A Nova Scotia painter that time forgot is about to reemerge in the limelight.
“We were taken by her, we felt she needed to be celebrated,” said Martha Irving.
Irving, along with Mauralea Austin, Mary Colin Chisholm and Sherry Smith are the creative force behind Luna/Sea Theatre’s To Capture Light. The play is about 19th century Halifax painter Frances Jones Bannerman and will premiere at the SuperNova Festival tomorrow. During the height of the impressionist movement in 1877, Bannerman — who was only an active painter for 12 years — travelled to Paris from Canada to study art. “She was influenced by this new movement of painting, and was the first Canadian to incorporate it in her work and bring it back to Canada,” Irving said.
In 2006, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia unveiled an exhibit of works by Bannerman and Newfoundland-born Margaret Campbell Macpherson, two Impressionist painters who exhibited before — and more often — than their male counterparts, but still are largely absent from history books.
Bannerman’s In the Conservatory, which is part of that show, was the first Canadian subject shown in an official Parisian art salon.
It was at the show that Irving and the rest of the Luna/Sea members saw Bannerman’s work, and learned more about her from AGNS associate curator Dianne O’Neill. “In the exhibition, we tried to give back a life to each of these artists, but the play will probably do that even more effectively,” said O’Neill. Irving said O’Neill has been a fantastic resource, helping to locate any information there might be about Bannerman, and helping to provide historical context.
“Curating is really detective work, and it is fascinating,” Irving said.