A sad-eyed little girl is seated on a chair, facing forward. Except for the dark brown of the child’s bobbed hair and large eyes, the painting is almost monochromatic, in tones of blue, pink and mauve.

Jori Smith

(Montréal 1907 – Montréal 2005)

 

Rose Fortin

1935

Oil on canvas

51 x 41 cm

Gift in memory of Talbot and Alice Johnson, 2011

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 610.2011

© Estate of Jori Smith. Photo: MMFA, Christine Guest 


Rose Fortin is one of the many child portraits painted by Jori Smith in the 1930s. The little girl’s sickly appearance and sad gaze diverge from the usual portraits of cheerful children surrounded by family. Depicted bust-length, the child fills the painting. Her large brown eyes stand out against the pastel tones of her skin, her clothes and the background executed in broad brushstrokes. With areas of flat colour that compress the forms toward the surface of the canvas, this portrait shows that landscape was not the only genre in which pictorial modernism was developing in Canada.


Jori Smith spent much of her early career in the Charlevoix region. Unlike other Quebec artists, who favoured the region’s picturesque landscapes, Smith was interested in the people she came in contact with there and painted their portraits with an eye at once intimate and ethnological. The children of Charlevoix, many of them in poor health, were among her preferred subjects. Smith, who was very active in the Montréal art community, was the only female member of the Eastern Group of Painters.

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