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WECHSLER, Dora (Harris)

Ottawa, Ontario, 1897
Toronto, Ontario, 1952
Biography synopsis
Dora Wechsler (nee Harris) was recognized for her distinctive ceramic sculptures. She initially studied psychology at McGill University as well as drawing at the Art Association of Montreal. In Montreal, she worked as a teacher, but after her marriage in 1926 she moved to Toronto where she became a social worker, as married women were not allowed to teach. In 1934 she enrolled full-time in painting and ceramics classes at Central High School. It was during a basic pottery class that she discovered sculpture, choosing to make figurines rather than produce a coil pot. Drawing on basic techniques of clay coils and slabs she focused on creating figurines that represented a satirized view of society and underlined political and social injustices. In 1937 she also attended a short course in sculpture at the London School of Arts and Crafts in England. After participating in an exhibition of the Women's Art Association in 1939, her work was included in numerous solo and group exhibitions throughout the 1940s, notably a group show at the Art Gallery of Ontario and a solo show at the Montreal Museum of Art in 1942. Wechsler was actively engaged in various art associations often holding executive positions. In a tribute to her work following her untimely death from cancer in 1952, the Ontario College of Art (OCAD) created the Dora Wechsler Annual Memorial Award in 1953. In 1961, the Canadian Guild of Potters established the Dora Wechsler Memorial Award for Ceramic Sculpture. The Ontario Society of Artists also included a special memorial exhibition of her work with their Annual Exhibition (1953). In 1992 a retrospective exhibition of her ceramic sculptures was held at the Koffler Gallery (Toronto).
Media used
Art Association of Montreal (under Randolph Hewton)
Central Technical School, Toronto, 1934 - ? (under painting with Peter Haworth, Charles Goldhamer, and Robert Ross and ceramics with Bobs Cogill Haworth)
London School of Arts and Crafts (England), 1937
Federation of Canadian Artists, 1946 chairman Ontario region
Canadian Guild of Potters, 1951-52 President
Sculptors' Society of Canada, 1946-48 Secretary
Ontario Society of Artists
File & Archive locations
Vancouver Art Gallery, BC - Library
University of British Columbia - Fine Arts Library
Toronto Reference Library, ON
National Gallery of Canada, ON - Library and Archives
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts / Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal, QC
London Public Library, ON
Art Gallery of Ontario - Edward P. Taylor Research Library and Archives

Writings about
"The Loss of an Artist." The Star (Toronto) 19 Dec. 1952
Art Gallery of Toronto. Jacobine Jones, Frances Loring, Dora Wechsler, Florence Wyle: March, 1942. Toronto: Art Gallery of Toronto, 1942
Conde, Valerie. ""Ceramic Sculpture." Daily Star, Windsor 23 Oct. 1943
Crawford, Gail. Studio Ceramics in Canada Fredericton: Goose Lane Editions, 2005
Endicott, Wilson. "The Ceramic Sculpture of Dora Wechsler." Outlook: Canada's Progressive Jewish Magazine 30.4 (April 1992): 12-13
Flood, Sandra. Canadian Craft and Museum Practice, 1900-1950 Hull: Canadian Museum of Civilization, 2001
MacDonald, Colin S. The Dictionary of Canadian Artists. (Volumes 1-8 by Colin S. MacDonald, and volume 9 by Anne Newlands and Judith Parker) Ottawa: National Gallery of Canada, 2009.
McCarthy, Pearl. "Satirical Figurines Exhibited." The Globe and Mail 5 Mar. 1949
McCarthy, Pearl. "Work in OSA Exhibition Provocative." The Globe and Mail 28 Feb. 1953: 15
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Dora Wechsler's Caricatures in Clay. Montreal: Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 1942
Robinson, Carolyn and Ken Carpenter. Caricature and Conscience: The Ceramic Sculpture of Dora Wechsler. Toronto, Ontario: Koffler Gallery, 1992
Thompson, Allison. A Worthy Place in the Art of Our Country: The Women's Art Association of Canada 1887-1987. (Master's Thesis,) Ottawa: Carleton University, 1989

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