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Rae Hendershot (1921-1988)

Rae Hendershot (1921-1988)


“Girl with Recorder” 1972

Charcoal and Conte

12” x 12” Image

23” x 23” Frame


Signed Top Bottom Right

Excellent Condition

Provenance: Private Hamilton Collection

  • Biography


     Pearl Rae Hendershot was born on May 1st, 1921, in the industrial city of Hamilton, Ontario. She lived there her entire life. Hendershot drew from an early age. She studied music and was a talented pianist. 


    She began art training as a youth at Westdale Secondary Technical School. In 1939, she graduated with a four-year diploma from the art programme. Newly built, Westdale Tech had a modern outlook--faith in industry, labour, and individual merit. It operated as a series of independent workshops—drafting, commercial printing, motor shop, wood working, art. 


    Her formative teacher was Ida Hamilton (1887-1974), a pioneer in art therapy, a founding member of the Hamilton Weaver’s Guild, an art educator, an artist. In 1934, Hamilton studied with Hans Hofmann in Gloucester, Massachusetts; her deep commitment to art and learning set her apart. 


    Hendershot’s education at Westdale Tech was modelled on avant-garde theories and practices--Cézanne was a guiding presence; design and colour theory were emphasized. As a student, she did abstract colour studies to appreciate the myriad relationships of hues and values. Through her teacher, Hendershot also absorbed an avant-garde identity.  Art was a means of reclaiming selfhood from the modern alienation of experience from reality.  This early formation was lasting. Many of the hallmarks of Hendershot’s mature works remain true to Modernist principles: compositions of bold shape and concise design; subtle values and vivid hue; an abiding painterly and formalist interest in still life. The artistic identity was abiding too, but in the decades ahead it became a deepened state of being, haunted, urgent, and complex.


    In 1944, Hendershot entered the drawing and painting programme at the Ontario College of Art, being accepted directly into third year. Her object was to further her studies of the human figure. The atmosphere at OCA was old-fashioned and workman-like; she took classes of interest and never stayed for weekends. Teachers included Rowley Murphy, Manly MacDonald, Archibald Barnes, and John M. Alfsen. Her Self-Portrait c.1945, done as a class assignment, exhibits her technical finesse and aloofness. 


    Nevertheless, the encounter with Alfsen was significant. He had studied in Europe and at the Art Students League in New York with Kenneth Hayes Miller where he absorbed the worldly and ambitious figurative art of George Bellows, Isobel Bishop, Edward Hopper and John Sloan. In the Canadian context, (outside of Quebec) landscape was the pre-eminent Modern form, but Alfsen, through the American example, countered this, affirming the vitality of the human subject. The contemporary figure is the central motif of Hendershot’s oeuvre; she developed it in multiple genres, and it would be the subject of her most ambitious works.


    On graduating from OCA, Hendershot returned to Hamilton and set-up a studio on King Street. She was active in local art circles, co-founding the Contemporary Artists of Hamilton, attending evening life classes, and contributing to regional juried and traveling shows. In 1950, her painting The Orphanage1947 won Best Figure Subject at the 10th Annual Western Ontario Exhibition in London, Ontario. The work is a smart, stylish performance. Shapes are bold and placed with élan, the brushwork assured and inventive. The Orphanage is a work of understatement, its subject, the absent mother, potent.


    Visit the Rae Hendershot Project READ MORE

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