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Art Canadian

Painters Eleven

The Wild Ones of Canadian Art

by (author) Iris Nowell

Douglas & McIntyre
Initial publish date
Aug 2010
Canadian, Contemporary (1945-)
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Aug 2010
    List Price

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A visually stunning portrayal of the turbulent rise of Abstract Expressionism in Canada.


Eleven Abstract Expressionist artists banded together in 1953 to break through the barricades of traditional art at a time when Canadian and European landscapes were about the only paintings collectors were buying. Hungry for recognition, raging against the art establishment that was shutting them out, they decided to form Painters Eleven, expecting they would gain attention as a group, rather than going solo. Following their first group exhibition in February 1954, the public response echoed the sentiments that Abstract Expressionism had elicited worldwide-largely mockery and bewilderment. Nevertheless, the exhibition attracted wide public interest, and after two or three more Painters Eleven exhibitions, the criticism transformed to a crescendo of acclaim from critics and collectors alike. Although the group disbanded in 19 6 0, many of the Painters Eleven became icons of Canadian contemporary art. Their dynamic works are held in Canada's main public art galleries and in prestigious galleries around the world and are still avidly sought after by public institutions and private and corporate art collectors. Expertly researched by Iris Nowell, an acclaimed biographer with extensive knowledge of the Canadian art world, and featuring more than 290 full-colour reproductions, Painters Eleven brings readers and art lovers face to face with one of Canada's most exciting periods of art history.

About the author

Iris Nowell is the author of six books as well as countless newspaper and magazine articles on topics ranging from sports to social issues. She was the first of the new generation of women to write on the sports pages of The Globe and Mail. Her subsequent work includes the well-received Women Who Give Away Millions: Portraits of Canadian Philanthropists and the artist biography Joyce Wieland: A Life in Art and her memoir Hot Breakfast for Sparrows: My Life with Harold Town. Nowell lives in Toronto.

Iris Nowell's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"The many fans of the group will feel vindicated by the overdue appearance of a book about them and will admire this work's beautiful reproductions."

Journal of Canadian Art History

"In Painters Eleven: The Wild Ones of Canadian Art, author Iris Nowell brings to life the turbulent rise of an often overlooked period of Canadian art history -- Abstract Expressionism...Painters Eleven is an intimate look at a previously unexplored subject matter."

International Architecture & Design

"Painters Eleven is the perfect gift. At a hefty 364 pages, it is packed with what easily could be magazine cover features on each of the 11 abstract artists who helped hoe conservative 'Toronto the Good' into fertile land for contemporary art to grow."

Telegraph Journal

"It's about time that the talented and daring artists of Painters Eleven have their lives and work celebrated. You do not want to miss this book; even the cover is a work of art."

Arabella Magazine

"Painters Eleven, a loosely coherent organization only from 1953 to 1958, may have been the last chapter of modernism in western art, soon to be swept aside by Pop Art. This book will...remain definitive."

Times Colonist

"Nowell may be the best-placed writer in the country to get us inside Painters Eleven given her time spent with Hodgson and her many years as Harold Town's companion."

Toronto Star

"Nowell has given us a coffee table book with benefits...she peppers the text with chatty anecdotes, biographic details and telling character descriptions."


"Painters Eleven works beautifully as a traditional art book. It has more than 200 admirable colour reproductions...[and expresses the] dream of a society brought to life by artists."

National Post

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