Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Monday Inspiration: Winnifred Kingsford

Winnifred Kingston, Seated Woman, 1914 (source)
Winnifred Kingsford (1880-1947), was a Canadian Sculptor- apparently before Frances Loring and Florence Wyle arrived on the scene- she was assumed to be the ONLY female sculptor in Canada- this seems totally ludicrous to me, but is it possibly true? Is it possible that no women made sculpture before her in Canada? If so she must have been terribly lonely. Or maybe it's only that if we don't know of them they must not have existed, if they were not incredibly talented or brave or willing to risk scandal, then they were only creating in private, and we will never know of them.

Every Week I find myself renewed in some sort of  high/low process; Excited to find some woman who made art that speaks to women, long before my time, only to have that excitement tempered by the fact that there is only one work of hers available to see without hours of research that I don't have (as I write this my hands are being forcibly removed from the keyboard by two very sweet and determined chubby hands- while the owner of the hands is saying " No! Milk! Me! Mommmmy!" or some variation on that theme).

I am always a bit  surprised that a whole piece of history has been totally removed from us (you'd think I'd be used to it by now) anything in the domestic sphere and so female, of course, and private, is so cloaked in mystery that even though this woman- Winnifred Kingsford- made lamp bases and 'other domestic items' in order to reach more people with her art- I can't see any of them, or find any of them. I can only imagine that they are languishing in some basement- lighting a tawdry teenage love scene- perhaps. The only piece available to view (online anyhow), is this Seated Woman- and even she looks bored, or patient maybe- waiting to see something interesting- or waiting to be noticed- or waiting to be taken seriously.

Actually If I'm honest I imagine her looking at children playing, or something else lovely and fleeting, and so I'll take this as a reminder that even though women may be almost wholly erased from history- at least they had some of the precious things in life; the adorable chubby hands pulling on them saying " MOMMY! MILK! ME!"


  1. I read this post last week, but see I left no comment. Based on this one example, Kingston seems like a competent worker. I wonder why she has so completely disappeared from the record.

  2. I only just found this post. Winnifred Kingsford was not the only woman sculptor in Canada at this time. A few women, a generation younger than she, worked from around 1920 through the 1950s - notably Merle Foster (see http://terrymurray.org/come-to-dust-the-long-life-short-art-and-shorter-afterlife-of-merle-foster/ ) and Elizabeth Wyn Wood. Foster actually worked with Kingsford and Loring on a sculpture at the entrance to the CNE in about 1917.

  3. I am just finishing my manuscript of Merle Foster's biography, so can't take a lot of time now (i.e., at this precise moment) but would love to talk or exchange emails with you about our mutual interests. You can reach me at theterrymurray [at] gmail [dot] com. Re Kingsford's limited oeuvre: I think her productivity was limited when she married. I'm not sure of the details, but Merle Foster seemed to think that Kingsford's choice of husband was not the best.This piece is in the National Gallery of Canada of course; I thought there was at least one other, but apparently not. I may know a source where you can find some of her other work. Look forward to hearing from you.