The Gaze

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Dorothy Knowles, Knowles, oil, painting, self-portrait, vibrant colour, Emma Lake, figure painting, human form, 3/4 pose, undifferentiated background, brushwork, thick paint, brush marks, painterly, 2D art, two-dimensional art oil painting, Masonite panel, self-portrait, colour, transitions, canvas,
start quoteA sense of place, which has always been important to me, is also important to my audience. People connect with and are curious about the location of the images in the paintings.end quote
-- Dorothy Knowles (Catalogue for A Sense of Place 2008)

This self-portrait from the Mendel Art Gallery  collectionTo collect is to accumulate objects. A collection is an accumulation of objects. A collector is a person who makes a collection. (  represents one aspect of Knowles’ development as an artist. As with all of her works, whether watercolours, acrylics or oils, the colours are strong and vibrant. The face and  figure1.  The form of a human, an animal or a thing; most often referring to an entire human form.  2.  A person of note (i.e., an important figure in history...)  in this self-portrait are presented in strong, well-defined colours and the  backgroundPart of the picture plane that seems to be farthest from the viewer.  sets off the figure with pulsing yellows and oranges.

Writer and critic Terrence Heath noted that Knowles was reluctant to draw and paint human models, and that she was working on problems of form, so this self-portrait may be the result of a conscious effort to improve her  techniqueAny method of working with art materials to produce an art object. Often implied is the sense that techniques are carefully studied, exacting, or traditional, but this is not necessarily the case. Examples include basketry, blotting, carving, constructing, découpage, embossing, encaustic, exquisite corpse, firing, folding, hatching, kerning, laminating, marbling, modeling, necking. (   in these areas. (Heath, 1972)

noland The work also serves as a snapshot in Knowles’ transition from  paintingWorks of art made with paint on a surface. Often the surface, also called a support, is either a tightly stretched piece of canvas or a panel. How the ground (on which paint is applied) is prepared on the support depends greatly on the type of paint to be used. Paintings are usually intended to be placed in frames, and exhibited on walls, but there have been plenty of exceptions. Also, the act of painting, which may involve a wide range of techniques and materials, along with the artist's other concerns which effect the content of a work. (  on small pieces of  masoniteA trademark used for a type of fiberboard employed as a surface for painting, but manufactured principally as wallboard for use in insulation, paneling, etc. It is dark brown, with one side that is very smooth, and the other bearing the texture of an impressed wire screen. Gesso is commonly applied to Masonite as a ground. Masonite can be quite permanent. It often occurs in print in lower case, to the dismay of the owner of the rights to this trademark. (  to the large canvases of landscapes that are her hallmark. Kenneth Noland, the leader of the 1963 Emma Lake workshop, suggested she work with thinner paint. She did this, and also switched from masonite board to canvas, with uncertain results at first. “It took a year to get used to canvas,” notes Terry Fenton, “but when she did, it gave new freedom and made it possible to work on a generous scale.” (Fenton, 1983)

additional resources On Dorothy Knowles
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Size: 10821kb
On William Perehudoff
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Things to Think About
  • In the self-portrait presented here Knowles is looking back at the viewer. Or, is she? What visual clues does she give the viewer to use to respond to the portrait?
  • Knowles once said that she could not work intellectually: she painted according to her reactions and moods. (Heath, 1972) What is your reaction to the self-portrait presented here?
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As research in preparation to make a self-portrait

Self-portraiture can be somewhat like  performanceAn art form in which the actions of a person or group in a particular place at a particular time constitute the artwork; all works of performance art therefore incorporate time, space, the performer’s body, and the relationship between performer and viewer.  art. Artists in the past have posed in costume or assumed a character or alter-ego in their self-portraits.

Artist self-portraits provide us with important information. By studying how they present themselves, we can try to understand more about them as artists and people.

Look at self-portraits of the following artists:

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Self portraiture

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Author unknown.  Dorothy E. Knowles, CM. Governor General of Canada, Order of Canada.

Black, Lauren.  ‘Knowles, Dorothy.’  The Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan.  Retrieved from the Internet on April 19, 2008 from:

Carpenter, Ken.  ‘Knowles, Dorothy Elsie.’  The Canadian Encyclopedia.  Retrieved from the Internet on April 19, 2008 from:

Fenton, Terry.  Dorothy Knowles: Paintings 1964-1982.  Exhibition catalogue.  The Edmonton Art Gallery, Edmonton, Alberta, 1983.

Fenton, Terry. Land Marks: The Art of Dorothy Knowles.  Regina, Saskatchewan:  Hagios Press, 2008.

Heath, Terrence.  ‘Dorothy Knowles.’  artscanada, Autumn 1972. Retrieved from the Internet on April 19, 2008 from:

Murray, Joan.  The Best Contemporary Canadian Art.  Edmonton, Alberta:  Hurtig Publishers, 1987.

Newlands, Anne. Canadian Art from its Beginnings to 2000.  Willowdale, Ontario: Firefly Books, 2000.

Skidmore, Colleen.  ‘The Art of Dorothy Knowles: Greenbergian Femininity.’  Women’s Art Journal, Spring-Summer 1992.  Retrieved from the Internet on April 19, 2008 from:

Tippett, Maria.  By A Lady: Celebrating Three Centuries of Art by Canadian Women.  New York, New York:  Viking Press, 1992.

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