Chapter: Imagination

Mary Riter Hamilton Painting

One of Canada's "unknown" artists
Mary Riter Hamilton oil "Woman Sitting and Thinking" Woman Sitting and Thinking


Mary Riter studied at some of the finest art schools in Europe. Her work was displayed at galleries in Paris, London and all across Canada. She was even called Canada's first female artist (though there were many before her). Yet Mary Riter Hamilton remains largely unknown. Perhaps because she was a woman from Clearwater Manitoba, when the vast majority of the Canadian art world were males from the east.

She is best known for her work as a war artist. She travelled to the battlefields of Europe in 1919 visiting Vimy Ridge and the Somme. At first she was housed with the Canadian military but after their departure she lived with Chinese workers who were hired to restore the badly damaged land. With unexploded shells, numerous criminals around, and very few women, it was a dangerous part of the world to work in. She not only worked in this condition, but thrived. By the time she left in 1922 she had completed 350 critically praised works.

This particular oil painting, titled "Woman Sitting and Thinking", is one of her more colourful works featuring a bright green hat and red hair.