Women, Art and Disabilities at the Art Gallery of Ontario

CASSATT – MCNICOLL: IMPRESSIONISTS BETWEEN WORLDS - exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario

A rare exhibition showcasing the work of female impressionist, Canadian Helen McNicol and American Mary Cassatt, is now on display at the Art Gallery of Ontario. This exceptional presentation demonstrates how these women transcended barriers of sexism and disabilities. OPSEU/SEFPO’s Disability Rights Caucus (DRC) strongly encourages everyone to take this unique opportunity to see these lesser-known masters at their finest.

McNicols’ work was once a permanent feature in the AGO’s European gallery, however that space is now understandably dedicated to showcasing a wide variety of artists, leaving her own work less frequently exhibited.

The curators have remarkably juxtaposed the work of these two artists who, despite never having met, exhibit extraordinary similarities and parallels in their art.

The similarities in artistic and feminist visions of these two incredible artists is striking and compelling.

Both women were active as professional artists at the time of the suffragette movement, and both highlight women doing progressive, non-domestic activities. These representations, like women reading newspapers, painting, or deep in thought, were uncommon and discouraged at the time. The work of both these groundbreaking artists brilliantly captures women in artistic and intellectual pursuits. Both artists also lived with disabilities.

Equally remarkable is their use of brush strokes and colour, particularly McNicol’s soul-warming yellows, to shed light on the women’s movement’s efforts to overcome societal expectations and structural barriers. Yet, despite their exceptional contributions to art, these women remain less recognized internationally as masters of impressionism.

Significantly poignant is that both Cassatt and McNicol had disabilities. Cassatt battled diabetes, rheumatism, neuralgia and cataracts, which led her to stop painting in 1917 due to near blindness. Helen McNicol, who lost her hearing at the age of two from scarlet fever, died at the age of 35 due to diabetes complications.

OPSEU/SEFPO Disability Rights Caucus enthusiastically encourages everyone to go to the AGO to experience this rare event, which will likely never be repeated.

This must see and important exhibit closes at the Art Gallery of Ontario September 4, 2023.

For more information: https://ago.ca/exhibitions/cassatt-mcnicoll-impressionists-between-worlds


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