Margaret Alexandra Luke
14 May 1901
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
|Died||June 1, 1967 (aged 66)|
Oshawa, Ontario, Canada
|Education||Banff School of Fine Arts|
Marcus Everett Smith (m. 1925–1926)
Clarence Ewart McLaughlin (m. 1929)
Luke was born into an upper-class family in Montreal. She was born a twin to parents Jesse Herbert Ritson Luke and Emma Russell Long. After she had finished high school in 1914, the family settled in Oshawa, Ontario. Soon after, both Alexandra and her twin sister Isobel began nurse's training at Columbia Hospital for Women in Washington, D.C.
After her graduation, Luke returned to Oshawa and married Marcus Everett Smith. Their marriage was short lived, as Smith died suddenly four months into their marriage, but Luke gave birth to his son, Richard, in 1926. Soon after, she was courted by Clarence Ewart McLaughlin, son of George W. McLaughlin and grandson of Robert McLaughlin, the founder of the McLaughlin Carriage Company. The couple married in 1928 and had their first child, Mary, in 1930.
Work and Painters Eleven
It wasn't until her late 20s that Luke began to create art. Inspired by two local artists, Dorothy Van Luven and Dorothy Henderson, she began to paint and organize arts classes around the city. She used her wealth to help build the arts community in Oshawa and became a member of several boards and societies, including the Oshawa Women's Lyceum Club and Oshawa Historical Society.
Luke painted landscapes in a large, third floor studio in her husband's home and soon discovered abstract art after visiting modernist exhibitions in Toronto and Ottawa. Desperate to be seen as more than a hobbyist painter, she sought out a portfolio review by landscape artist Caven Atkins in 1944. Atkins gave her a blunt review and told her that her Group of Seven-inspired style was not viable. This pushed her to further explore abstraction and receive formal art training at the Banff School of Fine Arts (renamed Banff Centre) in 1945, then the Hans Hofmann School of Art in 1947. From Hofmann's teachings, she began to understand how to create energy in her paintings with colour, texture and the use of white space.
She began to exhibit her work in the early 1950s at different venues, including the Canadian Group of Painters and the Picture Loan Society. In 1952, she organized the first Canadian Abstract Exhibition, where she met the members that would form the Painters Eleven. With this group, she was inspired to create more paintings, and she was able to showcase her works in a wide range of venues in the United States and Canada. She championed the promotion of Canadian abstract art and had a "strengthening, inspirational" role in the group.
Luke continued to paint and support abstract art until her death from ovarian cancer on 1 June 1967. She had created a sizable volume of work and participated in over 80 group exhibitions and solo shows. She had also been accepted into prestigious arts societies, including the Canadian Group of Painters in 1959 and the Ontario Society of Artists in 1960.
Shortly before her death, Luke and her husband Ewart offered major financial support and works from their own collection toward the creation of a public art gallery for the City of Oshawa. This became The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, named after Ewart's grandfather, in 1967.
- 2002: The Alexandra Luke Gallery, Bracebridge (retrospective)
- 1977: The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa (retrospective)
- 1960: Simpson's Baker Galleries, Toronto
- 1955: Eglinton Gallery, Toronto
- 1953: Martha Jackson Gallery, New York
- 1952: Picture Loan Society, Toronto
- National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
- The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa
- Museum London, London, Ontario
- "Luke, Alexandra". Canadian Women Artists History Initiative. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
- "Alexandra Luke". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
- Nowell, Iris (2010). Painters Eleven: The Wild Ones of Canadian Art. Vancouver, BC: Douglas & McIntyre. pp. 101–111. ISBN 978-1-55365-590-9.
- Murray, Joan (1987). Alexandra Luke: Continued Searching. Oshawa, Ontario: The Robert McLaughlin Gallery. pp. 1–9.
- "The History". The Robert McLaughlin Gallery. Archived from the original on 9 July 2012. Retrieved 24 June 2013.