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Meditations on Humanity: Portrait Drawings of Herman Heimlich

Meditations on Humanity: Portrait Drawings of Herman Heimlich

May 1–June 29, 2001

Curated by Janette Cousins Ewan

University of Toronto Art Centre

This exhibition presents nine undated works on paper in chalk pastel and charcoal by Herman Heimlich, donated to the University of Toronto in 1998 by his daughter Sheila.

Herman Heimlich (1904-1986) was one of a number of Jewish artists working in Montreal during the 1930s and 1940s with a particular interest in urban subjects. Heimlich had moved to Montreal around 1930, and set up his first studio and residence above the Jewish Public Library on St. Urbain Street.

He considered himself to be first and foremost a painter, and focused on the formal characteristics of colour, line, and composition rather than concerning himself with social issues. His admiration for fauvism, cubism and other modern European art movements that stressed these elements permeates his work in all media.

Heimlich’s interest in portraiture was two-fold: he was intrigued by his sitters’ physical appearance as well as their psychological condition. He had a remarkable talent for capturing individual personalities. A prolific draughtsman, he worked quickly in his sketches, capturing the essence of the sitter’s features with a masterful economy of line. His swift strokes convey a sense of immediacy, as though the works were just freshly completed. He took advantage of the qualities of chalk pastel and charcoal – both soft, workable media – to create a range of painterly effects.


Title Image: Herman Heimlich, untitled (portrait of the artist’s niece, Rhoda). Charcoal and chalk pastel.