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“Old MacDonald Had A Farm”

I don’t know how many children today know or sing the song “Old MacDonald Had a Farm”. Unfortunately Old MacDonald and his farm are anachronisms: individual farmers today are few and far between. Farms and their barns were favourite subjects for Clara and as you scroll through the website you’ll see numerous renditions. Different mediums, different seasons and different moods. Each scene tells a story: vignettes of past lives, activities and landscapes.

And Linda’s third painting substantiates this situation (See Curator’s Blog, “The Same But Different”, Tuesday, January 19, 2016). The third painting appears to have been reframed and has nothing written on the back.

Oil on canvas, 16 x 20”

Linda’s right. Clara didn’t identify the location of this scene but the details provide lots of information. The grey barns are varied in shape and size, each with a purpose and built as needed. The red structure by the large pine tree could be the farmer’s house. It’s cold: no human or beast is outside.

Here’s a different story about winter on the farm.

See Winter section, Winter on Ontario Farm, Oil on canvas, 14 X 17" In this scene someone is at the well getting water. It’s hard to distinguish if the building directly behind is for utility or living. The two houses on the slope, so similar in style, suggest the extended family lives and works there. The barn on the hill is large containing the animals, feed and tools all necessary for conducting agrarian work.

Here’s another side to farm life - maintaining livestock.

See Spring section, Log Barn and Outbuilding in Spring, Oil on board,10 x 14" The two buildings are made of logs, probably constructed by the farmer and farmhands. These cows are lucky: grazing freely. Today it’s costly and extra work to have livestock wandering around fields. It gives new meaning to the term “free range”. And then the farm romanticized:

See Summer section, Glorious June (on the farm) 1933, Oil on board, 10 x 13"

Titled and dated by artist. This is the title that Clara gave this scene and as the artist instead of the farmer, it would have been glorious: sitting at an easel recording this beautiful sunny, warm Ontario day. There is no hint of hardship here just pure enjoyment!

And then back to work:

See Autumn section, Autumn on the Farm in Ontario, Oil on canvas, 10 x 17". Titled and dated by artist.

With soft autumn hues combined with the rolling, gentle topography Clara presents the viewer with an ethereal depiction of farm life. However the three figures in the foreground are at work reminding the onlooker that toil comes before enjoyment. So once again Clara leaves a valuable legacy. Her scenes some documented, some not, record the death knell of the Ontario family farm. The barn, the rolling hills, the farmer and the animals exist in a different form today. Mechanization and commercial practices have decimated these bucolic scenes. Typically the old barns are dilapidated often wedged between commercial enterprises. Some barns get a second chance at life and are marketed on websites, sold and moved to the land of a hospitable purchaser. But for those of us who are not in the habit of buying old barns we can content ourselves with Clara’s farms.

See Summer section, Malton Road, Toronto, Ontario. Oil on canvas 14 x 17". Titled by artist.


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