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Kathleen Munn Life & Work by Georgiana Uhlyarik

Kathleen Munn’s work received limited critical attention during her lifetime, despite her active exhibition record. Since the 1980s, groundbreaking scholarship has brought renewed attention to her pioneering work. Munn’s archives played a critical role in her rediscovery and revealed her deep engagement with modern art.


Selected Exhibitions 

Munn’s selected exhibition history is divided into two sections: exhibitions organized during her lifetime, and those since 1988.

Selected Exhibitions during Munn’s Lifetime 

1923
– 24

November 22, 1923–January 2, 1924, 45th Annual Exhibition of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, Art Gallery of Toronto.

1928
– 30

February 11–28, 1928, and April 5–27, 1930, Exhibition of Paintings and Drawings by the Group of Seven, Art Gallery of Toronto.

1935

May 18–June 1, 1935, Exhibition of Drawings by Kathleen Munn, LeMoine FitzGerald, Bertram Brooker, Malloney Galleries, Toronto.

1946

October 5–November 7, 1946, Windsor Art Association Exhibition, Willistead Art Gallery, Windsor.

1949

August 26–September 10, 1949, Canadian National Exhibition, Toronto.

1954

April 9–May 5, 1954, Canadian Drawings, Willistead Art Gallery, Windsor.


For the most complete published exhibition and review record, see
Zemans, Joyce, Elizabeth Burrell, and Elizabeth Hunter. Kathleen Munn, Edna Taçon: New Perspectives on Modernism in Canada. Toronto: Art Gallery of York University, 1988, 52–54. 
          Also, for online access to some of Kathleen Munn’s early exhibition history, search “Index to Art in Canada to 1930,” hosted by the National Gallery of Canada Library & Archives; and “OSA Exhibition Catalogue Search,” hosted by the Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art.


Installation view of Munn exhibition in 2008, Art Gallery of Windsor

Selected Exhibitions since 1988 

1988
– 90

October 13–November 13, 1988, Kathleen Munn, Edna Taçon: New Perspectives on Modernism in Canada, Art Gallery of York University, Toronto. Curated by Joyce Zemans. Travelled to Art Gallery of Windsor, December 10, 1988–January 22, 1989; Concordia Art Gallery, Montreal, February 23–April 8, 1989; Edmonton Art Gallery, April 29–June 11, 1989; McIntosh Gallery, London, July 16–September 10, 1989; Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Kingston, September 30–November 5, 1989; Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa, January 4–February 11, 1990. Catalogue.
          Kathleen Munn, Edna Taçon: New Perspectives on Modernism in Canada is the posthumous exhibition that reintroduced Kathleen Munn and affirmed her place in the history of modern art in Canada. As a result of this touring exhibition and its accompanying catalogue, her work was soon sought after by important private and public collections across Canada. 

2008
– 12

December 13, 2008–February 15, 2009, Kathleen Munn and Lowrie Warrener: The Logic of Nature, The Romance of Space, Art Gallery of Windsor. Curated by Cassandra Getty. Travelled to Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa, January 9–March 7, 2010; Confederation Centre Art Gallery, Charlottetown, January 22–May 1, 2011; Mendel Art Gallery, Saskatoon, September 30, 2011–January 8, 2012. Catalogue. 

2009
– 10

October 8, 2009–January 3, 2010, The Nude in Modern Canadian Art, 1920–1950, Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec. Curated by Michèle Grandbois and Anna Hudson. Travelled to Glenbow Museum, Calgary, February 13–April 25, 2010; Winnipeg Art Gallery, June 18–August 22, 2010. Catalogue.

2011

June 4–August 28, 2011, The Passion of Kathleen Munn, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto. Curated by Cassandra Getty and Georgiana Uhlyarik. Catalogue.


Installation view of Passion series in 2011, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto 

Critical Interpretations

Getty, Cassandra, ed. The Logic of Nature, The Romance of Space: Elements of Canadian Modernist Painting. Windsor: Art Gallery of Windsor, 2010. Exhibition catalogue.

