A Peek at the MAJ Collection
After nearly forty years spent exploring the possibilities of figuration up to its most abstract expression, Montréal artist Marian Dale Scott (1906-1993) addressed, over the last thirty years of her life, the potential of non-objective art.
The underlying structures of urban, botanical, or cellular worlds formed the basis of Scott’s approach in which she sought to formally translate their essential meaning through geometric organization, both angular and curved. This interest in underlying structures also guided her reflections on non-objective art. While her purely abstract paintings initially focused on the expressive potential of matter, this soon gave way to a more systematic structure that served to organize her thick, coloured textures.
Around 1965, Scott began a new phase in her work, many fine examples of which are part of the Musée d’art de Joliette’s collection. In these, Scott uses a more formalist approach whereby an underlying grid acts as the surface’s main organizing element. The impastos that previously had been formed out of oil‑based pigments were now abandoned in favour of flat areas of acrylic paint applied in geometrically defined shapes to create various optical effects.
This new stage no doubt speaks to the growing influence of the Plasticiens movement on the Montréal art scene, which had been present since the mid-1950s. Their importance grew even more evident after the exhibition The Responsive Eye, held in New York in 1965, which Scott may have seen or had at least purchased the catalogue.
This rigorously geometric period ended in the early 1970s, after which fluidity, curves, and transparencies would gradually temper the strict linearity of her work.
It should be noted that at the time, in Québec, rigorous geometric abstraction and strictly pictorial optical effects were primarily the domain of male artists. Women artists were rarely concerned by these issues. The most well-known exception, of course, is Rita Letendre (1928-2021), and to a lesser degree, Marian Dale Scott. Nevertheless, it is worth mentioning that more than twenty years separate these two women. Scott, an anglophone artist, was a generation older than these younger, mainly francophone, women, who were making their mark on the abstract art scene in Québec. Hence the rather uncommon nature of these non-objective geometric explorations, which Marian Dale Scott untiringly pursued, even at an age when others were resting on their laurels.
From a young age, between 1917 and 1920, Marian Mildred Dale Scott acquired her first formal art training at the Art Association of Montreal School. She was then among the first women to enroll in the École des beaux-arts de Montréal, where she studied from 1923 to 1926, before going on to complete her training the following year at the Slade School of Art in London, England. Despite her status as a mother and as the wife of the eminent lawyer, poet, and member of Canada’s left-leaning social democratic movement, Francis Reginald (Frank) Scott, Marian Dale Scott pursued her art practice until the end of her life. In 1939, she became a founding member of the Contemporary Arts Society and regularly exhibited with them. For over seventy years, she presented her work in the annual exhibitions of the Art Association of Montreal, the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, the Canadian Group of Painters, and participated in numerous group shows throughout Canada and internationally. Scott also produced two public art murals.
Image in the banner:
© Succession Marian Dale Scott, Untitled, 1966, acrylic on canvas, 162.3 x 152.2 cm. Photo: Musée d’art de Joliette