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Reflecting on Canadian Art: “Mitsikosiwak” & “The Scoop”- by Kent Monkman, and “The Bather” & “Hester”- by Prudence Heward


Art of Canada has given me immense knowledge concerning the essence of visual art pieces. Canadian Art History has transformed my view and understanding of historical pieces of art, which are in the various galleries throughout Canada, such as the Vancouver Art Gallery I visited. Reflecting on the history of Canadian art, it is proper to point out that handcuffs and sculptures were the earliest existing art pieces in History of Canadian Art. Other stone carvings are associated with indigenous artists, such as those discovered in the 20th century by scholars. Regarding visual arts and Canadian history, artistic works are essential in freely expressing the history and values of Canada as a nation and cultural democracy and mainly explicating the issues affecting the Indigenous people of Canada and other global societies. Therefore, this paper reviews some of the artworks by modern Canadian artists Kent Monkman and Prudence Heward, which are remarkable in understanding Canadian Art History.

Kent Monkman: Colonial History of Canada

The history of colonialism and the Canadian experience could not make such an impression on me were it not for Kent Monkman’s art pieces. I have come across various artworks featuring the colonial era, and one of the most compelling pieces is “Mitsikosiwak,” a collection of two images by Monkman. They present an insightful overview of the arrival of the Europeans on the East Coast of Canada and the consequences of their appearance on the Indigenous people of Canada.[1] The collection includes a painting called “Welcoming the Newcomers,” which features visitors on a raft just near the shores of the Atlantic and the indigenous people offering help to the newcomers who seem helpless. The second image, titled “Resurgence of the People,” depicts frustrated figures of the same Indigenous people who welcomed the visitors. It showcases the hardships and oppression that the Indigenous people of Canada went through during colonialism, as well as their long-standing resilience.[2]

The second work by Monkman in this context, “The Scoop,” is a painting that depicts the horrors of violence perpetrated on the Indigenous people of Canada by the colonial missionaries. The image explicitly shows the Catholic clergymen and women, with the help of armed officers molesting Indigenous villagers while snatching their children, who they confiscated into forced the historical residential school system.[3] The residential schools are associated with unprecedented atrocities perpetrated by the colonialists on Indigenous children. Children were forced to assimilate into the western cultures and abandon their own, and the system ran under extremely inhumane conditions that led to the loss of many children. Kent Monkman’s work primarily focuses on showcasing real colonialism by overturning the distorted and falsified narratives by the colonialists.[4]

Prudence Heward: The Modern Woman Artist

Prudence Heward is a famous Canadian artist of the modern era, and her works are largely featured in various Art Galleries in Canada under the “Uninvited: Canadian Women Artists of the Modern Moment.” Heward typically focused on depicting women in her paintings, of all races but making controversial illustration of nudity, but aimed at opposing the supposedly expected perception.[5] She features unhappy women, and presents them in an unflinching poses .When I visited the Vancouver Art Gallery, I came across two of her works, “The Bather” and “Hester” iconic to the history of Canadian art. The first work, “The Bather” painted in 1930, raised views of criticism from contemporary artists as well as other people who found the work to showcase nudity. The Painting wants to demonstrate the power of women, with a figure sitting on a rocky ground, and just behind her is sea or lake water, where she had just taken a bath. The figure seems to be angered, and gazing outward to the viewer with sharp intimidating, with her legs wide opened to expose her flesh.[6] The painting confronts the commonly expected view of a nude for male consumption, by showing the figure disinterested and unbothered.

The second painting by Heward “Hester” is also a controversial image, which she painted in the 1937, depicting a totally naked black woman, with her legs closed, looking aside with a cold facial expression, virtually showing disinterest. The figure depicted in “Hester” as well as that in the bather illustrated Heward’s fascination in nudity and femininity of a typical modern woman, which instead promotes powerful women rather than the commonly accepted art nudity of beauty and sexuality. Prudence Heward is among the women who contributed to the Canadian Art History development with her remarkable pieces.

Applying Close Looking to all the Works

Starting with Kent Monkman’s pieces, “Mitsikosiwak” and “The Scoop” are typically featured on Canvas, using Acrylic paints. I learnt various techniques and elements of art, which are applied by both artists. Focusing on the works painted by Kent Monkman, the paintings are clearly depicted with acrylic paints on Canvas. Acrylic paints always dry up quickly, and therefore the color depicted by Monkman’s works is bright, vibrant and light, and also presents clear and sharp edges which also proof to be drawn with acrylic paints. The paintings by Monkman are stylized with abstract expressionism, which he applies in most of his works. Kent Monkman depicts his alter ego, a controversial figure he called Miss Chief Eagle Testickles, a transgender figure in two of the three works discussed in this paper.[7]

On the other hand, Heward Prudence typically used oil on Canvas, as illustrated by her works discussed in this paper. The thick appearance of her painting, and the unclear color, with no much clear and sharp edges illustrates this. Both works seem to have a rough structure, and the lines are thick and revealing, a proof of oil. The works by Heward features her defiant figures who are mostly female in sculptural form. The colorful style in the images by Prudence Heward is derived from the modern French artistic styles. The paintings exhibit bold colors, with simplified shapes that the artist applies to depict her strongly modelled figures.[8] Both works by Heward are based on abstract expressionism.

Conclusively, learning Canadian Art has restructured my view of art in relation to the activities in the society today, as well as learning the history of Canada as a Nation. The main reason for selecting the three pieces of art by Kent Monkman was the fact that they made a remarkable impression the very first time I came across them. “The Scoop” as well as “Mitsikosiwak” are ideal images that unpacks the hidden facts of colonialism. On the works by Prudence Heward, “The Bather” and “Hester” I got fascinated by the stylish depiction and the uniqueness of Prudence Heward’s styles when I visited the Vancouver Art Gallery.


Emeny, Shirley Kathleen. Plurality and Agency: Portraits of Women by Prudence Heward. National Library of Canada= Bibliothèque nationale du Canada, Ottawa, 2000.

Evoy, Jasen D. “Framing Colonialism: An Analysis of Kent Monkman’s mistikôsiwak (Wooden Boat People).” The Confluence 1, no. 2 (2022): 5.

Morris, Kate, and Linda Morris. “Camping Out with Miss Chief: Kent Monkman’s Ironic Journey.” Studies in American Humor 6, no. 2 (2020): 265-284.

Patnaik, Anhiti. “How the Subaltern Speaks: Canadian Settler Colonialism and Narratives of Trauma.” IUP Journal of English Studies 16, no. 4 (2021): 37-44.

Powell, Grace. “Challenging the status quo: Prudence Heward’s portrayals of Canadian women from the 1920s to the 1940s.” PhD diss., Concordia University, 2008.

[1] Evoy, Jasen D. An Analysis of Kent Monkman’s mistikôsiwak. (The Confluence 1, no. 2 2022): 5.

[2] Jasen D: 5.

[3] Patnaik, Anti. Canadian Settler Colonialism and Narratives of Trauma. (IUP Journal of English Studies 16, 2021): 37-44.

[4] Anti. 37-44.

[5] Emeny, Shirley Kathleen. Portraits of Women by Prudence Heward. (National Library of Canada, Ottawa, 2000).

[6] Powell, Grace. Prudence Heward’s portrayals of Canadian women from the 1920s to the 1940s. (PhD diss., Concordia University, 2008).

[7] Morris, Kate, and Linda Morris. Camping Out with Miss Chief: (Studies in American Humor 6, no. 2 2020): 265-284.

[8] Shirley Kathleen, 2000.


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