“I am fascinated by the sense of interiority that Heward was able to create in these paintings of non-smiling women.” (Julia Skelly, from an excellent article published through the Art Canada Institute, which can be read here.
Our latest Artist You Need To Know is Prudence Heward (1896–1947) who is described by no less than A.Y. Jackson, a founding member of the Group of Seven, as “the very best painter we ever had in Canada and she never got the recognition she richly deserved in her lifetime.”
Heward (perhaps the best known member of the Beaver Hall Group and co founder of the Canadian Group of Painters and the Contemporary Arts Society) is primarily known for her evocative yet direct portraits and figure paintings, with intense, almost acidic tones, a treatment of space in her pictures that is almost sculptural, and figures – most often women, and contemporaneous to her time – that confront and almost challenge the viewer, suggesting interior worlds to her subjects that are dense and perhaps unknowable.
Her work can be found in the collections of Winnipeg Art Gallery, the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec (MNBAQ), and at the National Gallery of Canada, among numerous other spaces.
Over half a century after her passing, Canada Post, as part of their Art Canada Collection, issued a commemorative stamp and souvenir sheet featuring two of Heward’s paintings: At the Theatre (1928) and Rollande (1929).
The National Gallery mounted a retrospective of her work posthumously, but her legacy is, in some ways, more pervasive than many who were better known during her lifetime, as her images of woman are like a historical snapshot of her time. Heward’s treatment of her subjects reflects how she lived during a tumultuous period, in terms of art and society, and in looking upon her works, more than half a century later, ideas and narratives around class, gender, and race which informed her work still resonate with us today.