Isabel McLaughlin

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Isabel Grace McLaughlin, CM, O.Ont, CGP, Hon. CPA (b. 10 Oct 1903; d. at Toronto 26 Nov 2002) was a Canadian visual artist, patron and philanthropist. She was an early Modernist Canadian painter specializing in landscapes and still life with a strong interest in design.[1] McLaughlin appreciated depicting small "...growth, lichen, rocks and mosses; the exquisite beauty of colur and pattern delighted..."[2]


Born in Oshawa, Ontario, McLaughlin was one of five daughters to the founder of General Motors of Canada President Col. Robert Samuel McLaughlin. She studied art at the Ontario College of Art 1926–1930 under Group of 7 member Arthur Lismer and Yvonne McKague Housser whom the later she referred to as "remarkable".[3] She studied in Paris 1929, Vienna 1930 and with Hans Hofmann ca. 1947-52.[1] McLaughlin was to become lifelong friends with McKague Housser and the two went on painting excursions together often. In 1948 McKague Housser painted a watercolour depicting McLaughlin in it titled: "Isabel the Archaeologist, Cap Chat River"[4]

McLaughlin became an executive member of the Heliconian Club in Toronto.[5] In 1933 she was a founding member of the Canadian Group of Painters and served as its first woman president in 1939[6]

On December 1, 1987 McLaughlin made a substantial donation of art work from her own personal collection of works by other artists to The Robert McLaughlin Gallery. Some of these artists included Prudence Heward, Louis Archambault, B. C. Binning, Andre Bieler, Emil Bistram, Emily Carr, Parekseva Clark, Lyonel Feininger, Lawren Harris, A. Y. Jackson, Alexandra Luke, Peter Haworth, Bobs Cogill Haworth, J. E. H. MacDonald, Anne Savage, Irene Kindness, Arthur Lismer, Sarah Robertson among others.[7]

She was the recipient of the Order of Ontario in 1993 and the Order of Canada in 1997[8]


In 1994 Canadian artist Sheila Maki dedicated her solo exhibition at The Robert McLaughlin Gallery "Spirit of Freedom" to Isabel McLaughlin.[9]


During her 99 years of life McLaughlin was the subject of two authorized portrait sculptures one by Florence Wyle[10] and Christian Cardell Corbet[11][dead link] A mid-life portrait photograph was authorized by Reva Brooks in the 1950s.

Following her death her extensive arts career archives was donated to Queen's University Archives[12] It was at this same time her own art works, of which she kept most of during her career, became available to the public and currently is slowly being distributed annually to auction houses across Canada and sold to the scrutinizing collector. One such serious collector of McLaughlin's works is artist/collector Christian Corbet.


  1. ^ a b The Canadian Encyclopedia, The Canadian Encyclopedia, retrieved 2009-10-17 
  2. ^ Joan Murray (1995), The Art of Yvonne McKague Housser, The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, p. 36, ISBN 0-921500-11-4 
  3. ^ Joan Murray (1995), The Art of Yvonne McKague Housser, The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, p. 12, ISBN 0-921500-11-4 
  4. ^ Joan Murray (1995), The Art of Yvonne McKague Housser, The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, p. 69, ISBN 0-921500-11-4 
  5. ^ Huneault, Kristina; Anderson, Janice (2012-04-11). Rethinking Professionalism: Women and Art in Canada, 1850-1970. McGill-Queen's Press - MQUP. p. 32. ISBN 978-0-7735-3966-2. 
  6. ^ Canadian Women Artists History Initiative, retrieved 2009-10-17 
  7. ^ Joan Murray (1987), Part 1 The Isabel McLaughlin Gift Official Opening 1987, The Robert McLaughlin Gallery 
  8. ^ Appointments to the Order of Canada, Donald George Jackson, C.M, retrieved 2009-10-17 
  9. ^ Joan Murray (1994), Spirit of Freedom, The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, p. 4, ISBN 0-921500-05-X 
  10. ^ Joan Murray (2003), An Extraordinary Life, Isabel McLaughlin, Robert McLaughlin Gallery, ISBN 0-921500-68-8 
  11. ^ Canadian Who's Who 1997 Edition on the Web, Global Press, retrieved 2009-10-10 [permanent dead link]
  12. ^ 2007 News Exploring Techniques, Queen's University Archives, retrieved 2009-10-17