Listening to Art

11.05: Florence Carlyle, The Studio

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Listening to Art, by William Denton.

Volume eleven, number five: The Studio by Florence Carlyle.

Hello, and welcome to Listening to Art. I’m William Denton.

Florence Carlyle (1864–1923) was a Canadian artist. Aged nineteen she exhibited at what is now the Canadian National Exhibition, where one of her works was bought by Princess Louise, the daughter of Queen Victoria and wife of the Marquess of Lorne, the governor general of Canada. In 1890 she moved to Paris to study and work, and exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1893. She spent some time in London, then moved back to Canada, where she was elected an associate member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. This painting was made in that period: it was painted in 1903 and shown at the RCA exhibition in April, where it sold for $25. She then spent some years working in New York, and in 1913 moved to England.

The full story of her life and career is given in The Practice of Her Profession: Florence Carlyle, Canadian Painter in the Age of Impressionism by Susan Butlin. I quote from her introduction (pp. xv–xvii):

[Carlyle] was both a woman painter and a painter of women. She was an artist who invented herself because there were few examples to emulate or maps to follow on the journey she chose to make. Role models for the kind of strategically organized, self-defined career that Carlyle lived were rare in Canada when she began to establish herself in the 1880s. She found unusual ways of doing so, such as working part of the year at lucrative calendar art commissions for a New York firm. Her life and career as an artist were prototypical examples of the “New Woman’s” approach to professional identity.

During the height of her career in the early twentieth century, Carlyle not only attained critical success, winning prizes in Canada and the United States, but her paintings engaged and delighted the viewing public. Prior to 1914 she was considered by critics and peers to be among the leading Canadian women artists of her generation.…

If Carlyle is less well known today than she was during her lifetime, this is probably more a reflection of gender politics and the relative place of figural painting in the stylistic hierarchy of Canadian twentieth-century art rather than of the quality of her work. The waning of recognition after her death in 1923, her fall into marginality and ultimately obscurity in Canadian art writing, also occurred with many of her contemporaries who were women artists. Carlyle’s national prominence as an artist is evident in the surveys of Canadian art written during the 1920s and 1930s, but by the late 1930s, the style of art she represented was long out of vogue. Collectors lost interest in her, and after 1945 surveys of Canadian art excluded mention of her.

This is a painting, oil on canvas, 76.7 cm wide by 58.6 cm high.

Now let’s listen to The Studio by Florence Carlyle, recorded at the National Gallery of Canada, in Ottawa, on 28 June 2022.

Waveform of the field recording.

That was The Studio by Florence Carlyle. I hope you enjoyed listening to it as much as I did.

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All web sites accessed as of date of publication.

Butlin, Susan. The Practice of Her Profession: Florence Carlyle, Canadian Painter in the Age of Impressionism. Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2009.

Wikipedia, s.v. “Florence Carlyle,”