The National Gallery of Canada opened its retrospective exhibition on Canadian photographer Margaret Watkins Oct. 5.
Throughout the gallery space are quotes from Watkins’ journals. Some of the quotes emphasize her love for music — she compares a sunset to “Wagner with full orchestra” in one quote. Others provide insight into the mindset of Margaret Watkins.
A 1915 quote illustrates her view on art: “Nothing is ever too commonplace or too useful to escape the sweet embellishment of art.”
“Around the humble cookstove, art runs in riotous castiron curves, where may rest the savory spillings from many a too exuberant soup kettle.”
The exhibition, called Margaret Watkins: Domestic Symphonies features the photographs of Hamilton-born Watkins, who remained in relative obscurity until her friend and local neighbour Joseph Mulholland found her photographs years after she had entrusted them to him.
“One day I spotted the box, opened it up astonished to find 1,200 photographs. Portraits of men, women, children, nudes, landscapes, and abstracts,” Mulholland said.
“I thought I had known Margaret Watkins. She had spoken of everything under the sun, except her past and photography.”
Director Marc Mayer was surprised he had never heard of Watkins until recently. “We think we know so much about the past and the history of photography and then every once in a while an artist emerges who we didn’t know,” he said.