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(born 1879 Toronto, Ontario; died 1915 Swanage, England) Canadian painter. Born into a wealthy family, Helen Galloway McNicoll became deaf from scarlet fever when she was two years old. At an early age she had easy access to fine European art which decorated the family’s home in Montreal, and perhaps inspired her to become an artist. Her family was highly supportive of her career choice, and she was first taught under William Brymner at the Art Association of Montreal, and went on to the Slade School of Art in London in 1902 where she studied life drawings. Probably first seeing Impressionist art in the galleries of London, McNicoll quickly picked up the style and is believed to adhere to the aesthetics of Impressionism closer than any other Canadian artist. In 1906 she went to the art colony, St. Ives in Cornwall, where she was taught by Algernon Talmage and inspired by his plein air painting. It was also where McNicoll met close friend and fellow Impressionist Dorothea Sharp, whom she lived with and traveled with to France and Italy. Unlike many of her counterparts she decided to turn away from bustling urban life and focus on quiet and humble country scenes; in which she is able to translate light beautifully on canvas. McNicoll painted traditionally feminine subjects of women and children, children being a favorite theme of hers; but also painted landscapes, seascapes, and other genre scenes as well. She achieved much success during her lifetime, both in Canada and England; in 1908 she won Art Association of Montreal’s Jessie Dow Prize; in 1913 she was one of eight artists elected to the Society of British artists; and the next year she won the Woman’s Art Society Prize. She was elected to the Royal Canadian Academy as well and her work is included in the National Gallery of Canada and Montreal Museum of Fine Arts’ collections. Her prosperous career ended early when McNicoll died at the age of 36 due to diabetes complications.
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