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Pegi's Paintings

For the week of Monday January 13, 2013

On January 17, 1904, Margaret Kathleen Nicol was born in Listowel, Ontario. Preferring to be known as Pegi, she later took the name MacLeod after her marriage in 1936. She is celebrated for her unique painting style and her contribution to Second World War art.

Pegi painting on the University of New Brunswick campus (1940-41)
© University of New Brunswick / Madge Smith fonds / PANB P120/24/6
In 1908, the Nicol family moved to Ottawa where young Pegi pursued her studies at several art schools both locally and in Montréal. Like other young artists of her generation, Pegi began by painting traditional subject matter such as Canadian landscapes and still lifes. She progressively changed her painting style, attempting to harmonize the environment with her personal expression. Using wild brush strokes and swirls of bright colour, Pegi brought an energy to her paintings that was absent from her earlier work. Often including plants in her paintings, Pegi with Cyclamens (1936) and A Descent of Lilies (1935) illustrate her combination of bold and expressive colour with personal subject matter.

Remembered for her role in portraying the Canadian war experience as part of the Second World War Canadian Records Program, Pegi was one of two female artists in the program. However, she was the only artist commissioned to depict the contributions of the newly formed women's departments in the armed forces. Pegi was able to capture the women at work in their uniforms, such as in Morning Parade (1944), as well as their domestic activities, as in Beauty Parlour No. 1 (1944). Pegi produced more than 110 works for the program, many of which are now held at the Canadian War Museum.

Painting by Pegi MacLeod depicting the Women's Royal Canadian Naval Service in the dining room, 1944
© Canadian War Museum / Beaverbrook Collection of War Art / 19710261-5822
Due to her contributions to Canadian art and her achievements painting women in the Armed Forces as part of the Canadian War Records Program, Pegi Nicol MacLeod was designated a national historic person in 2011.

To view some of MacLeod's paintings held at the Canadian War Museum, browse through their online catalogue here .

To read more about some Canadian artists, please read these stories from the This Week in History archives: A Canadian Artist for Inspiration, A.J. Casson: The Youngest of the Group of Seven, Lawren S. Harris and His Original Landscapes, and Marc-Aurèle Fortin: Capturing Nature's Beauty.

To read more about women in the Armed Forces, please read We're in the Navy Now! and Making Waves: Women in Uniform in the This Week in History archives.

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