The Canadian Group of Painters

A brief history of the Canadian Group of Painters 1933 – 1969

A Group of Friends at Whitefish Falls (1936)The Robert McLaughlin Gallery

The Canadian Group of Painters was formed in 1933

The self-professed “direct outgrowth” of the Group of Seven aimed to represent the whole of Canada, and permitted women membership. They held the idea of a national artistic consciousness, championing modernist painting styles including figuration and abstraction.

The CGP moved away from nationalistic landscapes

They also saw the potential painting had to express social concerns, especially in the post-war years, with subjects that explored urban scenes, industrial sites, and portraits of the working class

Sunbather, Pegi Nicol MacLeod, 1934, From the collection of: The Robert McLaughlin Gallery
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The inclusion of women in the group was remarkable, as they made up nearly one third of the membership at a time when many artistic groups solely focused on male membership. Women held executive positions, secured group shows around North America, and pushed the group forward during World War II while male members were away at war.

Membership to the group was intentionally open. Lawren Harris felt that the group should be open to “…all decent- minded, free spirits who have something to say in paint in Canada.” With such openness, the group saw many iterations, with membership changing and shifting as new artists came up within the community. This exhibition features a selection of works by artists who were members of the Canadian Group of Painters from 1933 – 1969, with a focus on significant women artists from the group.

Yellow House Cobalt Ontario, Yvonne McKague Housser, 1925, From the collection of: The Robert McLaughlin Gallery
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Oozles (1924) by Bertram BrookerThe Robert McLaughlin Gallery

Bertram Brooker

(1888 – 1955)

Bertram Brooker was a founding member of the CGP who was involved in planning the group’s exhibition schedule and judging submissions. Brooker was a successful author and graphic artist outside of the group, and was the first Canadian artist working in pure abstraction, beginning a decade prior to the CGP founding. He embraced the artistic community he found within the group and how the group connected disparate individuals together to make a strong cohesive whole. 

Abstract Still Life, Bertram Brooker, From the collection of: The Robert McLaughlin Gallery
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Portrait of a Young Boy by Prudence HewardThe Robert McLaughlin Gallery

Prudence Heward

(1896 – 1947)

Prudence Heward was a founding member who served as the vice-president of the Canadian Group of Painters in 1935. She painted predominantly figurative works, with a focus on woman subjects, making her stand out amongst her peers. She was the first woman to serve on the executive and paved the way for other women to lead within the group including her friend Isabel McLaughlin.

Still Life, Prudence Heward, From the collection of: The Robert McLaughlin Gallery
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Camoflage (1948) by Isabel McLaughlinThe Robert McLaughlin Gallery

Isabel McLaughlin

(1903 – 2002)

Isabel McLaughlin, the daughter of Oshawa industrialist R.S. McLaughlin, was part of the group from its inception in 1933. An important early modern painter and philanthropist, she was elected to become president of the Canadian Group of Painters in 1939, the first women to hold such a position. The group flourished and gained much of its structure under her leadership. She led them through WWII, when many of the male membership were drafted, before relinquishing her role in 1945.

Untitled, Isabel McLaughlin, From the collection of: The Robert McLaughlin Gallery
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Studio Interior (1951) by Jock MacDonaldThe Robert McLaughlin Gallery

Jock MacDonald

(1897 – 1960)

Jock Macdonald was a founding member of the CGP, being one of only two members representing Western Canada from British Columbia. Throughout his life, Macdonald was an artist and teacher, championing Canadian avant-garde artists at home and abroad. He moved to Ontario in 1947 and in 1953 he was a founding member of Painters Eleven, an Ontario abstract collective. 

Flood Tide, Jock MacDonald, From the collection of: The Robert McLaughlin Gallery
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October Rose (1941) by Paraskeva ClarkThe Robert McLaughlin Gallery

Paraskeva Clark

(1898 – 1986)

Paraskeva Clark joined the Canadian Group of Painters shortly after immigrating to Canada from Russia and served on the executive on various occasions between 1944 – 1967. She held a strong disdain for the Canadian landscape tradition, despite painting many during her career. Clark saw her role as not just an artist but as an agent for social change, and her paintings often were topical, critiquing politics and ongoing social conflicts.

Little Lake in Todassac, Paraskeva Clark, 1945, From the collection of: The Robert McLaughlin Gallery
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Portrait of Mona by Rody Kenny CourticeThe Robert McLaughlin Gallery

Rody Kenny Courtice

(1891 – 1973) 

Rody Kenny Courtice was one of the first women admitted to the Ontario College of Art, studying under Arthur Lismer. She became a member of the Canadian Group of Painters in the late 1930s and joined many of the younger member of the group on sketching trips, depicting landscapes and industrial subjects. 

The Ward, Rody Kenny Courtice, 1925, From the collection of: The Robert McLaughlin Gallery
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Credits: Story

Curatorial Text/Editor

Heather Riley

With Support From
Sonya Jones

French Translation by
Jay Gonzalez Tinoco and Émeraude Domingos-Mbuku  


This project has been made possible by the Government of Canada.
Ce projet a été rendu possible grâce au gouvernement du Canada.

All content in this exhibition is copyright of Robert McLaughlin Gallery. 

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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