February 19 – May 29, 2016

Download a copy of the Winter Exhibitions booklet.

Just as she was beginning her life in Canada as a professional artist, Paraskeva Clark (1898 – 1986) was hired circa 1933 – 34 to work for René Cera in the design department of the Timothy Eaton Company in Toronto. Her career as a commercial artist was relatively brief, and the work that survives from these commissions is rare. Clark was hired due to her knowledge of modern European art and her experience working as a theatre designer in Petrograd, now St. Petersburg. Along with a roster of emerging Canadian painters that included Pegi Nicol MacLeod, Clark promoted modernist sensibilities through the paintings she produced for the large window displays at the Eaton’s flagship store located at College and Yonge Streets.

With these display spaces, the T. Eaton Co. saw an opportunity to cultivate an audience for modern art appreciation and, perhaps more importantly, an art-buying public. Eaton’s stores also housed Fine Art Galleries in cities across the country. An interest in French and German art and design of the 1920s and 1930s also reflected Eaton’s desire to match European trends in modern merchandise and display methods to attract a sophisticated urban clientele. Clark worked on commissions as a painter for a period of five years, decorating three to four window displays annually for Canada’s leading department store.  

The Firestone Collection of Canadian Art contains three Working Drawings for Eaton’s Windows that Paraskeva Clark designed circa 1935. The Firestone family’s method of collecting allows for an expanded consideration of Clark’s practice as a whole, as they made an effort to acquire work from every stage of an artist’s career. This accounts for the three working drawings for Eaton’s that document this lesser-known aspect of Clark’s working life in Canada.   

Displaying preparatory drawings in the Firestone Collection alongside completed works also affords an opportunity to consider the artist’s process as a draughtswoman and painter who worked comfortably in both watercolour and oils. Clark’s commercial work and later forays into painted assemblages and abstraction in the 1960s are presented here alongside rarely exhibited work borrowed from private collections.

Clark’s Eaton’s commissions are precursors to the socially and politically engaged work for which she is best known. She later recalled that her work with René Cera, creating “huge stage like decoration panels” for the Eaton’s windows, gave her the confidence to tackle “new problem[s] which gave me the nerve to try experimentation in my easel painting [and] watercolours.” This exhibition opens a new window on this remarkable Canadian artist so audiences can appreciate the growth of experimentation rooted in Paraskeva Clark’s practice. 

Michelle Gewurtz, Interim Senior Curator 


All activities are free and open to the public 

Thursday, March 3, 6 PM
Join curator Michelle Gewurtz (OAG), and Charlie Hill, former Curator, Canadian Art at the National Gallery for a closer look at the exhibition. Light refreshments will be served.

Wednesday, April 20, 2 PM
Curator Michelle Gewurtz will lead a walkthrough of the exhibition. Light refreshments will be served.