ArtworksEthel SeathStill Life from Seaforth Ave.1879-1963Sold
Inscriptionssigned, 'E Seath' (lower left)
Private collection, Montreal;
By descent to the present owners.
Montreal, Galerie Walter Klinkhoff Inc., Ethel Seath Retrospective Exhibition, September 1987, no. 8.
Montreal, Galerie Walter Klinkhoff Inc., The Beaver Hall Group Retrospective Exhibition, September 1999, no. 21.
Ethel Seath Retrospective Exhibition, (Montreal: Galerie Walter Klinkhoff Inc., September 1987), no. 8, reproduced front cover.
Simply said, Still Life from Seaforth Ave. is one of the finest paintings by Ethel Seath that collectors will have the opportunity to own. Its brilliant execution in the style of Canadian modernism, and its combination of personal, domestic and cityscape subjects, perfectly encapsulates the environment in which the women associated with the Beaver Hall Group existed. This is undoubtedly why this painting was selected as the cover illustration for Galerie Walter Klinkhoff’s 1987 Ethel Seath Retrospective Exhibition Catalogue (fig. 1). Those who have followed the Beaver Hall Group over the years will know that great paintings by Ethel Seath are also exceptionally rare.
In writing for Galerie Walter Klinkhoff’s Ethel Seath Retrospective Exhibition Catalogue, Roger Little noted that from an early age, the titles of Ethel Seath’s artwork suggested, “an attraction to nature as well as to homespun domesticity...The curvilinear patterns which would often characterize Ethel’s work, the bold colours and the occasionally abstracted naivete of her eye - all were evidence of a tenacious yet quiet independence ” . Unlike the Group of Seven, a substantial body of work by the Beaver Hall Group’s women artists is urban and domestic. And from 1917 until 1962, Seath taught at The Study, a prestigious girls school that from 1924 to 1960 was located on Seaforth Avenue in Montreal. One could scarcely find a more representative painting by Seath than Still Life from Seaforth Ave.
Ethel Seath was a successful and highly trained commercial artist. She began her instruction in the 1890s at the Conseil des Arts et Manufactures under the tutelage of Robert Harris and Edmond Dyonnet. In 1896, she secured a position as a newspaper illustrator at the Montreal Witness. Later she worked at the Montreal Star. She was an exception in what was a male dominated field. Her success afforded Seath the opportunity to take art classes with William Brymner at the Art Association of Montreal, and she also joined Maurice Cullen’s plein air sketching classes in the Quebec countryside.
Through the classes at the Art Association, Seath became associated with the Beaver Hall Group artists. She was represented at the famous British Empire Exhibition at Wembley, London, in 1925 and her work was regularly featured in the Annual Spring Exhibitions at the Art Association of Montreal. She was a member of the Canadian Group of Painters and the Contemporary Arts Society.
Seath’s success is not a banal story of overcoming traditional obstacles. Her father was an unsuccessful businessman and chronically ill. When she was a teenager her parents separated and Seath helped her mother raise her four siblings. She secured her position at the Montreal Witness at the age of 17 to help support her family.
While at the peak of her creative painting abilities, Seath’s time was also occupied by her teaching responsibilities, both at The Study and later at the Art Association. If there can be an explanation for the lack of output of the calibre of Still Life from Seaforth Ave., it is probably to be found in that, and the lack of opportunities to exhibit and sell. Canadian art galleries in those days were, after all, not great in number and the Depression would not have helped.
The non-selling exhibition honouring Ethel Seath and hosted by Galerie Walter Klinkhoff in 1987 to our knowledge remains the only such exhibition dedicated exclusively to this fine artist.
1. Walter Klinkhoff Gallery Inc., Roger Little. Ethel Seath: 1879-1963: Retrospective Exhibition. (Montreal: Walter Klinkhoff Gallery, 1987), unpaginated.