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Honorary degree citation - Jori Smith*

By: Patrick Landsley, June 1988

Mr. Chancellor, I have the honour to present to you Jori Smith, distinguished painter and water colourist.

She began her formal art studies in 1924, while only 16 years of age, at the Ecole des Beaux Arts de Montreal. Jori smith immediately began demonstrating her talent and dedication by winning prizes over the next two years of study... the prix du Directeur for Painting as well as for Drawing. The following year the prize for Painting as well as the Silver Medal for best student.

In the period 1929-1930 she began to meet other Quebec painters such as Edwin Holgate and studied with Jean-Paul Lemieux at the leading Beaver Hall Hill Studio. Between 1934 and 1936 Jori Smith travelled extensively in England, France and Spain. Returning to Canada she met other influential painters of thsi period such as John Lymna, Phillip Surrey and Alfred Pellan.

Today at the age of 80, her artistic activity spans 60 years... includiing 38 consecutive years exhibiting in the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts Sping Show, winningits prestigiou Jessie Dow Prize for painting in 1955. Her first solo exhibition was held in Montreal’s Dominion Gallery in 1952.

Jori Smith’s work has been shown in all the major centres of Canada, including the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver, Quebec City, Winnipeg, Kingston and Edmonton, as well as international exhibitions in New York City, London, and other European centres. Her work maybe found in many public and private collections in Canada and abroad.

The period known as ”the thirties” was an etremely difficult time to be a painter in Canada... doubly so for many women painters. There were at best only three private art galleries in Montreal where a painter could hope to exhibit.

Most of us have, for various reasons, under-rated the important contributions made by women to Modernism generally... and to Canadian painting... to Montreal painting particularly. Jori Smith has made such a contribution. Her work over the years, can only be described today as significant.

The painting of Jori Smith has been likened by some art-critics to that of Matisse, with its sensitive use of colour, poetic imagery and verve. Her work reconciles us with the world, not by political dissent but by the joyful contemplation of pleasure in nature. Through her instinctive sense of beauty and insight she has transformed the unremarkable into theuniversal.

Jori Smith has never been a fashionable “mainstream” painter... rather she has consistently developed her own singular vision for well over half a century... steadily and singlemindedly purifying and refining her personal visual language. She has said “... I paint as some people sing... well or badly as the case may be... but always with joy...”

Jori Smith is considered an important painter both by her peers and art historians alike. There is no doubt that her stature is assured in any History of Art as one of Canada’s significant painters.

Mr. Chancellor, on behalf of the Senate, and by the authority of the Board of Governors, I present to you Jori Smith, so that you may confer on her the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.

* deceased

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