Ethel Seath

Champignon No. 1 – Toadstools

oil on canvas board
15x20 in.
$9,800 Cdn.

Arthur Legget Fine Art & Antiques, Toronto;
Private collection, Toronto

Canadian Group of Painters: 1945-46 Exhibition, Art Gallery of Toronto and Art Association of Montreal

Ethel Seath’s paintings can be seen in complete contrast to her work as a commercial illustrator. Referred to as an artist who worked in “black and white” she would have created line drawings for three prominent Montreal newspapers; The Montreal Witness, The Montreal Star, and the Family Herald. When the opportunity came to teach at The Study, a new art school that had just begun operations in Montreal, Seath’s creativity was unleashed. With a particular purpose behind them, newspaper illustrations were about conveying information, telling the story, and allowed for little creative expression, if any. By teaching, not only could she talk about creativity, but she was required to demonstrate it. All the ideas that had no room to show themselves in her commercial work began to explode. Toadstools is just such a work. Swirling and churning, the forms of chanterelles seem to burst off the board, catch themselves and swirl back again, only to unfold outward in another direction, swirling there and then turning back again. It is a wonderful, organic, lyrical still life. Such a simple thing, a tumble of mushrooms on an indiscernible surface, it is a composition that stays on just this side of realism. Butterfly-like, assuredly painted, it is a confident and thoroughly expressive work. The only thing it has in common with newspaper illustration is an extraordinarily deft and skilled use of black.

1879-1963 A painter who enjoyed depicting everyday objects, Seath often painted still lifes and landscapes with an eye for abstract qualities. Her treatment of space was often decorative, with attention to how various forms interacted with each other. Due to familial financial constraints (her father was chronically ill), Seath began…