And Beauty Answers: The Life of Frances Loring
and Florence Wyle
(published by Cormorant Books Inc.)
View Elspeth Cameron's video
Excerpt from And Beauty Answers: The Life of Frances Loring and Florence Wyle (PDF) as it appeared in the National Post on September 20, 2008.
In And Beauty Answers: The Life of Frances Loring and Florence Wyle, Elspeth Cameron creates a detailed portrait of two women who led unconventional lives, yet created neoclassical public sculpture at a time when aesthetics were changing. From their earliest days, "The Girls," as Loring and Wyle came to be known, were advocates for their art form as well as for their gender; it was their belief that the arts should have a central role in the lives of Canadians. They lived together in a renovated church just north of Rosedale, where they worked steadily and entertained other artists of the day, including A. Y. Jackson. Loring and Wyle come alive in Elspeth Cameron's masterful biography, in which she explores a partnership that helped shape the landscape of Canadian Art.
(photo by Rosalind Went)
Elspeth Cameron is the author of three award-winning biographies: Hugh MacLennan: A Writer's Life (1981), Irving Layton: A Portrait (1985), and Earle Birney: A Life (1994). Her 1997 memoir No Previous Experience won the W.O. Mitchell Literary Prize. She was the recipient of the UBC Medal for Canadian Biography in 1981 and the City of Vancouver Book Award in 1995. Her biography of Hugh MacLennan was a finalist for the Governor General's Literary Award. She has written numerous profiles of Canadian cultural figures such as Peter Newman, Jack McClelland, Veronica Tennant, Anne Murray, Howard Engel, Janette Turner Hospital, and Timothy Findley, winning several journalism awards. Her work has appeared in Saturday Night, Chatelaine, Maclean's, Leisureways, and a number of academic journals. In addition, she has edited seven books, including Great Dames, a collection of biographical sketches, memoirs, and essays about twentieth-century Canadian women from all walks of life. She has taught English and Canadian Studies at Concordia University and the University of Toronto, and has recently retired from the English Language and Literature Department at Brock University.
Elspeth now lives in St. Catharines, Ontario, and is at work on a biography of Group of Seven member, A.Y. Jackson.
Excerpt from And Beauty Answers: The Life of Frances Loring and Florence Wyle
Conventional wisdom has it that Frances Loring and Florence Wyle are difficult to tell apart. Even their first names, which begin with the letter "F" and denote two European centres of art, are confusing. And both names contain the syllable "lor." Their work is not easily told apart either. Frances Gage, a younger sculptor who knew them and their work well, recalls having difficulty identifying a work before finding Wyle's signature on it. As one writer observed in 1977, a decade after their deaths, "Loring and Wyle, who were 'among the last of the salon-and-academy romantics to retain some relevance in Canadian art, should really be viewed as a single talent, not two ... [E]ach drew upon the other's strength to create a joint body of work that transcended the individual.'"i
After studying The Girls as they were known and their work for a few years, I disagree. Although they shared neoclassical training, they were different individuals. There was more life force in Frances, more agitation. Her work is more ruffled and powerful than Florence's. Frances more often depicted motion; Florence created serenity. Florence was more spiritual than Frances and, paradoxically, more earthy. For her, the life force was in all nature, and in nature's creatures. It was her privilege to record it. Frances was a flamboyant extrovert; Florence was a tough-minded introvert. Even their methods differed. Frances dashed off her creations in energetic spurts; whereas Florence worked regularly and hard. Frances sculpted with empathy, projecting herself into her portrait busts and statues. Florence worked with sympathy, honouring otherness. There were class differences too. Frances had been raised amid wealth and culture in a family that prized women. Florence grew up among farming people who were not well educated and who regarded girls as second-class citizens. There is something quintessential in the roles they played late in their lives. Florence patiently answered the door like a servant and said, "Come in, and meet Miss Loring,"ii whom she fittingly nicknamed "Queenie." And Frances would receive their guests lounging like royalty on a bank of pillows.
Whenever they were asked about whether they influenced each other, they said no. Typically, Frances once said, "neither of [us] ever interferes with the work of the other and while [we] criticize each other's output, it is usually only in a very slight and friendly fashion."iii
And Beauty Answers: The Life of Frances Loring and Florence Wyle by Elspeth Cameron. Published by Cormorant Books Inc. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.
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