Helen McNicoll

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Helen Galloway McNicoll
Born(1879-12-14)December 14, 1879
Toronto, Canada
DiedJune 27, 1915(1915-06-27) (aged 35)
Swanage, United Kingdom
EducationArt Association of Montreal, Slade School of Fine Art
Known forPainting

Helen Galloway McNicoll (14 December 1879 – 27 June 1915) was a Canadian impressionist painter.[1] She was one of the most notable female artists in Canada in the early twentieth century and achieved considerable internal success during her decade-long career.[2] She played an important role in popularizing Impressionism in Canada at a time when it was still relatively unknown.[2]

Life and career[edit]

McNicoll was born in Toronto to an affluent family. Her parents were David McNicoll and Emily Pashley.[3] McNicoll became deaf in early childhood due to scarlet fever, and as a result, focused her energies on playing the piano and developing a keenly observant eye. As a young woman, she attended the Art Association of Montreal, beginning her studies under William Brymner in 1899. In 1902, she moved to England to study in London at the Slade School under Philip Wilson Steer. At the Slade, students were encouraged to paint en plein air. Later, McNicoll studied in St Ives, Cornwall with Algernon Talmage, where she met Dorothea Sharp, a fellow artist who became a lifelong friend. McNicoll and Sharp traveled together to France and Italy [4] sharing studio space, and posing for each other's paintings.[5]

A member of the Royal Society of British Artists and an associate of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts,[6] McNicoll died in Swanage, Dorset, at the early age of thirty six. An obituary described her as "one of the most profoundly original and technically accomplished of Canadian artists."


The Art Gallery of Ontario hosted an exhibition of McNicoll's work in 1999. Although she had relocated to England, during her lifetime McNicoll kept close ties to Canada, and her work was exhibited at the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts from 1906 to 1914.[7] Her work was also exhibited at the Ontario Society of Artists from 1910 until 1915 and at the AAM in 1906; 1908 to 1912; 1914–1915; 1922, and 1925. After her election as a member of the Royal Society of British Artists, her work was exhibited from 1913–1915. The Art Association of Montreal held a memorial show featuring 141 of her paintings in 1925.[8]

Further reading[edit]

  • Natalie Luckyj, Helen McNicoll : a Canadian Impressionist. Toronto : Art Gallery of Ontario, 1999.
  • Samantha Burton. Helen McNicoll: Life & Work. Toronto: Art Canada Institute, 2017. ISBN 978-1-4871-0152-7


  1. ^ "McNicoll, Helen Galloway". Canadian Women Artists History Initiative. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
  2. ^ a b Burton, Samantha (2017). Helen McNicoll: Life & Work. Art Canada Institute. ISBN 978-1-4871-0152-7.
  3. ^ Prakash, A.K. (2008). Independent Spirit: Early Canadian Women Artists. Buffalo, New York: Firefly Books. p. 288. ISBN 1554074177.
  4. ^ Art Gallery of Ontario (1979), Canadians in Paris 1867–1914, p. 43
  5. ^ Prakash, A.K. (2008). Independent Spirit: Early Canadian Women Artists. Buffalo, New York: Firefly Books. p. 267. ISBN 1554074177.
  6. ^ "Members since 1880". Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. Archived from the original on 26 May 2011. Retrieved 11 September 2013.
  7. ^ Farr, Dorothy; Luckyj, Natalie (1975). From Women's Eyes: Women Painters in Canada. Kingston: Agnes Etherington Art Centre. p. 30.
  8. ^ Tyndall, Joy (1997) Lecture: Rebalancing the picture: a few Canadian women artists 1890s to 1910s", pp. 21–22.

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