Margaret Alexandra Luke

Margaret Alexandra Luke, painter (b at Montrél 14 May 1901, d at Oshawa 1 June 1967). Luke's development as a pioneering abstract painter was considerably delayed by family responsibilities. Trained as a nurse in Washington, DC, by 1930 she had become a wife, a widow, the mother of a son, a wife again (to Clarence Ewart McLaughlin of the McLaughlin Carriage Company family), and mother of a daughter.

Largely self-taught at first, her early works were relatively conventional paintings reflecting an interest in the GROUP OF SEVEN. In 1944 painter Caven Atkins advised her to move beyond their influence. Luke's first formal training was at the BANFF SCHOOL OF FINE ARTS (1945), where her instructors included Jock MACDONALD, who probably introduced her to automatism and the writings of Petr Ouspensky. Later she became intensely involved with the work of Ouspensky's teacher, Armenian mystic George Gurdjieff.

Encouraged by the Canadian artist Joseph Plaskett, Luke studied with the German-American painter/teacher, Hans Hofmann, in Provincetown, Rhode Island, at various times from 1947 through 1954. Hofmann provided theory of the medium and confirmed for her that art is a positive force with spiritual value. In turn, Luke encouraged Macdonald and William RONALD to study with Hofmann.

In 1947, Luke began doing "automatic" paintings and was included in the Canadian Women Artists exhibition at the Riverside Museum in New York. She did not have her first commercial-gallery solo show (at Douglas DUNCAN's Picture Loan Society) until 1952, the year she organized the ground-breaking Canadian Abstract Exhibition. Luke was in the Abstracts at Home exhibition (1953) at Simpsons department store that led to the creation of PAINTERS ELEVEN, organized at her summer home at Thickson's Point, Ont. She regularly exhibited with them in Montrél, New York and elsewhere until the group dissolved in 1960.

Luke's best work, such as Yellow Space (1961), exemplifies her aim to use colour intuitively, to make painting a "universal language", an art "as pure...as music" that would "continue searching forever".