Some of Clark McDougall’s most iconic paintings are of downtown urban areas and city streets. His popular paintings “Buffalo News Vendor”(1975), “John Street is a One-Way Street” (1976) and “Talbot Street (Ann’s Snack Bar)” (1964), distinguish him as an artist who innately understood how to depict the inner energy and rhythm of city life.
This exhibition, “Clark’s Urban Life”, includes paintings of streets and alleys from the places where Clark lived and travelled: Buffalo, London, Toronto and St. Thomas. We have selected street-themed paintings ranging in date from 1950 – 1973 which show Clark’s amazing range from “Fauve” painter to his characteristic Black Enamel style. Many of the exhibited paintings have never been seen before.
By selecting the paintings we have discovered new places from Clark’s past, some of which are now gone. “Toronto Street Scene”(E18) depicts the Brown Derby Tavern which was located on the North/East corner of Yonge & Dundas and now is the bustling Dundas Square. “Little Harlem, Buffalo” (F11) shows a peaceful 1950s Michigan Avenue with the famous Montgomery Little Harlem Nightclub where performers such as Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday and Dinah Washington performed. Even the dynamic “London Fair” (J7) painting recalls youthful moments with glimpses of old rides and the impressive Western Fair Grandstand. Through these paintings Clark has captured a moment in time where we have the opportunity to re-live his many journeys and experiences.
Clark McDougall was born in St. Thomas in 1921. At the age of 16 Clark left high school determined to become an artist. He would ride his bike north of St. Thomas into North Yarmouth and paint watercolours directly from nature. He taught himself proper technique from library books and sought advice from local artist William St. Thomas Smith. In 1950, at the age of 29, Clark traveled to Montreal and Quebec City where he first experienced the paintings of Henri Matisse. He now realized that colour and line could be used in a completely different way. By 1952-3 Clark was working as a “Fauve” painter, where his colours were intensely vivid and non-naturalistic.
A coronary in 1957 forced Clark to paint from photographs in his studio. His painting style changed where the outline became very important to the structure and design of the painting. Clark’s unique “black enamel” style set him apart from other regional artists. His first exhibition of these “black enamel” paintings was in 1968 at the 20/20 Gallery, London. In 1976 the Volunteer Committee at the London Regional Art Gallery commissioned a painting, “Site”, to commemorate the building of the new art gallery situated at the forks of the Thames. In 1977 the Vancouver Art Gallery organized an exhibition “Clark McDougall: Paintings since 1953”.
Regardless of the style, however, Clark had a highly individual way of interpreting his beloved landscape of North Yarmouth. Clark McDougall passed away of a brain tumor in 1980 at the age of 59. In 1987 the London Regional Art Gallery mounted a large retrospective exhibition of Clark’s work. Most recently in 2011, the McIntosh Gallery, UWO produced a hard-cover book to accompany their exhibition “Fugitive Light: Clark McDougall’s Destination Places”. Michael Gibson Gallery represents the Estate of Clark McDougall. His paintings are in countless corporate collections as well as the Art Gallery of Ontario, Vancouver Art Gallery, Museum London and the Canada Council Art Bank.