Dorothy Knowles, self-portrait
Dorothy Knowles was born in 1927 in Unity, Saskatchewan. She came to art unexpectedly. From 1944 to 1948, she studied biology at the university of Saskatchewan. Then, on a friend’s suggestion, she enrolled in the university’s summer art course at Emma Lake, where she discovered her artistic talent. Although Knowles continued her training at the university, at Banff and in England, the Emma Lake workshops were her most important inspiration. Particularly encouraging was the 1962 session led American art critic Clement Greenberg, who wrote: “ The problem was how to master the prairie’s lack of feature…Knowles was the only landscape painter I came across…whose work tended towards the monumental in an authentic way”. Dorothy Knowles drove her van, a portable studio, across the rolling prairie in search of subjects for her art.
She has captured the vast expanse of prairie space where the Saskatchewan River meanders through low bush and golden fields. Often, the enormous sky overhead is a vaporous umbrella of clouds stretching to the flat horizon.
Subsequent workshops led by American abstractionists such as Kenneth Noland and Jules Oliski, who soaked their canvases with pigment, prompted Knowles to thin her oil paint, thus making it more translucent, like watercolour. This technique helped Knowles to realize her ambition of integrating charcoal sketches with her painting so that the drawing would show through. She worked directly from nature on a large canvas.
Source: Anne Newlands, Canadian art from its beginnings to 2000, Firefly books, Canada, 2000