UNTITLED COMPOSITION, 1957
oil on board
20 ins x 24 ins; 50.8 cms x 61 cms
Alexandra Luke (1901-1967) was one of two women artist members of the Painters 11. Factually, her contribution was eclipsed by the more flamboyant male members of the group but the consistently high quality of her work as evidenced by this Untitled Composition from 1957 suggests a reassessment is due.
Luke was on the ground floor of many of the significant developments in the history of Abstract painting in Canada. She studied with Jock Macdonald at the Banff School of Fine Arts in 1945. It was at that time that Macdonald was experimenting with his exquisite abstracted watercolours motivated by the technique of Automatic Surrealism. Essentially the idea was to commence mark-making without forethought concerning either subject matter or pre-planned compositions. Each successive stroke called forth a countervailing, complimentary, offsetting reaction until the work was, intuitively, judged complete. Luke employed this progressive new technique.
From 1947 to 1951, she attended summer courses at the Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts in Provincetown, Massachusetts. In 1952 she held her first solo exhibition at the Picture Loan Society in Toronto. In 1952, she organized the Canadian Abstract Exhibition and was invited to participate in the ground-breaking fall 1953 exhibition Abstracts at Home at the Simpson's downtown store in Toronto. In October 1953, she banded together with this core group of exhibitors along with others to form Painters 11. In 1953 she had the honour of exhibiting at the prestigious Martha Jackson Gallery, NY (who exhibited Borduas commencing that year until his death). Naturally, Luke participated in all the major Painters 11 exhibitions: Roberts Gallery 1954, Riverside Art Museum, NY 1956 and Park Gallery 1957. She was a driving force in the push to establish abstraction in Toronto.
Private Collection, Whitby