DORIS JEAN MCCARTHY, O.S.A., R.C.A.
Wynick/Tuck Gallery, Toronto
Private Collection, Picton, Ontario
William Moore and Stuart Reid, Celebrating Life: The Art of Doris McCarthy, McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Kleinburg, 1999, page 180 and 181.
At the young age of fifteen, Doris McCarthy (1910-2010) attended the Ontario College of Art under the tutelage of Arthur Lismer. Lismer had a loyal following of eager and keen students ready to absorb his knowledge, and a classroom where “Lismer’s lectures, insight, and criticism were enthusiastically (embraced) by McCarthy.” McCarthy was one of his star pupils, winning complete tuition and further scholarships for her education and would go on to work for Lismer at the Art Gallery of Toronto.
Reviews of McCarthy's work has often included commentary on the intrepidness of the artist, remarking on her habit of travelling to remote locales to capture the essence of the Canadian experience. The personality of the painter, whose charm was legendary, often received as much "ink" as the painting itself. McCarthy's gender and, eventually, her impressive longevity - she lived until she was 100 - have at times diverted attention away from the work itself. These aspects aside, she rightfully claims a top spot as one of our most popular and enduring landscape painters.
It is interesting to consider the arc of her career as represented by Desert at Taos. McCarthy had painted in the desert before but, of course, these were arctic deserts. Here she tackles a novel landscape to which she has no pre-existing sentimental or nationalistic attachment. But as surely as any arc if extended may form a full circle, might we see here a "reminiscence of things past."
It is widely accepted that our early life experiences are our most profound in terms of the impressions with which they mark us. Seemingly in Desert at Taos, 1998, McCarthy’s quick, diffused brushwork, particularly in the scrubby shrubs in the foreground and light, whimsical colours, cannot but remind us of Lismer, whose lessons from long ago are present as a whispered memory of days spent with her most influential teacher and mentor.