Ladylikeness: Historical Portraits of Women by Women at Glenbow Museum

Glenbow-Ladylikeness exhibition banner

Library and Archives Canada, in partnership with the Glenbow Museum, is pleased to present the second in a series of five portrait-themed exhibitions, Ladylikeness: Historical Portraits of Women by Women.

Each exhibition in the series features a different selection of portraits from LAC’s collection. The theme of this new exhibition is historical portraits of women, made by women artists. Visitors will be able to discover a variety of paintings, prints, drawings and photographs by both amateur and professional artists. For example, Elizabeth Simcoe (1790) by Mary Ann Burges, Demasduit (1819) by Lady Henrietta Martha Hamilton and Frances Adaskin (1950–1952) by Paraskeva Clark.

Ladylike... or unladylike?

Women made portraits of other women to document family relationships, cement friendships, bestow patronage, and even to build professional careers.

Through much of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, women were denied access to the established system of art school training, which centred on life drawing (the study of nude models). Gradually, it became acceptable for upper class young ladies to learn the basics of sketching, drawing and painting. However, women were still discouraged from becoming serious about art: it was considered unladylike for any woman to achieve more than a limited proficiency.

Still, many women defied the odds, attaining high levels of accomplishment, whether as amateur artists or professionals. Portraiture offered an alternative path to success for an artist untrained in life drawing.

Canada’s Portraits at Glenbow

Library and Archives Canada is home to many of our country’s most important portraits. These historical and modernist works provide a unique visual history of Canada. One that is interpreted on a human scale, through the faces of individuals, known or unknown, who have shaped and who continue to shape Canada’s history and culture.

As part of a multi-year collaboration with Library and Archives Canada, Glenbow will host a series of five portrait-themed exhibitions drawn from LAC’s collection. In some cases, portraits from Glenbow’s collection will augment the exhibitions.

For more information about the exhibition and its opening hours, visit the Glenbow Museum.

From March 8, 2019 to January 5, 2020
Glenbow Museum
130 9th Avenue S.E.
Calgary, Alberta

Some of the works in the exhibition

Watercolor painting showing a monochrome portrait of a caucasian lady with a tall blue hat inside a gold colored medallion oval frame

Elizabeth Simcoe
By Mary Ann Burges, 1790
Watercolour on wove paper
Library and Archives Canada, e011213498

Color oil painting showing a standing caucasian lady dressed in yellow in front of a grand piano with violet flowers and music score on top.

Frances Adaskin
By Paraskeva Clark, 1950–1952
Oil on canvas
Library and Archives Canada, c151469k

Black and white panoramic photograph showing a caucasian lady seated in front of rocky Mountain chain covered partially with snow.

The Summit
By Blossom Caron, 1952
Library and Archives Canada, e011213413

Black and white drawing of a caucasian lady dressed in apron and army boots ironing a military coat.

CWAC ironing
From W110278 the Personal War Records of Private Lamb, M.
By Molly Lamb Bobak, 1942
Graphite on wove paper
Library and Archives Canada, e006078922

Color painting showing portrait of a Beothuk indigenous lady dressed in a red coat with a furry collar.

By Lady Henrietta Martha Hamilton, 1819
Watercolour on ivory
Library and Archives Canada, c087698k

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