In this expressive self-portrait, renowned Canadian painter Myfanwy Pavelic depicts herself in a moment of repose. Charcoal eyes look out at the viewer from beneath tousled hair and her fingers are curled suggestively before her, waiting to spring into action. This painting was a gift from the artist to the famous violinist Yehudu Menuhin whose portrait she painted in 1983 (currently in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery in London, England). Known for her evocative and poignant portraits, Pavelic’s paintings give the viewer an honest insight into her sitter’s subjectivity. In this self-portrait, the artist is forthright and unapologetic in her direct address to the viewer and, in a nod to modernist self-portraiture, Pavelic’s rendering of her hands evokes her identity as a working painter.
|Provenance||The Artist; Estate of Yehudi Menuhin; Private Collection, Victoria, Canada.|
Revered Canadian figurative painter Myfanwy Pavelic’s works are known for humanistic and meditative tendencies. She is best-known for painting a number of luminaries, such as Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, violinist Yehudi Menuhin, and Katherine Hepburne. Pavelic worked in many mediums, most notably in oil, acrylic, and her beloved medium of charcoal, which she used both for preparatory sketches and finished drawings.
Largely self-taught, Pavelic independently studied with prominent visual artists, such as Emily Carr, whom she met at eight years old. At age fifteen in 1931, Carr showed Pavelic’s drawings in an exhibition at Carr’s Peoples Gallery. This was the beginning of a long and successful career as a portraitist.
Née Spencer, Myfanwy Pavelic was born in Victoria, B.C., in 1916. Her paternal grandfather David Spencer was a retail entrepreneur on Vancouver Island, whose home, the Spencer Mansion, was donated by his daughter and Myfanwy’s aunt, Sarah Spencer, for the establishment of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria in 1951. Largely self-taught, Pavelic was also a talented musician and child prodigy who suffered a physical injury that barred her from becoming a concert pianist.
In 1971, Pavelic established a spacious studio in Saanich and founded the Society of Limmers with artist Maxwell Bates. The Limmers were a Victoria group of artists named after travelling painters of the middle ages. It is around that time that Pavelic’s artistic career burgeoned and she began earning prestigious portrait commissions, amongst them Katherine Heburne. In 1997, Pavelic became a founding member of the Canadian Portrait Gallery, and a year later, received the F.H Varley Medallion for Best Portrait Painting of Trudeau in 1998.
Her accomplishments as an artist were numerous, as was her commitment to philanthropy. In 1975, in recognition of her extraordinary work Pavelic was made a member of the Royal Canadian Academy. In 2001, she was inducted into the Order of British Columbia.She also received an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts (DFA) from the University of Victoria in 1984, and a year later she was invited into the Order of Canada. During the Second World War, she painted portraits for the Red Cross. She participated in the Vancouver Art Gallery’s annual Artists Exhibition, winning prizes for painting and drawing in 1943. Her other accolades include Member of the Order of British Columbia in 2001, founding member of the Canadian Portrait Gallery and member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Art.
Pavelic’s works are held in the National Gallery of Canada, the National Portrait Gallery in London, and the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria (AGGV). The AGGV has a considerable collection of Pavelic’s paintings and drawings, many of them gifts from the artist, and has held solo retrospective exhibitions of her works. In 1983, the British National Portrait Gallery accepted Pavelic’ portrait of renowned violinist Yehundi Menuhin (1916-1999), the first Canadian-born artist to do so.
Myfanwy Spencer Pavelic died in 2007 in Victoria, B.C at the age of 91.