A woman is lying prone on a divan in a long white dress that spreads across the lower left side of the painting. Her face is bathed in the yellow-orange glow of a lamp and a few candles on a table.

Florence Carlyle

(Galt, Ontario, 1864 – Crowborough, England, 1923)


The Moth


Oil on canvas

61.9 x 74.6 cm

Bequest of Wilhelmina Morris McIntosh 

McIntosh Gallery, Western University, 1940.0045

Photo: Alan Noon

In The Moth, by Florence Carlyle, a pensive woman is lying on a divan, her arms and upper body propped on the armrest. Her face is bathed in the warm light from a lamp. Her long white dress forming a large diagonal stand out in contrast to the ambient shadow. This chiaroscuro effect heightens the overall sense of introspection and solitude. Incorporating aspects of Romanticism and Symbolism, Carlyle offers a sensitive portrayal of a woman in a domestic setting, thus making a subject popular in early 20th-century British art her own.

Florence Carlyle began her art training as a child in classes organized by her mother. Encouraged by the artist Paul Peel, she went on to study in France under masters including the academic painter William Bouguereau (1825-1905). Returning to Canada in 1896, she set up studios in London and Woodstock, Ontario, before moving to New York in 1899 and, finally, to England, where she spent the last ten years of her life. Independent and resourceful, Carlyle travelled extensively and enjoyed a successful career in an era when financial independence was out of reach for most women.


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