Helen McNicoll


1879-1915 Helen Galloway McNicoll was born in Toronto. She studied at the school of the Art Association of Montreal under William Brymner; at the Slade School, London; and with Algernon Talmadge at St Ives. She lived in Montreal. A.R.C.A. in 1914 and died in Swanage (England).


A talented artist of independent means (her father was vice-president and director of Canadian Pacific Railway), Helen McNicoll garnered considerable acclaim during her short lifetime. As a child she became deaf as a result of a bout with scarlet fever, but this physical condition did not prevent her from pursuing formal studies in painting at the Montreal Art Association and the Slade School of Art in London, England. She spent several years in England, painting at St. Ives, where she met her close friend and companion, Dorothea Sharp, a British artist. Inspired by the Impressionists and their experiments with the visual qualities of light, McNicoll painted landscapes, figure studies, seashore scenes, and genre scenes, most often in Quebec and France, and is known for her ability to depict the various effects of sunlight. Her subject matter frequently includes scenes of bonding between women and children, and is often described as "intimate" and "feminine." Elected to the Royal Society of British Artists and the Royal Canadian Academy, she also won the Jessie Dow Prize in 1908 and the Women's Art Society Prize in 1914. She lived most of her life in Montreal. The National Gallery of Canada, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, and the Art Gallery of Hamilton all have examples of her work in their collections, and two retrospective exhibitions have been organized since her death.