Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

The Practice of Her Profession: Florence Carlyle, Canadian Painter in the Age of Impressionism

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

The Practice of Her Profession: Florence Carlyle, Canadian Painter in the Age of Impressionism

Article excerpt

Susan Butlin, The Practice of her Profession: Florence Carlyle, Canadian Painter in the Age of Impressionism (Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2009), 309pp + 24 colour plates. Cased. $49.95. ISBN 978-0-7735-3509-1.

Florence Carlyle (1864-1923) established herself as one of the leading Canadian artists of her time and her work, in particular her portraits, met with considerable critical and public success. She spent the latter part of her life in England (volunteering for work as an auxiliary nurse and in a munitions factory during the Great War) and died here. Her work - the Woodstock Art Gallery has a major collection - has since slid into relative obscurity. This is a very real pity since, even if it is not in the same league as that of women artists such as Lilias Torrance Newton or Prudence Heward, it has a great deal to offer and certainly deserves to be better known. Susan Butlin's monograph, the first fulllength study on Carlyle, is to be welcomed.

Carlyle was one of a number of Canadian women who set out to become professional artists at a time when such a thing was pretty well unheard of. Tradition, convention and prejudice stood in their way. Drawing on unpublished letters and family memoirs, Butlin recounts how Carlyle single-mindedly went about pursuing her career: how she managed 'the practice of her profession'. In so doing, she sheds light on women's social condition, the role of women's art societies and women artists in general. (She also sheds considerable light on Canadian society of the time. Her description of the 'Victorian era' ball held at Toronto's Militia Armoury in December 1897 is especially instructive. …

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