Heritage Matters

Heritage Matters – Spring 2018

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Page 35 of 43

Heritage Matters 34 The cult of Doris Living to 100 is only the latest feat in the life of the singular painter Doris McCarthy, who once cut off her finger for her art By Anne Kingston, published by Maclean's on July 20, 2010 Doris McCarthy turned 100 last week – an achievement the artist's many friends attribute to the same steely determination that has animated her life. Over those 10 decades, McCarthy has touched thousands as a painter, teacher and mentor of generations of artists. Her greatest life lessons, however, have been through intrepid example: in showing how life can be lived with verve throughout a lifetime and how creativity ripens with age. Known for her insightful, quick wit and no-nonsense ways, McCarthy is very frail now, confined to bed at Fool's Paradise, the home she built on five hectares overlooking Lake Ontario near the Scarborough bluffs. "It's a miracle she made it to 100," says artist Wendy Wacko, McCarthy's former student and the producer of the 1983 docudrama Doris McCarthy: Heart of a Painter. "I swear she was holding on just for that." McCarthy's centenary is being marked by retrospectives of her 75-year career, prominently Roughing it in the Bush, comprised of 70 works, some never before seen publicly, at the Doris McCarthy Gallery at the University of Toronto's Scarborough campus and the U of T Art Centre downtown. The artist's long-time Toronto gallery, Wynick/Tuck, is mounting Eight Paintings/Eight Decades, which succinctly captures McCarthy's broad vocabulary of technique and evolving style. The constant is landscape, which the Calgary-born artist began depicting as a girl growing up in Toronto's Beaches neighbourhood and cottaging in Muskoka. A scholarship student at the Ontario College of Art, McCarthy studied with Group of Seven painters, among them J.E.H. MacDonald and Arthur Lismer, who offered her a teaching job at the Toronto Art Gallery and, after she graduated in 1930, a position at Grip, the advertising agency where many of the group worked. As a woman, she was expected to work for nothing. Having none of that, McCarthy took a position teaching art at Central Technical High School, where her students included Harold Klunder, Murray McLauchlan and Joyce Wieland, who said McCarthy inspired her to become an artist. The school, like many of the era, prohibited women from teaching after they married. "Doris said she would have happily stopped, but it didn't happen," says Lynne Wynick of Wynick/Tuck. Of the great love of her life, the husband of a friend, McCarthy is discreet, though she once told an interviewer she became closer to his widow after he died. Fool's Paradise. Photo: Toni Hafkensheid.

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