Elizabeth Lovitt Cann
Oil on canvas
65.0 x 46.1 cm
Gift of the Nova Scotia Society of Artists, Diploma Collection,
Halifax, Nova Scotia, 1974
Born in Yarmouth, NS in 1901 to a shipbuilding family, Elizabeth Cann had the advantages of wealth and far-flung family connections that allowed for extensive travel and study. Following studies at the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts and the New York School of Applied Design for Women, Cann and her mother travelled and lived across Europe and Canada, returning only periodically to Yarmouth.
Cann began a distinguished and extensive exhibition history as early as 1923 at the Salon d'Automne in Paris. A solo exhibition in Montreal followed and in May 1929 her painting The Artist's Model was accepted at the Spring Salon in Paris and in the 1930 Royal Canadian Academy exhibition in Toronto. In 1936 Cann returned to Yarmouth where she remained until her death, in 1977, except for a rare summer trip abroad.
Cann's main interest was in portraiture. Her work is noted for the expressiveness of her subjects and its ability to arrest and engage the viewer. Her sitters are almost exclusively women and girls, portrayed with a deep psychological sensitivity. The Soldier’s Wife is an excellent example of Cann’s approach to portrait painting. Gemey Kelly has referred to The Soldier’s Wife as a compelling deliberation "on the weariness of domestic routine coupled with the isolation inherent in the life of the wife and mother." The added stresses and anxieties of wartime can also be seen in the posture and facial expression of the sitter, and the heaviness of time during war might be suggested by the calendar over her shoulder. Unlike many of the contemporary commercial depictions of women, Cann presents a woman who is more than merely a wife, but a fully developed, complex individual in her own right.