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Challenging the status quo: Prudence Heward's portrayals of Canadian women from the 1920s to the 1940s

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  • Political Science


This thesis analyzes a number of paintings of Canadian women by Prudence Heward (1896 - 1947) and traces the ways in which her art production was an important indicator of a shift in gender relations as she commented on the socio-political position of women within the historical context of Canadian nationalism and the rural to urban population shift from the 1920s to the 1940s. At the same time, Heward's paintings are analyzed to trace proposed relationships between these concerns and the formal changes she incorporated into her works during the years covered by this thesis. The paintings' backgrounds, which had been no more than colour backdrops to the figures in her early years, became increasingly important as she challenged the status quo in which white women were confined and naturalized in their motherhood and care-giver roles and black women were "othered" because of their race. The thesis accomplishes this by comparing Heward's paintings to the Group of Seven, as well as to that by other artists from North America and Europe.

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