top of page

“Good Fences Make Good...”

As described in the January 21, 2016, Curator’s Blog, “The Same But Different” Linda S. sent three photos of Clara’s paintings. The second painting, shown above, reminded me of Robert Frost’s phrase “Good Fences Make Good Neighbours” from his poem Mending Wall ( In Clara’s case the use of fences in her work makes for other things.

Linda’s description:

"The painting of the birch tree in winter appears to be reframed and there is no writing on the back. It’s painted on canvas measuring approximately 16 x 20”.

At an initial glance this painting is not typical of Clara’s winter scenes. The rushing water, clumps of birches, rows of conifers and distinct buildings are absent. The large, white tree in the foreground and fence dominate the picture. But less is more and the more I looked at the details the more I saw. And it all seemed so familiar. As I scrolled through the website it became obvious: Clara’s use of fences. The type of old Ontario farm fencing that is disappearing. In Linda’s painting the break in the fence invites the viewer to walk through, cross the snowy field and go towards the distant hills. It adds interest and a sense of perspective.

See Research Tour June 2013, Richmond Hill In this sketch Clara’s inclusion of the fence in the foreground with the outbuilding and farmhouse in the background lends some understanding of farm life before the existence of large cooperatives and modern mechanization. With the wagon and broken fence pieces scattered around the viewer gets the message: a farmer’s work is never done.

In this sketch Clara’s up-close study of the fence could be incorporated into another scene at a later date. Today’s version of the “cut and paste” of computer editing.

See Spring section, Nogies Creek, Bobcaygeon, Ontario, Oil on board 10 x 14" In this painting of Nogies Farm, the logs and stumps act as the fence. When a tree fell or was cut down a natural boundary could be created. With luck the log fell in the right place negating the need to move it elsewhere. Farmers weren’t in the habit of calling fence companies!

Here’s a great example of Clara’s use of a fence to add perspective and interest. Without it the barn would assume centre stage creating a different scene and a different feeling. The sketch above illustrates this point.

See Summer section, Stump Fence in Summer, Oil on board 10 x 14" In this scene the curved contours of the stump fence complement the incline of the landscape. It’s easy to imagine Clara at her easel with paints and canvas capturing the warmth of this Ontario summer day.

Here Clara has created a scene reminiscent of a Christmas card. The arrangement of the buildings near and far are presented in a soft, impressionist style. The long perimeter of fencing in the foreground adds to the nostalgia of the scene. As artist Clara would debate and then decide what she wanted to include in a piece. Put in Robert Frost’s prose:

Before I built a wall I’d ask to know. What I was walling in or walling out.”

See Research Tour, October 2011 Buildings and Barn in Snow, Oil on Masonite 14 x 17”


Recent Posts

bottom of page