Lilias Torrance Newton
(Lachine, Quebec, 1896 – Cowansville, Quebec, 1980)
Nude in the Studio
Oil on canvas
203.2 x 91.5 cm
Collection of A. K. Prakash
© Estate of Lilias Torrance Newton. Photo: Thomas Moore
Lilias Torrance Newton’s Nude in the Studio was rejected by the Art Gallery of Toronto in 1933. The painting flouted the prevailing conventions of the academic nude in several respects. The subject is personalized by the presence of pubic hair, the noticeable makeup and, especially, the green high-heeled sandals. These details transform the painting from an academic nude to the representation of a naked woman. The model’s self-confident pose, which masks the portrait of a man (the Russian composer Andrei Ilyashenko (1881-1954), also painted by Torrance Newton), no doubt exacerbated the Art Gallery curators’ misgivings.
Lilias Torrance Newton was the most sought-after Canadian portraitist of her generation. She painted many of her fellow artists as well as prominent Canadian figures such as Governor General Vincent Massey (1887-1967). Moreover, she was the first Canadian artist commissioned to portray Queen Elizabeth II. Although her works are strongly figurative, Torrance Newton rendered her subjects with geometric forms and angular planes that lend them energetic character.