150 Artists

3/150 Artists: The Defiant Prudence Heward

Prudence Heward (1896–1947) was a portrait artist celebrated for her defiant female figures and expressionist colours. At the Theatre (1928) shows women in a public place unaccompanied by men, reflecting the growing independence of women in the 1920s.

Heward-At the Cafe (Miss Mabel Lockerby, c. 1929

At the Cafe (Miss Mabel Lockerby), c. 1929

Montreal-born Heward specialized in portraits of women, despite the popularity of landscape painting in her lifetime. “Her portraits of physically robust but psychologically complex women challenged conventional representations of passivity,” notes the National Gallery of Canada.

Critics reacted with hostility to The Bather, 1930 (above), “perhaps in part because of the woman’s body type and unflattering pose,” writes Julia Skelly for The Art Canada Institute.

All of Heward’s female subjects . . . “rural or urban, black or white—are united through their lack of desire to please the viewer by smiling or performing expected roles,” Skelly writes. “They often return the viewer’s gaze defiantly, cross their arms over their bodies, or hunch their shoulders.”

Heward trained in France, was widely exhibited, and was affiliated with the Beaver Hall Group, the Canadian Group of Painters, and was a founder of the Contemporary Arts Society. She also exhibited with the Group of Seven.

The Art Canada Institute has a wonderful online e-book on Heward, written by Julia Skelly.

The Canadian Encyclopedia, here

This is #3in the series 150 Artists.

2 replies »

    • Which didn’t go over well with critics in a time of Group of Seven landscapes. I also love the boldness. Good on her for staying true to her inner artist.


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