Paraskeva Clark's Wartime Art Essay

2416 words - 10 pages

Before World War II women were labeled as inferior and incapable compared to men in the Canadian workforce. The women’s traditional role as homemaker reflected the social norms, and values of the time. Change came during World War II when
Women temporarily filled non-traditional roles in the wartime labour force and society (MacIvor 14). The entrance of women into society and out from their roles as homemakers was monumental as it was the first time women were seen as capable individuals, held paid positions, and proved they could do “man’s work”. Married women who entered the workforce juggled between working full time hours and being the keeper of the house and children. War records were created to commemorate women’s roles during the war, and many artists were commissioned to photograph and paint the daily activities of the Women’s Division. Paraskeva Clark, a vibrant and politically passionate female Canadian artist from the 1930s to 1950s was one of the commissioned war artists of the National Gallery who painted women in the armed forces hard at work. Like the housewives who juggled keeping the house and children while working, Paraskeva found it hard to balance her role as a homemaker with her professional life as an artist. Painting the realities of the women working in the armed forces, Paraskeva breaks the long held gender stereotypes against women of Canadian society by raising the perception of women’s contribution, work, and presence in World War II. The three wartime pieces she painted showed her painting style of interesting composition, sharp viewpoint, and how hard women concentrated on their work. Paraskeva Clark proved how powerful and inspiring she was as a female artist, by painting war records of when women took a non-traditional role in the workforce.
Paraskeva Clark during the 1940s was already a prominent name in the Canadian art community. She regarded her work as a war artist for the National Gallery as one of her hardest projects, as she was out of her element and could not find inspiration in the work the women were doing at the Royal Canadian Air Force Base in Trenton, Ontario. She became a war artist after she was apart of the Silk Screen Project with the National Gallery. She contributed one painting of the Canadian landscape that was chosen and copied then sent to troops overseas so they could have reminders of home and boost their morals (Lind 159). Harry Orr McCurry of the National Gallery was impressed by her work and put her onto the RCAF artists list. Paraskeva was honered to be chosen to paint war activities but refused the offer as she had family to take care at home and could not leave for long periods of time to paint. McCurry understood her situation and commissioned her to paint the activities of the women’s division of the RCAF. He allowed her to have full creative control, and would be paid for each piece she completed, but also stipulated that he wanted artwork of inspirational nature that...

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