Betty Roodish Goodwin
1923 - 2008
oil on board
on verso numbered "BG-T-(1950-56)-33" and stamped "Studio Betty Goodwin"
24 x 35 in, 61 x 88.9 cm
Estimate: $5,000 - $7,000
Sold for: $5,938
Estate of the Artist
Jessica Bradley and Matthew Teitelbaum, editors, The Art of Betty Goodwin, Art Gallery of Ontario, 1998, essay by Matthew Teitelbaum, “The Mourner’s Cry,” pages 7, 8 and 16
Born in Montreal in 1923, Betty Goodwin was the only child of Romanian and Jewish immigrants Clare Edith and Abraham Roodish. Spanning nearly 50 years, her oeuvre is monumental, sentient and authentic, and thanks to her strong sense of humanism, it expresses the fragility and complexity of the human experience. Goodwin has worked in a variety of mediums – painting, drawing, collage, printmaking and sculpture – and often in series, such as Swimmers, Tarpaulin and La mémoire du corps (Memory of the body). Often associated with themes of loss, absence and memory, her works are poignant and deal aptly with challenging subjects. Art historian Matthew Teitelbaum wrote that “her work is a process made clear; expressing feeling is a way of preserving and healing the self.”
Although she started earning recognition only around the late 1960s, and mostly for her printmaking and drawings, Goodwin had been working as an artist since the close of the Second World War. Like many other artists of her generation, she saw painting as a political and social act. Thus, for the first few years of the 1950s, she depicted the struggle of the working class and wartime immigrants through scenes of Montreal Jewish neighborhoods and portraits of workers, painted in a Social Realist style. She then moved to representations of domestic interiors in the proto-Cubist style that was in vogue at the time. These richly coloured and carefully constructed still lives are divided into multi-faceted planes, and are full of life.
By 1964, she evolved into what Teitelbaum considers her final painting stage: figures floating freely within the pictorial space, over abstracted backgrounds. Liberated from anatomy, posture and gravity, “the figure is released into the imaginative ether, floating, falling or twisting through space in a manner that recalls the work of the Russian-born French artist Marc Chagall,’’ wrote Teitelbaum. Rendered in gestural painterly streaks, these were her most experimental works to date. From then on, the figure became a consistent thread in her oeuvre. Teitelbaum stated: “Goodwin’s earliest paintings and related prints can be situated as the beginning of a sustained project, her early domestic still lives and figurative works anticipating in spirit the ambition that follows. Her continuing use of the human figure invokes the act of memorialization: seeing, remembering, reflecting, mourning.”
At the beginning of her career, at the close of the Second World War, Betty Goodwin was especially concerned with art’s purpose. Like many other artists of her generation, she saw painting as a political and social act that could reconnect the individual to a greater collective purpose. Thus, in the early 1950s, she worked in the Social Realist tradition, depicting the continued struggle of the working class and wartime immigrants through scenes of the Montreal Jewish neighborhoods and portraits of workers.
Backyard, Montreal is a contemplative depiction of a typical Montreal backyard in winter, with its multi-storey apartments, balconies, alleys and bare trees. Here, Goodwin applies her paint in textured strokes, revealing her gestural brushwork. The brown and maroon brick buildings contrast greatly with the cool greys and whites of the stone houses and the snow on the ground and on rooftops. The multifaceted planes of the composition recall Goodwin’s proto-Cubist still lives and domestic interior scenes of the late 1950s.
All prices are in Canadian Dollars
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