Edna Tacon

Edna Tacon

Gaiety, 1946
Oil on canvas board
23 x 17 inches
Biography :

Edna Tacon, O.S.A. 1913-1980. In 1941 Edna studied in NYC, she championed abstraction in Toronto from 1941-1947 with her exhibitions in the Fine Art Gallery at Eatons College St. Friends with Hilla Rebay founding director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum where Edna volunteered as a docent. She also spent time with Lawren Harris when in New York.

Private Collection, Toronto.

– Edna Tacon Contextualist, Chinese Gallery, New York 38 East 57th St. Oct. 28th. – Nov. 16th. 1946. #18.
– Twenty Paintings by Edna Tacon, Eatons, Toronto, Jan. 20th. – Feb. 1st. 1947.
– New Perspectives on Modernism in Canada: Edna Tacon and Kathleen Munn, Art Gallery of York University, Toronto, Oct. 13th. – Nov. 13th. 1988, Art Gallery of Windsor, Dec. 10th. – Jan. 22nd. 1989, Concordia Art Gallery, Montreal, Feb. 23rd. – Apr. 8th. 1989, Edmonton Art Gallery, Edmonton, Apr. 29th. – June 11th. 1989.
McIntosh Gallery, London, July 16th. – Sept. 10th. 1989, Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Kingston, Sept. 30th. – Nov. 5th. 1989, The Robert Mclaughlin Gallery, Oshawa, Jan. 4th. – Feb. 11th. 1990. #51.

New Perspectives on Modernism in Canada: Edna Tacon and Kathleen Munn ( Joyce Zemans, Elizabeth Burrell and Elizabeth Hunter ), ( Toronto: Art Gallery of York University, 1988 ). Exhibition catalogue, illustrated pg. 79.


Edna Jeanette Taçon ( born Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1905, died New York, New York in 1980 ) was a Canadian painter best known for her connection to the non-objective art movement and as a later member of the Canadian Group of Painters. Born Edna Jeanette MacDougall, her father, a violinist in vaudeville theaters, died when she was six years old. As a result, her mother gave her up for adoption to a widow, Mrs. Jane MacFarlane, of Goderich, Ontario. Taçon was trained as a violinist and moved with her adopted mother to Toronto in 1924 to pursue a degree in music. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Music from the University of Toronto in 1927.

Marrying Percy Henry Taçon in April 1929, Edna Tacon continued to perform and study the violin in New York and Europe, notably in Switzerland with Oscar Studer during the summer of 1935. Her husband’s career as a painter and instructor of art and modern languages may have influenced her decision to pursue painting and, particularly, abstraction. Art historians Joyce Zemans, Elizabeth Burrell, and Elizabeth Hunter have written that “Taçon would later tell an interviewer that it was her husband who encourage her to investigate abstraction,” after he began drawing abstractly in 1937. Yet it was Edna Jeannette Tacon who would become known internationally for her abstract painting.

Taçon was influenced by Kandinsky’s theories on abstraction and color and saw the relationship between abstract painting and music as similarly intuitive and creative. She wrote: “Many people will say that painting cannot reach the sublime summit that music has attained as an abstract art. But there is an analogy between music and painting when both are nonrepresentational … It is the ambitious aim of our modern artist to exploit…all the ramifications of such an analogy.”

Taçon used collage in her early years, employing the term “paper plastics,” to describe these works. She may have come across this term through the writing Hilla Rebay, curator of the Museum of Non-Objective Painting in New York, who used it in a catalog as early as 1939. She became involved with the Museum of Non-Objective Painting in 1941 when she took some of her paper plastics to be critiqued. As a result, Taçon was awarded a scholarship by the Foundation and three works by Taçon were exhibited in March 1941 as part of the exhibit “Ten American Non-Objective Painters.” Taçon was to spend a number of years moving back and forth between Hamilton and New York City. In the fall of 1941 she had her first solo shows in New York at Studio 83 and in Toronto at the Eaton’s Fine Arts Galleries. She was at this time working in oils, gouache, and ink, as well as in paper plastics.

Starting in 1942, Taçon’s work was included in a series of group shows by the Guggenheim Foundation and in 1943 she joined the museum as a hostess and guide. She was increasingly exhibited in Canada as well. The Art Gallery of Ontario included her in the exhibition Four Canadian Artists, also featuring Jessie Faunt, Michael Forster, and Gordon Webber. She had seven solo shows between 1941-1947 at the Eaton’s Fine Arts Galleries and was shown in the Hamilton Women’s Art Association’s annual Spring show in 1942 and 1943.

In 1945, Taçon was included for the first time in the Ontario Society of Artists annual exhibition. The Canadian Group of Painters invited her to exhibit as a non-member in their 1945-46 show. In January 1946, she was elected to the membership of the group. Writing on the 1945-46 Group show, Graham Innes commented that the Group was “in a rut” and that the most interesting work was in the field of reportage and abstraction. Taçon’s Tonal Poem illustrated the article.

In 1945, the Taçons moved to Toronto when Percy Taçon was appointed as Head of the Art Department of the Ontario College of Education. Edna Taçon had her first solo exhibition in New York in October 1946. According to Zemans, Burrell, and Hunter, this exhibit marked a change in direction in her work towards a more expressionistic approach. Her paintings nevertheless remained indebted to Kandinsky’s “theory of the spiritual nature of art.”

During her time in Toronto, Taçon taught design and art history at Toronto Western Technical School. Divorcing Percy Taçon, remarrying Paul Arnold, and divorcing again, after 1949 Taçon did not exhibit publicly again although she continued to paint. Her work can be found in the collection of the Guggenheim, the Art Gallery of Ontario, and the Robert McLaughlin Gallery. Edna Jeanette Taçon died in New York in 1980.

biography courtesy of Wikipedia :


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