Alison Newton Market Stalls

Alison Newton was a woman with a keen sense of humor, and an almost faultless memory who, particularly in her early years, was painting in a predominantly man’s art world. She became a key contributor in a lively era of art in Manitoba, and in so doing earned a wide reputation. (Glover, 1972)

In 1972, Patricia E. Glover (now Patricia E. Bovey) made these remarks in the catalogue that accompanied the retrospective exhibition she curated for the Winnipeg Art Gallery featuring local artist Alison Newton (1890 – 1967).

Born in Scotland, Newton attended art school at Trinity Academy in Edinburgh. At the age of twelve she won a major school prize for a pencil still life, foreshadowing her skills in draughtsmanship. She arrived in Winnipeg with her parents in 1910 and was hired as an advertising and catalogue illustrator for the T. Eaton Company. When production of the Eaton’s catalogue was taken over by Brigdens in 1914, she worked for them as a detail artist until she married two years later. Newton was then able to focus on her artistic career. She took courses at the Winnipeg School of Art with Alex Musgrove and Lionel Lemoine FitzGerald and she studied privately under Walter J. Phillips, whose work is also represented in the University of Winnipeg art collection. Influenced by Phillips, her media of choice were watercolour and colour woodblock prints. The two artists often sketched together and therefore had similar subjects in their portfolios.

In 1929, after being awarded the T. Eaton Company Gold Medal for landscape painting, Newton travelled to Alberta to see the Rocky Mountains for the first time. She was immediately enticed by them and returned several times over the next two decades to paint them.

During her life, Newton belonged to numerous professional arts organizations including the Winnipeg Sketch Club and Manitoba Society of Artists – the latter of which she served as President – as well as the Federation of Canadian Artists. She exhibited her work at the National Gallery of Canada in 1932 and with the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 1941. Newton moved to Toronto in 1952, where she continued to teach and work until her death in 1967.

Newton’s images of Winnipeg, Gonor and Lake of the Woods were created in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s − her most productive years − and have been exhibited locally and across Canada. She is best known for watercolour scenes that portray immigrants from various cultures engaging in tasks of daily life: working in fields, grading vegetables, washing clothes and, as in this scene, attending market stalls. Her works from this period reveal her eye for colour and composition.

Market Stalls is undated but is believed to have been painted in the 1940s. It may depict Old Market Square in Winnipeg’s exchange district or the market stalls in Gonor, Manitoba, a small settler community located north of the city along the Red River. Market Stalls demonstrates the considerable talent Newton possessed; her use of pastel and earth tones paired with soft, loose lines creates an almost dream-like quality to the painting. The perspective and distance allows viewers to place themselves in the market underneath the canopy while the lack of detail in the facial features of the people and produce suggest that the artist’s interest was in conveying a general impression of this everyday scene. Market Stalls reflects domestic duties assigned to women of Newton’s time and also represents the era’s class system, as the women buying and selling food – mainly housekeepers and farmers respectively - were likely to be from the lower and lower-middle classes.

Market Stalls was included in Gallery 1C03’s exhibition (Re)Visiting the Collection: Selections of Manitoba Art from the University of Winnipeg in 2008 and toured across Manitoba until 2009. More recently, it was part of the gallery’s 2013 exhibition Herstory: Art by Women in The University of Winnipeg Collection, curated by University of Winnipeg graduate student Laura White.

Kadi Badiou
Gallery 1C03 Curatorial Assistant Intern
August 2017


Gibson, Jennifer. (Re)Visiting the Collection: Selections of Manitoba Art from The University of Winnipeg. Winnipeg: University of Winnipeg, 2008.

Glover, Patricia E. Alison Newton: A Retrospective. Winnipeg: The Winnipeg Art Gallery, 1972.

White, Laura. Herstory: Art by Women in The University of Winnipeg Collection. Winnipeg: University of Winnipeg, 2013.