(Montréal 1885 – Montréal 1971)
Girl and Cat
Oil on canvas
56.2 x 71.9 cm
Purchased in 2014 with generous support from the Evelyn de Rostaing McMann Fund
National Gallery of Canada, 46231
© Estate of Emily Coonan. Photo: National Gallery of Canada
Girl and Cat shows the influence of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism on the Modernist style Emily Coonan developed after spending time in Europe in 1912 and 1920. Her interest in the physical properties of paint is evident in this portrait, which seems designed to bring the viewer face to face with the artifice of painting, and to allow the artist to experiment with composition and texture. Coonan painted many portraits of girls over the years, but Girl and Cat stands out as the one most acclaimed by contemporary critics. It remained out of sight for nearly ninety years, until its purchase by the National Gallery of Canada in 2014.
Emily Coonan, who trained under William Brymner, painted mostly portraits and genre scenes with children. In 1923, as a member of the Beaver Hall Group, she worked in one of the studios the group rented at 305 Beaver Hall Hill, in Montréal. The same year, she and Lilias Torrance Newton exhibited with the Group of Seven. Although there is no evidence Coonan exhibited with the Beaver Hall Group, her work was often shown in exhibitions at the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts and the Art Association of Montreal.