Hilda Woolnough

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Hilda Woolnough
Born Hilda Mary Woolnough
Northampton, England
Died 2007
Charlottetown, Canada
Nationality British
Known for Arts, advocacy
Notable work Guantanamo, Time Piece

Hilda Mary Woolnough RCA, (1934–2007) was an artist who exhibited in Europe, Asia, the Caribbean and North America. She lived in the artistic community of Breadalbane, Prince Edward Island, Canada.

Early life[edit]

Woolnough was born in Northampton, England in 1934, to a family with a long history of painters, including her mother, uncle and brother. Beginning traditional training at the Chelsea School of Art in London in 1952, and studying amongst a group of renowned artists, including Henry Moore, she experimented with printmaking and graduated with a focus in painting in 1955. She married psychiatrist Dennis Hopkins and together they had three children, Daniel, Lee, and John. Emigrating to Canada in 1957, she settled in Hamilton, Ontario, but left in 1965 to go to San Miguel de Allende Instituto in Mexico to study experimental etching, graduating in 1967 with a focus in graphics and a Masters in Fine Arts. Returning to London, she enrolled in the Central School of Art and Design, where she did post-grad technical art metal work.


Woolnough established an etching and lithography program at the [Jamaica School of Art] in [Kingston, Jamaica]. By this time, she had remarried Reshard Gool, a Canadian poet/writer/publisher, who founded a publication company known as Square Deal and wrote best-selling novel, Cape Town Coolie.[1] Woolnough and Gool bought a home in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, and taught at the University of Prince Edward Island, while forming a vibrant art society and starting their own newspaper, that failed only after a pro-radical Quebec separationist appearance in the paper created controversy within the broader community. During the 1970s, Hilda worked with native quilting, during the Native American craft revival.[2] In the 1980s, Hilda worked in the crafts program at Holland College, in PEI. Prince Edward Island Council of the Arts[3] stated the following, "Besides her career as an artist and arts advocate, she shared her great passion with her students, for the integration of strong design principles in handcraft design." In 1989 her partner Reshard Gool died, and she and her family created a provincial scholarship for Prince Edward Island students in his honor.

Even those whom Woolnough did not know personally, appreciated her contribution within the community. "Being new to the Island, I did not know Hilda personally. However, it was impossible not hear people speak of her and her affect on the Island's Arts landscape. We have lost a tremendous champion of the Arts and of artists. Through this scholarship, it is our hope that future generations of Island artists will also remember Hilda and her enduring contribution to the Island."[3] as stated by one Council of the Arts member. In 2001, a biography was published by author Linda Rae Dornan of Woolnough, titled "Hilda Woolnough: Timepiece."[4]

One of the final projects Woolnough worked on was in conjunction with Amnesty International concerning the crisis at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. Titled "Guantanamo", the 12-piece show toured worldwide. At one gallery in Japan, one gallery owner stated that she "first saw Hilda Woolnough's 10-panel graphite drawing Guantanamo when it was shown at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery in Charlottetown, PEI. [She] was very taken with the artistic strength of the 33-foot piece and immediately wished to have it shown in her gallery in Japan."[5] The following is an excerpt from a published review of the exhibition:

The 10 panels that make up Guantanamo are a testament to Woolnough's ongoing horror of the detainees' treatment, an appeal to bring the human face back to these men. Each of the 576 men imprisoned at Guantanamo during the time Woolnough worked on the piece in 2004 and 2005 is represented — but as faceless figures. Paper-doll chains are cut out and stacked to replicate the chain-link fence. In spread-eagle positions, the figures appear naked and shackled to one another. Rough representations of genitals appear on the figures in two panels. Using dark black strokes behind the links in some panels, or softer billowing shadows in others, Woolnough's work conveys a range of emotions, ranging from violence and anger to confusion and despair. Vertical black oblongs in the final two panels, which are placed to form a right angle, surround the viewer with the darkest area of the entire piece. The suggestion belies hope of release for the prisoners, and promises only death.[5]

After her death on 12 December 2007, at age 73, the Hilda Woolnough Memorial Scholarship was founded. As stated by the Prince Edward Island Council of the Arts, Woolnough "has left a wonderful legacy for artists both on the Island and throughout Canada."[3]


Woolnough was a member or founder of:

  • The Phoenix Gallery
  • The Great George Street Gallery
  • The Arts Guild
  • The Printmaker's Council
  • PEI Council of the Arts
  • The Gallery-on-Demand
  • Royal Canadian Academy of Arts[6]
  • The Student Art Expo

Woolnough received awards such as:

  • The Father Adrian Arsenault Senior Arts Award, 1999


Woolnough's work can be/has been seen in:

  • The Canada Council Art Bank
  • Air Canada, Montreal, Quebec
  • Art Gallery of Jamaica
  • Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, Ottawa, Ontario
  • Canadian Catholic Conference
  • Cantebury College of Art, Kent, England
  • Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario
  • Gallery 98 and Museum
  • CBC Montreal
  • Esso Resources Division
  • Gotland Museum, Visby, Sweden
  • McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa, Ontario
  • The Art Gallery of Ontario
  • The Montreal Museum of Fine Art
  • The Confederation Centre Art Gallery
  • Musee des Beaux Arts
  • The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia
  • Memorial University Art Gallery, St. John's, Newfoundland
  • Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Charlottetown, PE
  • The New Brunswick Art Gallery and Museum
  • Shell Canada Collection
  • St. Mary's University, Halifax, Nova Scotia
  • St. John's University
  • Toronto Dominion Bank
  • The Point Gallery


  1. ^ Amazon.com: Cape Town Coolie: Reshard Gool: Books
  2. ^ Hilda Woolnough, RCA, 1934–2007 « Women’s Equality Prince Edward Island
  3. ^ a b c School of Visual Arts/Craft: Hilda Woolnough Remembered
  4. ^ Amazon.co.uk: Hilda Woolnough: Timepiece: Linda Rae Dornan: Books
  5. ^ a b Cageprisoners.com – serving the caged prisoners in Guantanamo Bay
  6. ^ "Members since 1880". Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. Archived from the original on 26 May 2011. Retrieved 11 September 2013.

External links[edit]