Prudence Heward (1896–1947) was “the very best painter we ever had in Canada and she never got the recognition she richly deserved in her lifetime,” according to A.Y. Jackson, a founding member of the Group of Seven. Celebrated for her portraits of provocative and defiant women, her expressionistic use of colour, and her sculptural forms, Heward gave new meaning to the depiction of female subjects in the 1920s and 1930s. After training at the Art Association of Montreal under the guidance of her teacher William Brymner, Heward became a central figure in the Montreal art world. She participated in its avant-garde art movement in the inter-war years, was affiliated with the Beaver Hall Group, the Canadian Group of Painters, and the Contemporary Arts Society, and she exhibited with the Group of Seven.
“I am fascinated by the sense of interiority that Heward was able to create in these paintings of non-smiling women.”Julia Skelly
Prudence Heward: Life & Work describes the intriguing ways in which Heward approached her subjects—always with an eye to issues of class, gender, and race. Heward became one of the most innovative artists working in Canada during the early twentieth century. After her death in 1947, the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, organized a memorial exhibition of Heward’s work, which toured across the country, though her name soon fell out of notoriety until feminist art historians rediscovered her work. Julia Skelly reveals why Heward is now recognized as one of this country’s groundbreaking painters and one of the most innovative artists working in Canada during her lifetime.
Julia Skelly received a PhD from Queen’s University, and she teaches in the Department of Art History and Communication Studies at McGill University. Skelly is the author of Wasted Looks: Addiction and British Visual Culture, 1751–1919 (Ashgate, 2014) and the editor of The Uses of Excess in Visual and Material Culture, 1600–2010 (Ashgate, 2014). Her next book, Radical Decadence: Excess in Contemporary Feminist Textiles and Craft, will be published by Bloomsbury in March 2017.
Banner: Prudence Heward, Girl on a Hill, 1928, oil on canvas, 101.8 x 94.6 cm, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa.
Portrait: Studio portrait of Prudence Heward, c. 1927.