Defying Convention

Women Artists in Canada, 1900-1960

Emily Carr (Canadian, 1871-1945), Metchosin, c. 1935. Oil on canvas. 50.7 x 58.7 cm Collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery; Gift from the Estate of Mr. and Mrs. Bernard Naylor G-86-501


This exhibition features work by more than 30 groundbreaking women artists of the Modernist period in Canada, who not only challenged artistic conventions but defied constraints on women's roles in the decades after the Victorian era. They embraced the excitement of a radical movement in artmaking that offered new ways of evoking immediacy and emotion. It was a time of experimentation and innovation, of shattering 19th-century art world traditions.

The women in Defying Convention seized the Modernist potential for intuitively expressing contemporary life around them, the people who inhabited their worlds, and their desire for self-expression. By asserting their identities as artists, they also resisted the social prescription that a woman's sphere was primarily the home. Instead, they occupied multiple roles as artists and activists, mothers and mentors, wives and lovers, teachers and community builders.

Presented alongside Summer with the Impressionists, this exhibition is drawn entirely from the WAG's permanent collection. With a focus on Canadian women artists working within the same period, Defying Convention invites dialogue about the significant gender imbalance apparent in the European shows.

The work of these artists represents the lives and experiences of women from across Canada: from Nunavut to the Prairies, from British Columbia to Eastern Canada. Their stories are as rich and diverse as the styles they explored. The art they made reveals the insistent nature of their personal visions.

Curated by Paula Kelly and Stephen Borys

E. Prudence Heward (Canadian, 1896-1947), Farmer's Daughter, c. 1938. Oil on canvas. 66.6 x 66.5 cm Collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery; Gift from the Estate of Prudence Heward G-51-170

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