Saturday 5 May 2012


The Plains of Abraham
In the summer of 1907, Bertha travelled to Québec with a group of her colleagues, and of course she painted.

Experiencing a new visual and cultural ambience must have been a revelation to her artist's eye. It stimulated her desire for experimentation, and perhaps freed her from influences and expectations at home. The works she created during the Québec trip have a character that is quite different in subject matter, colour, and technique from what had gone before.

It would happen on later excursions, as well (as we shall see). She was not able to travel extensively or often; her opportunities were limited by financial constraints, by her commitment to her parents (especially in their later years), and to some degree by her lameness in one leg, the result of a serious childhood illness. But she did set off to distant horizons on a few occasions, and always made good use of those chances to develop and expand her creative palette.

At least half of the pages in the oldest sketchbook we have contain her pencil work from the Québec trip. They are superb little gems, breathtakingly perceptive and deftly executed. A few are shown here, along with some of the paintings. More of the sketchbook can be viewed in this album.

The excursion was, at least in part, a 'business trip'. A postcard that Bertha sent to her mother in July 1907 makes it clear that she and her colleagues were hoping to sell their work and perhaps gain new commissions. We know nothing of how successful they were.


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