"FitzGerald's work was much respected by the Group [of Seven] for its sensitivity and restraint. His stripped-back forms recall Harris, but the setting is quite different. He painted Winnipeg, where he lived.” Joan Murray, Northern Lights: Masterpieces of Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven, 1994

by Ann McDougall

 

Lionel LeMoine FitzGerald, painter (born in Winnipeg 17 Mar 1890; died there 7 Aug 1956). FitzGerald spent almost his whole life in Winnipeg painting, drawing and sketching quiet contemplative scenes. He trained in Winnipeg, Pittsburgh and New York City. He was principal of the Winnipeg School of Art from 1929-47, and though he exhibited with the Group of Seven in 1930 - joining the Group formally in 1932 - remained a loner. From a decorative and impressionistic style FitzGerald moved to a pointillist technique. Williamson's Garage (1927), Doc Snyder's House (1931) and Farm Yard (1931) illustrate the fine texture he built up using dry paint, tiny brushstrokes, bleached tones and subtle colour. The Pool (1934) explores geometric relationships. In Jar (1938), he uses glistening daubs of paint to illuminate the jar from within.

 

In the 1940s, FitzGerald turned to coloured chalks, pen and ink, and sometimes oil using a palette knife. After his death a set of self-portraits and drawings of the nude were found, unusual for the shy painter. He painted the apple in all media and was stimulated by visits to the West Coast. Retired in 1949, he painted From an Upstairs Window in 1951, one of his best works. On a trip to BC he met Lawren Harris and afterwards did pen and ink studies with thousands of tiny dots and dashes shaping the forms. Still Life with Hat (1955) creates his characteristically mysterious world, made with weightless cross-hatching. By Autumn Sonata (1954) and Abstract in Blue and Gold (1955), FitzGerald became totally abstract. The surface rhythms give way to a smooth brushstroke. His entire body of work is distinguished by a painstaking, original way of handling brush, pen, pencil, crayon or paintbrush to get his own look and texture.

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