Grandbois, Michèle, Anna Hudson, and Esther Trépanier. The Nude in Modern Canadian Art, 1920–1950. Quebec: Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, 2009. Exhibition catalogue.

Zemans, Joyce. “A Tale of Three Women: The Visual Arts in Canada, a Current Accounting.” RACAR (Canadian Art Review) 25, nos. 1–2 (1998): 103–22.

Zemans, Joyce, Elizabeth Burrell, and Elizabeth Hunter. Kathleen Munn, Edna Taçon: New Perspectives on Modernism in Canada. Toronto: Art Gallery of York University, 1988. Exhibition catalogue.


Archives

Kathleen Munn’s archives are housed at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, and are accessible by appointment. 

Important secondary material on Munn is contained in Bertram Brooker’s archives, held at the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg. 


References

Most surveys of twentieth-century Canadian art since the 1990s refer to the work of Kathleen Munn. 

Murray, Joan. Canadian Art in the Twentieth Century. Toronto: Dundurn Press, 1999.

Nasgaard, Roald. Abstract Painting in Canada. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 2007.

Tippett, Maria. By a Lady: Celebrating Three Centuries of Art by Canadian Women. Toronto: Penguin Canada, 1993.

Whitelaw, Anne, Brian Foss, and Sandra Paikowsky, eds. The Visual Arts in Canada: The Twentieth Century. Don Mills, ON: Oxford University Press, 2010. 


For links to scanned exhibition reviews as well as a selected bibliography, search the Canadian Women Artists History Initiative (CWAHI) database

Additional early references can be found in the artist files at the libraries of the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, and National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, and at the CWAHI Documentation Centre at Concordia University, Montreal, as well as in these selected texts:

Bradfield, Helen Pepall. Art Gallery of Ontario: The Canadian Collection. Toronto: McGraw-Hill, 1970.

Brooker, Bertram, ed. Yearbook of the Arts in Canada, 1928–1929. Toronto: Macmillan, 1929.

Duval, Paul. Canadian Drawings and Prints. Toronto: Burns & MacEachern, 1952.

Harper, J. Russell. Painting in Canada: A History. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1966.

Hughes, Margaret E. “A Guide to Canadian Painters.” Ontario Library Review, August 1940.

MacDonald, Colin S. A Dictionary of Canadian Artists. Ottawa: Canadian Paperbacks, 1967–90.

MacTavish, Newton. The Fine Arts in Canada. Toronto: Macmillan, 1925.

Robson, A.H. Canadian Landscape Painters. Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1932.


Further Reading

Kathleen Munn read widely, on topics including art history, theory, and criticism. Her library included books in English, Italian, German, and French; several monographs on El Greco, Rembrandt, Ingres, Cézanne, Picasso, and Tintoretto; books on the Vatican and ancient art from Greece, Egypt, Byzantium, South America, Africa, India, and Asia; and a book on the anatomy of the cow. 
          The following publications were formative for Munn and thus offer context to understanding her work:

Cheney, Sheldon. A Primer of Modern Art. New York: Boni & Liveright, 1924.

Fry, Roger. Vision and Design. London: Chatto & Windus, 1920.

Hambidge, Jay. Dynamic Symmetry in Composition as Used by the Artists. New York: Brentano’s, 1923.

. The Elements of Dynamic Symmetry. New York: Brentano’s, 1926.

Ross, Denman W. A Theory of Pure Design: Harmony, Balance, Rhythm. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1907. 

Wright, Willard Huntington. Modern Painting: Its Tendency and Meaning. New York: J. Lane, 1915.


Women Artists and Art History

Much work remains to be done to better understand and appreciate the contributions of women artists in Canada and beyond. These two recent projects are exemplary of the effort underway: 

Canadian Women Artists History Initiative.” Concordia University, Montreal, 2012.

Modern Women: Women Artists at the Museum of Modern Art.” Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2010.