Blind Contour Homage #30 – “Parachute Riggers” – 1947 Paraskeva Clark
Born Paraskeva Avdeyevna Plistik in St.Petersburg, Russia, Clark was one of three daughters to working class parents. Her mother made artificial flowers to supplement the family’s income and her father managed a grocery store. They worked hard to afford their children an education. After graduating in 1914, she worked as a clerk in a shoe factory and attended evening classes at the Petrograd Academy of Fine Arts. She was recruited to paint sets for theatres and met her first husband Oreste Allegri Jr., an Italian scene painter. They married in 1922 and had a son, Benedict. They made plans to emigrate to France but Allegri drowned during the summer. Clark decided to move to Paris and live with her in-laws. Even though her late husband’s family was well connected in the art world, she had little time for art while caring for her son and doing domestic work for them.
When her son was 6, he was sent to boarding school during the week so Clark took a job at an interior design shop. There she met Philip Clark, a visiting Canadian accountant. The two kept a long distance relationship until he revisited in 1931 and they decided to marry. They moved to Toronto and shortly after, her 2nd son, Clive was born.
Clark’s entry into the Toronto art world was facilitated by her husband’s membership in the Arts and Letters Club (he was a talented pianist). She was encouraged to send her “Self Portrait,”(1931–32), to the annual juried exhibition of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in November 1932. It was the first time she exhibited. She exhibited extensively after that and was accepted to the Canadian Group of Painters in 1936.
As a young woman, she faced many financial challenges in Russia. Clark felt passionately about the role and responsibility of the artist: “Those who give their lives, their knowledge and their time to social struggle have the right to expect great help from the artist. And I cannot imagine a more inspiring role than that which the artist is asked to play for the defence and advancement of civilization.”
These beliefs and her strong attachment to her homeland fuelled not only her art but her political activism. She was appointed by the National Gallery of Canada to record the activities of the Women’s Divisions of the Armed Forces during World War II. “Maintenance Jobs in the Hangar #6, Trenton RCAF, Station,” 1945 is part of that series.
Clark’s eldest son, Benedict was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1943. Her concern and sadness over his illness would seriously affect her productivity as an artist. He never lived independently. In 1974, she shared a show with him during which the National Gallery of Canada purchased her piece “Myself” (1933). Many exhibitions of her work and new projects featuring her art came about in these later years of her life, including a 1982 film by the National Film Board of Canada, Portrait of the Artist as an Old Lady.
Philip Clark died in 1980, and after living for a time in a nursing home Paraskeva Clark suffered a stroke and passed away on August 10, 1986, at the age of 87.
Clark had been a member of the Canadian Group of Painters, the Canadian Society of Painters in Water Colour, the Canadian Society of Graphic Art, the Ontario Society of Artists, and the Royal Canadian Academy. Much of her art now resides at the National Gallery of Canada and the Art Gallery of Ontario.
Born: October 28, 1898, St.Petersburg, Russia
Died: August 10, 1986, Toronto