There’s an irony. As the Art Gallery of Ontario presents an exhibit that focuses on open doors, we are once again in lockdown, staying behind our own closed doors.
It is apt then, to look at Helen Galloway McNicoll’s painting “Interior,” part of the exhibit “The Open Door: Helen McNicoll and Mary Hiester Reid.” It’s of a domestic scene, slightly old-fashioned; McNicoll, born in Toronto, lived during the turn of the last century, 1879 to 1915. Yet there’s something modern about the work; something timeless, familiar. Perhaps it’s the way the light shines.
McNicoll, the AGO informs, studied painting in England, where she embraced Impressionism: the artistic movement defined by broad, quick brush strokes simulating natural, reflected light.
In an era when social norms dictated formality, her paintings publicly engaged with home life and femininity in complex ways, broadening traditional ideas about female spaces and the potential for women to