire for a rest in 1918 when her health gave out. She died at her home at Crowborough, Sussex, England at the age of 59 where she had settled in 1912.

During her life she had travelled in many parts of Europe. A number of her paintings were owned by Mr. C.G. Ellis of Brantford, Ontario, also Mr. A.H. Wilson, a jeweller at Woodstock, Ontario.

A memorial exhibition and private sale of 86 of her works was held at the Jenkins Art Galleries in Toronto in the early summer of 1925. She is represented in the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Ontario Parliament Buildings, the National Gallery of Canada and elsewhere.

Source: "A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, Volume I: A-F", compiled by Colin S. MacDonald, Canadian Paperbacks Publishing Ltd, Ottawa, 1977