Home » Underrated Canadian artist: Hilda Woolnough, RCA

Underrated Canadian artist: Hilda Woolnough, RCA

Artist Hilda Woolnough. Image: hildawoolnough.com


Hilda Woolnough (1934 – 2007) is a well-renowned visual artist who had been a resident of Prince Edward Island for more than 30 years. She was elected to the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts (RCA) in 2000 and her work is in many public and private collections including the Montreal Museum of Fine Art, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Canada Council Art Bank and the Confederation Centre of the Arts.

Woolnough was a teacher and tireless champion of artist’s rights and opportunities, serving on the boards of many professional provincial and federal arts organizations. She was a driving force behind The Phoenix Gallery, The Gallery-On-Demand, the Great George Street Gallery, The Arts Guild, the Printmakers Council and the Student Art Expo.

Hilda Woolnough, Guantanamo 1, 2004-05

Hilda Woolnough, Guantanamo 2, 2004-05

She was born in England and studied at the Chelsea School of Art in London, graduating in Painting in 1955. Woolnough immigrated to Canada in 1957, settling in Hamilton, Ontario. In 1965 she headed to the San Miguel de Allende Instituto in Mexico, where she studied experimental etching for two years, graduating with a Master’s of Fine Art degree in graphics. Back in London, she did post-graduate work at the Central School of Art and Design in metal techniques. After designing the etching and lithography departments at the Jamaica School of Art in Kingston, Jamaica, Woolnough found her way to PEI.

Hilda Woolnough, Timepiece: The Hours (#9). Image: robosapiens.org

Hilda Woolnough, Timepiece: The Hours (#13). Image: robosapiens.org

In 1999 Hilda Woolnough received the Adrien Arsenault Senior Arts Award for “contribution to the arts in Prince Edward Island”

Woolnough most often worked in series, exploring an idea fully, guided by both intellect and intuition. Nature and the human form provide a starting point, but she moved beyond the representational to a deeper, more universal expression.

“I’m interested in evolution of plants, land, the world,” Woolnough once said in a interview. “There are stages in the growth of the brain that are reptilian or flower-like. They’re proof that we are all the sum of our parts, like the land or sea.”

Hilda Woolnough, New Drawings: 2007, Guantanamo1, 2007. Image: hildawoolnough.com

Hilda Woolnough, New Drawings: 2007, Guantanamo7, 2007. Image: hildawoolnough.com

Hilda Woolnough, New Drawings: 2007, Guantanamo10, 2007. Image: hildawoolnough.com

To read the obituary in the PEI Guardian, please click HERE.

4 Responses to “Underrated Canadian artist: Hilda Woolnough, RCA”

  1. Craig says:

    Great choice for an Underrated Canadian Artist. Thanks for this.

  2. Andrea says:

    This comment was originally posted on the old VoCA:

    I am so sad that her contribution has never seen its true calling here in this country.

    I hope that, in my new role managing her private collection (which is WOW!, her Timepiece exhibition is truly National Gallery material), I can do for her in death that which never happened for her in Canada, or I could not do for her in life – struggling to emerge from the very edges of the fringe universe myself as a filmmaker. She’s given me a chance by being so supportive of my dreams. She was like that with everyone. In art and making it, the world could thrive. Through it, the free and fearless exchange of ideas would always solve and resolve for all.

    I will look for other innovative alternatives, other major galleries who may step up now, and “discover” this artist and let her work shine where it has not shone before. I think once people see the depth of talent here through a wealth of truly powerful work, any properly put together retrospective and national tour will be a truly inspiring event for the public and Canadians.

    She was well known in art circles and respected, if not revered. She became an RCA on this basis. It’s time Canada as a country let its artists shine on the international stage, aside on its own soil. The strength of a country lies with its ability to nurture and celebrate creative excellence, as this the real engine behind a robust economy and the soul of its people.

    John, her son.

  3. corinne Corbett says:

    A fabulous artist and human being that I met many years ago through my dear friend, Pat Murphy, who died last week. I thought Hilda and Pat would live forever, they were such rare, fascinating and talented creatures.

  4. Ted Kulik says:

    An old friend whom I hadn’t seen for a number of years. A wonderful artist whose life itself was art. I loved her. TED

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