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Extra Extra Read All About Her: Women’s Art History in the Making

April 17, 2019

Florence Wright contacted me in 2017 at the Lambton House reception for Toronto Doors Open.  The details are described in the November 8, 2017 Curator’s Blog  “Who is Florence Wright and Why is She Important?”

Since then Florence and I have kept in touch. 


Florence, a student of Clara’s and an accomplished artist in her own right, revealed so many details of life as a woman artist.


During our last meeting Florence shared a sizable collection of Clara’s early work that adds so much to this archive.


Let’s start with the sketches.  Florence explained that an art student’s training included sketching classical figures.  She thinks Clara completed these at the Toronto Art Gallery  (today’s Art Gallery of Ontario).  We know by the dates of the sketches that Clara was 27 years old and unmarried.


For cataloguing purposes I’ve titled each piece.  All of the sketches are large folio size 14 ½ x 18 ½”


Charcoal Sketches

























Augustus Caesar, Signed “Perry”, 1914                 Face of Roman Woman, Signed “Perry”, 1914



                                           Woman in Head Covering, Signed “Perry”, 1914


 Clara’s notation on sketch paper: Jan. 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 1915.


























Nude Woman, Signed “Perry”, 1915                              Nude Woman With Hair Up






















Nude Woman Leaning Against Table                                              Nude Woman With Short Hair



























Male Form Standing                                                   Aristotle, Signed “Perry”, 1920





Pastel Sketches and Portraits

























Old Man With Beard                                                       Roman Man Seat





























Woman With Yellow Scarf                                     Seated Woman With Yellow Scarf




























Woman in Blue Top                                                     Young Lady in Blue



























Woman in Green                                                             Woman in Blue Hat and Coat




Paintings on Unstretched Canvases


And here are some unstretched oil on canvas paintings which reveal a different and early style of Clara’s. 

















Red Barn                                                                          By the Water





















Abandoned Cabin                                                                                    Building in Woods



And some of Florence’s maxims: 


Painters will do anything to paint, capture the weather and the light of the subject and landscape.  Florence remembers getting up at 3:00 a.m., meeting with her colleagues and driving out of Toronto to paint at various locations in all seasons.  When asked about poor weather conditions:  Oh we didn’t care we had too much to do and there was never enough time to get it done.


Every artist once deceased leaves a huge pile of unsold work behind.


Keep it simple stupid.  Throw the work into the cupboard and then go back and look at it again.  Then decide if it needs anything added.  In most cases simpler is better.


If I wasn’t happy with a piece I would tell myself, “Well I could do it better next time.  And then I always did”. 


You learn from every artist you meet but don’t try to imitate their work.  Then your work isn’t yours.


I studied art at Central Technical School at the corner of Bathurst and Harbord Streets in Toronto.  We’d line up to get our art supplies and then head out to the street and start painting. 


I loved painting winter scenes.  I’d use 5 x 7” pieces of masonite and look at the scene in another season.


You could almost touch the skin of Clara’s portraits….


Florence knew and has a lot of memories of the Group of Seven Artists particularly A.Y. Jackson and A.J. Casson.  Her stories like so many woman artists of her period need to be recorded contributing significant information to Canada’s art history……..

Who is Florence Wright????


A Downtown Toronto House







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© 2017 by Verna McLean.

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