Betty Goodwin

About the Artist

Montreal native Betty Goodwin, one of Canada’s most prominent living artists, was born in 1923. Her career started slowly; she did not enjoy her early school days and shied away from taking any formal art training, except for a few classes in  printmakingA print is a shape or mark made from a block or plate or other object that is covered with wet colour (usually ink) and then pressed onto a flat surface, such as paper or textile. Most prints can be produced over and over again by re-inking the printing block or plate. Printmaking can be done in many ways, including using an engraved block or stone, transfer paper, or a film negative. The making of fine prints is generally included in the graphic arts, while the work of artists whose designs are made to satisfy the needs of more commercial clients are included in graphic design. (Artlex.com)  from Yves Gaucher at Sir George Williams University (now Concordia) from 1967 to1971.

Writer John Bentley Mayes summed up Goodwin's early career in this way: “For the first twenty years of her marriage, Goodwin was just another Montreal housewife and mother and, like many a wife in any city you’d like to name, a dabbler in art, on the side.” (Mayes, 1993)

Goodwin put her paintbrushes away in 1968 to concentrate on other media. In the early 1970’s  drawingDepiction of shapes and forms on a surface chiefly by means of lines. Colour and shading may be included. A major fine art technique in itself, drawing is the basis of all pictorial representation, and an early step in most art activities. Though an integral part of most painting, drawing is generally differentiated from painting by the dominance of line over mass. There are many sorts of drawing techniques, varying according to the effect the artist wants, and depending on whether the drawing is an end in itself — an independent and finished work of art -- or a preliminary to some other medium or form — although distinct from the final product, such drawings also have intrinsic artistic value. Preliminary drawings include various exercises (e.g., contour drawing, gesture drawing, figure drawing, drawing from the flat), as well as sketches and studies, cartoons and underdrawings. (Artlex.com)  became her primary activity but she used sculpture, printmaking and other  mediaAny material and technique used to produce a work of art (paint, glass, clay, fibre, video, sound, etc.). It may also refer to the liquid with which powdered pigments are mixed to make paint. Note that the plural form of “medium” is “media.”  to inform and supplement her art practice. Christopher Hume wrote about her, that drawing “…enabled her to create a more truthful record of the artist's struggle, with all its false starts, wrong turns and dead ends.” (Hume, 1998)

Whatever  mediaAny material and technique used to produce a work of art (paint, glass, clay, fibre, video, sound, etc.). It may also refer to the liquid with which powdered pigments are mixed to make paint. Note that the plural form of “medium” is “media.”  this multidisciplinary artist uses, at the heart of her work is a sense of loss, based on her personal experiences. As a child she lost her father and as a parent she lost her only son. ” …Goodwin holds the mirror up to the human reality we share with her,” John Bentley Mayes observes, ”and she shares with all. At the heart of that reality, and Goodwin’s art, is loss, disappearance, the falling apart of centers we passionately hoped would hold.” (Mayes, 1993)

In a 1993 interview with Mayes, Goodwin elaborated on what compelled her to continue her artistic practice. “The only way I can deal with what is going on in the world is if I bring it out in the drawing, which is never enough. It is never going to change a goddamn thing.” (Mayes, 1993) Deirdre Hanna explains the possible origins of Goodwin’s compassion when she states, “…as a Jew who came of age while Hitler’s troops marched through Europe, the artist has always had enormous empathy for those living through global holocausts." (Hanna, 1998)

Goodwin’s perseverance and determination have led to many prestigious exhibitions and awards. The following are some of the highlights: In 1976 she had her first major exhibition at the Musée d'art Contemporain de Montréal. She represented Canada at the 1989 Sao Paulo International Biennial, and her work was included in the international section of the 1995 Venice Biennale in Italy. In 1996 and again in 2002 she had solo exhibitions at the National Gallery of Canada. Her most notable awards include the Prix Paul-Émile Borduas (1986), the Gershon Iskowitz Prize (1995) and the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts (2003).

Betty Goodwin died on December 1st, 2008.


Canadian Heritage University of Regina Mackenzie Art Gallery Mendel Art Gallery Sask Learning