Painting a Life Together

September 19, 2015 – February 14, 2016
Kathleen Daly and George Pepper

George Pepper, Old Barn, Québec, 1937, oil on canvas, Firestone Collection of Canadian Art, The Ottawa Art Gallery: Donated to the City of Ottawa by the Ontario Heritage Foundation, 1974.

George Pepper, Old Barn, Québec, 1937, oil on canvas, 62 cm x 75 cm, Firestone Collection of Canadian Art, The Ottawa Art Gallery: Donated to the City of Ottawa by the Ontario Heritage Foundation, 1974.

Opening reception: Thursday, October 1, 6:00pm

Kathleen Daly (1898–1994) and George Pepper (1903–1962) were married in 1929 and held their first joint exhibition in Ottawa in 1932. Inspired by the Group of Seven, that exhibition focused on landscapes painted in bright, saturated colours and also included portraits and figure studies. Described as “exhilarating,” the exhibition received rave reviews and marked the beginning of a lifetime of exhibiting together.

Daly’s and Pepper’s careers developed at a time when there was a strong emphasis on the image of a rugged, masculine artist as the new voice of Canadian art. Typified by the Group of Seven, this popular conception did little to encourage female artists whose accomplishments were often overshadowed by their male contemporaries. Consequently, a twofold obstacle was created for women in artist-couple relationships, as they were often relegated to the role of “artist wife,” their careers an afterthought next to those of their husbands. Despite these challenges, it is rare to find an instance in which Daly’s career was viewed as secondary to Pepper’s. The couple was able to navigate both their careers and their relationship by maintaining a strong partnership. They remained steadfast sketching and travelling companions until Pepper’s sudden death in 1962, after which Daly continued her artistic practice.

Over the course of their marriage, the couple travelled and painted across Canada, Spain and Morocco. Of these, their most well-known trips were to the Canadian Arctic region. They completed two extended visits: the first to Ellesmere Island (1960) on behalf of the Canadian government and the second to Puvirnituq in northern Quebec (1961). Daly later made a third and final trip to the Arctic, visiting Puvirnituq in 1968. These trips not only serve to highlight Daly and Pepper’s companionship but also their long-held interest in diverse cultures and the internal colonialism in which they operated. 

This exhibition draws from the collection of the Musée d’art contemporain de Baie-Saint-Paul to complement the works from the Firestone Collection of Canadian Art. In this way, Kathleen Daly and George Pepper can be seen as equal partners in life and art.

Curated by Melissa Alexander


ACTIVITIES INSPIRED BY PAINTING A LIFE TOGETHER 

Inuit-Qallunaat Visual Encounters with Dr. Carol Payne
Sunday, October 25, 2 pm 
Christ Church Cathedral, 439 Queen Street 
Presented in partnership with The Ottawa International Writers Festival 

Curator Tour 
Thursday, November 5, 5:30 pm 

Film Screening: Sol (78 Min) 
Thursday, November 12, 7 pm 
Club SAW, 67 Nicholas Street 
Presented in partnership with the Asinabka Film and Media Arts Festival