Work of the Week: "Church Picnic" by Irene McCaugherty

Date: Jul 10, 2020

July is National Picnic Month! So we're sharing with you Irene McCaugherty's Church Picnic. 

En plein air. Al fresco. Sur l'herbe.

Dining outdoors is a great idea no matter how you say it, so grab a blanket, your favourite picnic food, and a friend, to enjoy a (physically distanced) picnic this July!

About the Artist: Irene McCaugherty (1914 - 1996)

Irene McCaugherty was a self-taught artist, writer, and poet. Her folk-art paintings explore the people and cultural narrative of southern Alberta’s pioneer days in the later part of the 19th and early 20th century. She recorded the daily happenings of life in early Alberta with humour and colour and invited viewers to enter her world of auction sales, musical rides, road building, small town life, and ranching.

McCaugherty often painted in an unusual dimension, long and narrow. That rectangular shape reflected the view she had out the window of her pick-up truck, as she drove around southern Alberta to capture the stories of the people and the places she called home.

Her watercolours do not conform to traditional one-point perspective, and she found a voice that was uniquely hers, capturing the imagined past and invented history of life on the prairie. She created more than 1,000 paintings before her death in 1996, many of which have been donated by her family to the Lethbridge College Campus where they are on display in the Founders’ Square Space.

For many years, McCaugherty wrote a newspaper column for the Lethbridge Herald called Diary of a Farmer’s Wife about cowboy life on her ranch in the Porcupine Hills of Alberta. She also self-published three books and one recording of her stories, poetry, and paintings.

McCaugherty received an Alberta Achievement award in 1992, and an Honourary Doctor of Law degree from the University of Lethbridge in 1995, for her work preserving the history of Southern Alberta. Her art can be found at the Galt Museum and Archives in Lethbridge, the Glenbow Museum in Calgary, and the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa.