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Female Artist from 19th-Century Finally Gets Credit for Works Attributed to Men

Culture | February 1, 2017, Wednesday @ 16:22| 66 views

Caroline Louisa Daly’s A Whale Stranded In Tracadie Harbour, North Side of PEI, September 1858. Photo: The Guardian

For nearly half a century, Caroline Louisa Daly’s sketches and watercolours have graced the walls of one of the largest galleries in Atlantic Canada – but until recently they were always mistakenly attributed to two male artists.

Now, in what researchers describe as a “little feminist victory”, Daly is finally getting the credit she’s due, in an exhibit reintroducing the 19th-century artist and her works.

“We’ve been displaying these works on and off pretty regularly over the past several decades, always with credit to these two men,” said Paige Matthie, gallery registrar at the Confederation Centre art gallery in Prince Edward Island and curator of Introducing Caroline Louisa Daly, which launched earlier this month. “So it’s a real pleasure to be able to correct that and own up to our mistake.”

The works, which bear signatures of C Daly or CL Daly, were long attributed to John Corry Wilson Daly and Charles L Daly.

Doubts over the attributions first emerged in 2014 when a British visitor to the gallery suggested that they were actually by Daly, his great-grandmother.

Born in the 1830s, Daly lived in Prince Edward Island for some five years while her father was serving as lieutenant governor. As her father moved from post to post in the British colonial administration, she documented the family’s travels in sketches and watercolours.

The doubts raised by her great-grandson soon snowballed into a two-year investigation that sought to tackle “a bit of a museum mystery”, said Matthie. “We quickly discovered there was no real historical proof for either of those attributions,” said Matthie.

caoline louisa daly canada

There was nothing to suggest that John Corry Wilson Daly, a well-known merchant and politician, had ever produced art. And there was no evidence that Charles L Daly had ever visited Prince Edward Island, making it unlikely that he was behind the detailed sketches and paintings of the island’s landscape.

“The previous attributions felt like trying to pound mismatching pieces of a puzzle together just to make it fit a story,” said Matthie. “And as soon as we began looking into Caroline Louisa Daly, the puzzle pieces just started to fit together so naturally.”

Stylistic similarities linked her previously known works to those in the gallery’s collection, from the way in which trees were rendered to the emphasis on details. “When you look at the works all together, there are just little hallmarks of the same person coming through all of them,” said Matthie.

Given the time that Daly once spent on the island, it was surprising that the misattribution endured for so long, said Matthie. “But I think that it’s representative of a wider trend to ignore the accomplishments of women and kind of downplay them,” she added. “I don’t think it was a malicious misattribution by any means, but I think it’s just all too easy to forget the accomplishments of women sometimes.” 


Tags: sketches, watercolours, mistakenly, victory, reintroducing, Credit, pleasure, correct, great-grandmother, lieutenant governor, snowballed, proof, mismatching, hallmarks, misattribution

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