Artwork by Efa Prudence Heward,  Still Life

Prudence Heward
Still Life

oil on board
signed with initials lower right
12 x 14.25 ins ( 30.5 x 36.2 cms )

Auction Estimate: $15,000.00$10,000.00 - $15,000.00

Price Realized $9,600.00
Sale date: December 1st 2022

Dr. Paul Weil and Mary Rosamond, Montreal
By descent to Dr. Sonia Salisbury, Nova Scotia
Private Collection, Nova Scotia
Julia Skelly, “Prudence Heward Life & Work” [online publication], Art Canada Institute, Toronto, 2015, page 49
An important modernist female painter of the early twentieth century, Prudence Heward has gained attention for identifying the issues of gender, race and class in her oeuvre. She is recognized for her figural studies of modern women in a variety of settings, from rural and public spaces to domestic interiors. This painting somewhat strays from that narrative, while retaining the quintessential characteristics of the artist.

Occasionally Heward would utilize foliage in the background of her figural paintings, rooting the sitter in an outdoor setting. As Julia Skelly observes, “Heward’s landscapes and still lifes of the 1930s and 1940s, like her portraits, are characterized by increasingly luminous colours and more expressive brushwork, showing her increased comfort with finding an individual style and subjective interpretation of nature.” Heward purportedly admired the New Zealand modernist painter, Frances Hodgkins, who often depicted a still life in an outdoor location. Heward followed suit, fusing a still life with a landscape in “A Summer Day” (1944, Private Collection) or “working up” the background of a painting with rich greenery.

The original owners of this painting were friends with Heward. Allied with Montreal artistic circles of the day, they certainly appreciated her accomplished hand. While presented as a modest still life painting, Heward has expertly rendered stylized vegetation with a simple technique. The adept, agile brushwork and delightful, rich colouring of this intimate work solidifies Heward as a masterful modernist painter of figures, landscapes and still lifes.

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Efa Prudence Heward
(1896 - 1947) Beaver Hall Group, Canadian Group of Painters

Born in Montreal. Quebec, she became interested in art early in her life. She attended classes at the Art Association of Montreal under William Brymner with fellow students, Edwin Holgate, Sarah Robertson, Anne Savage, Kathleen Morris, Lilias Torrance Newton and Emily Coonan. Miss Heward also worked for two summers under Maurice Cullen, sketching at Phillipsburg and Carillon. During the First World War, she and her mother worked with the Red Cross in London, England (her brothers also served overseas with the army). Following the war she continued her studies in Montreal under Randolph Hewton who, as A.Y. Jackson related, “...did much to increase her interest in understanding of the modern school.” She then studied in Paris at the Academie Colarossi and returned to Montreal where in 1920 she joined a group of artists who had secured rooms on Beaver Hall Hill.

Norah McCullough explains this activity of the group as follows, “The idea was to maintain club rooms for other artists where they might meet and hold exhibitions. A small room downstairs served this purpose while back rooms and those upstairs became studios for a succession of artists. All those associated with the Beaver Hall Hill Group had been William Brymner's students at the School of Fine Art Association of Montreal, that is to say, very well trained indeed by the brilliant teacher.” The Group included Nora Collyer, Emily Coonan, Mabel Lockerby, H. Mabel May, Kathleen Morris, Lilias Torrence Newton, Sarah Robertson, Anne Savage and Ethel Seath. Prudence Heward specialized mainly in the field of figure and portrait painting. After a few years, the Group dissolved because it proves impracticable financially, but all of the artists went on alone to develop into painters of distinction. Miss Heward won first prize for her “Girl on a Hill” at the Willingdon Arts Competition in 1929. This was a study of Louise McLea, a Montreal dancer.

Most of her painting was done at the Heward house on Peel street in Montreal whee her young nieces posed for many of her studies. In the late summer of each year Prudence Heward would go sketching with Sarah Robertson, A.Y. Jackson, the Heward family and others at the Heward's summer home near Brockville, Ontario, on the St. Lawrence. She was a great admirer of the work of Cezanne, Renoir, Matisse, Derian, Picasso, Modigliani and Francis Hodgkins. She owned two of Hodgkins' canvases, and her work reflected the influences of all of these artists.

In 1930, her three-quarter length portrait “Rollande” attracted much attention at the Fifth annual exhibition of Canadian art at the National Gallery of Canada and was acquired by the Gallery in the same year.

In 1932 an exhibition of her work was held at the galleries of W.W. Scott and Sons, Drummond Street, Montreal. The showing included her portraits, landscapes, and plant studies. “The Gazette” noted the following, “The exhibition, which contains both portraits and landscapes, is marked by brilliant colour, strong modelling and interesting rhythmic composition. Miss Heward in her portraits never allows the setting to become just the background, but it is always an integral part of the picture. As a result, her canvases are pervaded with unity of form, feeling, colour and these.” The same year her “Three Sisters” and “Nude under a Tree” were reproduced in the “Bridle and Golfer.” The “Nude under a Tree” was considered to be one of the finest nudes in Canada at that time, although it was also a controversial work.

She exhibited at W.W. Scott and Sons in 1934 with Sarah Robertson and Isobel McLaughlin where their work was well received. Arthur Lismer in “The Montreal Star” noted, “Her landscapes avoid anything in the way of pretty textures or pictorial detail. They are concerned more with the structure and movement of the earth and forms, rather than with representations of the likeness of the scene.”

She became a member of the Canadian Group of Painters (1933) and the Contemporary Arts Society (1939); she travelled to Bermuda where she sketched with Isabel McLaughlin, also with her at Saint-Sauveur, Quebec, and Whitefish near Manitoulin Island. There she produced studies of Indigenous Peoples. Failing health caused her to move to Los Angeles, California, where she passed away in 1947.

A memorial exhibition of 101 of her works was organized and presented by The National Gallery of Canada in 1948. After being shown at the Gallery in Ottawa, it went on tour to public galleries throughout Canada. H.O. McCurry (then Director of the NGC) in the foreword of the catalogue wrote, “Prudence Heward was a figure painter of unusual distinction at a time when the emphasis among Canadian artists was almost exclusively on landscape. At the National Gallery she is held in high esteem not only for what she accomplished, but also for the regard in which she has always been held by her fellow artists, among them A.Y. Jackson who has written the introduction to this catalogue.”

Her works are part of the collections of the Art Association of Montreal; The Art Gallery of Ontario; Hart House, University of Toronto; The National Gallery of Canda which received 22 of her paintings after her death as a gift from her mother Mrs. A.R.G. Heward. The Continental Galleries, Montreal, held an exhibition of her paintings in the autumn of 1964.

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