Kitchen of the Knothole
We focus on a painting by Canadian landscape painter Doris McCarthy, a proud Scarborough local.
Doris Jean McCarthy. Kitchen of the Knothole, 1959. Oil on board, Unframed: 40.6 × 30.4 cm. Purchase, with funds from the Dennis Reid Fund, 2019. © Estate of Doris McCarthy. Copyright Visual Arts-CARCC, 2020
Doris McCarthy primarily painted Canadian landscapes. Her depictions of lakeside rolling hills, mountains and Arctic glaciers defined her career, encapsulating Canada’s diverse terrain in a special way. This makes her 1959 oil painting of the interior of her Georgian Bay cottage – Kitchen of the Knothole – particularly unique.
Though she was born in Calgary in 1910, Doris was raised and spent most of her life in Toronto. She attended the Ontario College of Art (now OCADU) in the late 1920s and graduated as a decorated student, receiving numerous awards and prizes. She became a teacher at Central Technical School in Toronto in 1933 while residing in Scarborough – painting landscapes in her spare time. Her tenure at Central Tech lasted 39 years, during which time she would regularly visit her favourite Georgian Bay getaway cottage – the Knothole. There she immersed herself in the rugged countryside, narrowing her focus on painting her surroundings.
With Kitchen of the Knothole, McCarthy offers us a rare look at the interior of her rural hideaway. Situated in the foreground is a rustic wooden chair and a colourful fruit basket atop a kitchen cabinet. In the background, a countertop, shelving, a small window and the large ventilation pipe of a wooden stove complete her quaint depiction. The painting carries a warmth that symbolizes McCarthy’s fondness of the Knothole, and the special place it held in her life.
In addition to the many Canadian landscapes she immortalized, McCarthy travelled extensively abroad, painting outdoor settings in Costa Rica, Spain, Italy, Japan, India and the U.K. After her retirement from Central Tech in 1972, she visited the Canadian Arctic for the first time, falling in love with the region’s glacial landscapes. Many of her subsequent works – some of her most well-known – featured the icebergs and frozen lakes of Northern Canada.
Doris McCarthy passed away in 2010 during her 100th year of life. In addition to numerous other accolades throughout her career, she was the recipient of both the Order of Canada (1986) and the Order of Ontario (1992). Her legacy as a legendary Canadian artist was cemented when two public spaces in Scarborough were made her namesake – The Doris McCarthy Gallery on the University of Toronto’s Scarborough campus and the Doris McCarthy Trail in Scarborough’s Bellamy Ravine.
The AGO acquired the oil painting in 2020. Stay tuned for more RBC Art Pick stories focusing on works from the AGO Collection.