Kathleen Munn (1887–1974) is recognized today as a pioneer of modern art in Canada, though she remained on the periphery of the Canadian art scene during her lifetime. Seeking inspiration beyond the conservative climate in Toronto, Munn travelled to New York and Europe in the 1920s, absorbing the lessons of the international modern art movements. Continual experimentation and refinement are at the core of her work, whether it was in her bold use of colour, advanced abstracts, or black ink and graphite drawings.
Kathleen Munn: Life & Work describes the arc of this fascinating artist’s trajectory. Her early work was dominated by the Synchronists’ use of colour to define form; paintings characterized by broad brush strokes and dark tones capturing the personality and expression of the subject. Munn read widely and attended lectures on a variety of topics: the history of art and design, art theory, literature, philosophy, mythology, music, and more. She even applied theories of mathematics and geometry to create dynamic symmetry and proportion in her drawings of the human figure.
“Munn will always be a mystery—and this makes her all the more irresistible.”Georgiana Uhlyarik
In the 1930s Munn devised her own unique drawing technique, a type of three-dimensional template for expressing the human figure’s countless positions and views in space, achieving a new visual vocabulary. This book shows why the work of Kathleen Munn stands out as a notable, stunning expression with ancient academic roots and broadens our understanding of the modern art movement in Canada.
Georgiana Uhlyarik is Associate Curator of Canadian Art at the Art Gallery of Ontario and adjunct faculty in the Graduate Program in Art History at York University. Her curatorial work includes Introducing Suzy Lake; The Passion of Kathleen Munn; and Betty Goodwin: Work Notes. Uhlyarik has contributed to recent publications, including Georgia O'Keeffe (Tate Modern, 2016) and Barbara Astman: I as Artifact (Western University, 2014). Originally from Romania, she lives in Toronto with her twin sons.
Banner: Kathleen Munn, Composition (Horses), c. 1927, oil on canvas, 51 x 60.7 cm, Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton.
Portrait: Kathleen Munn in her Toronto studio in the 1930s.