What force of will and circumstance drove a woman from a comfortable life painting china tea services to one of hardship and loneliness in the battle zones of France and Belgium following the Great War?
For western Canadian artist Mary Riter Hamilton (1868-1954), art was her life’s passion. Her tale is one of tragedy and adventure, from homestead beginnings, to genteel drawing rooms in Winnipeg, Victoria and Vancouver, to Berlin and Parisian art schools, to Vimy and Ypres, and finally to illness and poverty in old age.
No Man’s Land is the first biographical study of Hamilton, whose work can be found in galleries and art museums throughout Canada.
Young and McKinnon’s meticulous research in unpublished private collections brings to light new correspondence between Hamilton and her friends, revealing the importance of female networks to an artist’s well being. Her letters from abroad, in particular, bring a woman’s perspective into the immediate post-war period and give voice to trying conditions. Hamilton’s career is situated within the context of her peers Florence Carlyle, Emily Carr, and Sophie Pemberton with whom she shared a Canadian and European experience.