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Recently Acquired: Superb Acrylic by Janet Mitchell

October 20, 2010
Tea For Two, 1995 acrylic on canvas 24"x30

Tea For Two, 1995 acrylic on canvas 24"x30

Janet Mitchell (1912-1998) has been much celebrated for her imaginative use of the watercolour medium. For over fifty years she relied on it to produce celebrated visions of the people and places of her native Calgary. Faithful as she was to watercolour, a recent acquisition, Tea For Two, reminds us she was also very partial to another medium.

Janet began to use acrylic paints as early as the 1960s shortly after it was introduced to artists as a viable alternative to oils. Throughout her career she turned repeatedly to acrylic for her larger compositions and many of these became defining images of her career –  the painting illustrated on the cover of Peggy Armstrong’s book Janet Mitchell: Life and Art is painted with acrylic. The problem was that compared to watercolour, acrylic was expensive and rarely was it within the budget for struggling artists – Janet once remarked to Peter Ohler that had it been more affordable she would have used it much more fequently.

The painting we acquired this week, Tea For Two, marks a final and potent stage of Janet’s exploration with acrylic. Painted in 1995 it depicts two figures seated idly at an outdoor cafe letting the hustle bustle of the Calgary street pass them by. The two dogs waiting patiently at their masters feet recall Janet’s own faithful companion, a scruffy little Scotty dog she named Heg.

Tea for Two hangs in the gallery this week, a rare opportunity for a collector looking for a compelling example of Janet’s contribution to 20th century art in Calgary and to the expressive powers of the acrylic medium.

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