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WILLIS, Dorothy Gwendolyn Henzell

Newcastle, England, 1899
Victoria, British Columbia, 1985
Biography synopsis
Dorothy Willis moved to Edmonton with her family in 1913 and eventually studied art at the Edmonton Technical High School. On graduating, she took courses at the Banff School of Fine Arts with A.C. Leighton, at Columbia University for three summer sessions (1918-1920), and also studied under Armin Hansen in Monterey, California in 1920. Described by some as "eccentric," her painting was highly expressive, incorporating strong colours and bold shapes. In 1947 she moved to Vancouver and taught art at the University of British Columbia's Extension Program where she encouraged creativity over technique; she also had a strong interest in art as therapy. In addition to a number of solo exhibitions, her work was included in group shows throughout Canada: the Art Association of Montreal, the Manitoba Society of Arts, the Canadian Society of Painters in Watercolors, and the "Calgary Group" exhibition in Vancouver in 1948. One of her works was included in the Riverside Exhibition of Canadian Women Artists in 1947. In 1950 she traveled to Paris where she led a bohemian life. A number of her works are held at the University of Alberta Art Gallery and the Alberta Foundation of the Arts. She was a member of the Edmonton Art Club, the Alberta Society of Artists, the Edmonton Sketch Club, and the Alberta Women Sketch Hunters. Most of her works are undated.
Media used
Banff School of Fine Arts
Columbia University, New York
Department of Art, Edmonton Technical High School
Edmonton Sketch Club
Alberta Society of Artists
Edmonton Art Club
Calgary Group
File & Archive locations
Art Gallery of Ontario - Edward P. Taylor Research Library and Archives
London Public Library, ON
National Gallery of Canada, ON - Library and Archives
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts / Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal, QC
Toronto Reference Library, ON
University of British Columbia - Fine Arts Library
Vancouver Art Gallery, BC - Library

Writings about
"Edmonton Art Club gives Sunday Preview of 18th Annual Exhibition." Edmonton Journal 10 Apr. 1939
"Edmonton Artists Work on Display." Vancouver Sun 13 Jan. 1943: 12
"Pipe Smoking Artist paints Her Dreams Away." Globe and Mail 28 Jan. 1948: 10
"Porridge, Sawdust and Sand Media for Creative Artist." Vancouver News Herald 1947
"Select Painting by City Woman." Edmonton Journal 6 Aug. 1943
Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. Printmaking in British Columbia, 1889-1983 : October 6 to November 27, 1983 : Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. Victoria: 1983
Bouchard, Gilbert. "Prairie Painter Soared, then Canada `Forgot all about her': Alberta Art Pioneer Brought back to Life in Retrospective Show." Edmonton Journal 16 Mar 2001: E6
Burns, Ruth and Laviolette, Mary-Beth. Rough Country: The Strangely Familiar in Mid-20th Century Alberta Art. Edmonton: Art Gallery of Alberta, 2016
Gachon, Jean. "Une Canadienne expose a Paris: Mme. Dorothy Henzell Willis presentent ses oeuvres au publique Parisien." La Presse 15 Feb 1950
Lang, Naomi. "Artist Dorothy Willis Back from Gypsing over Europe." Vancouver Sun 26 Jan. 1952
LaViolette, Mary-Beth. Alberta Mistresses of the Modern, 1935-1975. Edmonton: Art Gallery of Alberta, 2012
MacDonald, Dorothy Ann. ""Painting Cares Away." The Vancouver Sun Magazine 24 Jul. 1948
McGlynn, Betty Hoad. Carmel Art Association: a History Carmel, CA: Carmel Art Association, 1987
Norbury, F.H. "Art Club Shows Fine Pictures at Exhibition." Edmonton 1936
Pageot, Edith-Anne. "Ambiguités de la réception critique de l'exposition 'Canadian Women Artists', Riverside Museum, New York, 1947." RACAR 27.1-2 (2000): 123-34

Full text pdfs of exhibition reviews
Art Association of Montreal Annual Spring Exhibition: (Montreal, ) "Nearly 500 Works at Spring Exhibit. Art Association's 54th Annual Show Opens with Private Views. Judges Open-Minded."  Gazette (Montreal)  .  p.13,17.   Full-text pdf
Art Association of Montreal Annual Spring Exhibition: (Montreal, ) "Art Association Opens 57th Spring Exhibit. Notable Feature of Display Is Unusually Large Proportion Of Portraits or Portrait Studies."  Montreal Star  .  p.19.   Full-text pdf

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