Artists in the modern era, working in a wide variety of styles, placed emphasis on personal expression and freedom. Alberta artists in the first half of the twentieth century were greatly influenced by artists who came to the province to teach. Gradually, professional art societies and art schools produced a vibrant population of local artists. Although landscape continued to be an important theme, many artists during this period were impacted to some extent by art movements in Europe especially Expressionism, Surrealism and Cubism.
Inspired by American Abstract Expressionism beginning in the 1950s, the primary stylistic mode for many artists was abstraction, in a wide range of expressions, ranging from dynamic and aggressive to lyrical and romantic. The abstract art of many Canadian artists was derived from the world of nature. Glenbow has an exceptional collection of modern art by important Alberta artists and strong holdings representative of developments in other parts of Canada.
Canadian (1909 -1985)
oil on canvas
Glenbow Museum Collection; Gift of Shirley and Peter Savage, Calgary, 1990
In a conservative environment for art and for women in Alberta, Marion Nicoll forged a creative path as an abstract painter and an influential teacher. Prophet is dominated by a bold central element in black capped by a prominent red u-shape enclosing a small, abstracted bird. Its emphatic upright stance and the vertical format of the picture combine to establish a potent iconic presence. The stark juxtaposition of colours, the flat, uninflected surfaces, and the crisp contours of reversible positive and negative shapes convey a sense of elemental power.