Lynn Donoghue

“It’s only in our relationship to other people that we find meaning.”
– Lynn Donoghue (The Toronto Star, September 16, 1993)

Lynn Donoghue was a Canadian figurative painter born in Red Lake, Ontario. She was a graduate of H. B. Beal Secondary School in London, Ontario where, under the instruction of local artist Herb Ariss, she commenced formal studies in art and received a Special Art Diploma in 1972.

Her first solo exhibition entitled “Smaller Works” was hosted by the Richard E Crouch Resources Centre in London in 1975.  In a subsequent career spanning thirty years, she had a further 20 solo and 30 group shows staged in Canada and abroad. Her work is held in a wide range of Canadian public and private collections.

Against a backdrop of minimalism and the conceptual which then dominated artistic conversation, Donoghue was uniquely positioned as a precursor to the modern figuration movement with a body of work spanning both portraiture and still lives. In what was to become an ongoing social commentary, she initially grabbed attention with controversial male nudes, many from the queer community, later portraying the diverse Toronto cultural landscape and presaging the gender identity crisis. As her practice evolved, she addressed the intangible in themes of spirituality, life and death. Many of these works were prompted by inspiration during time spent in the North.

Her work was characterised by scale, bold colour, strong brushwork, cropping elements and direct communication with the sitter. A departure was the use of a more subdued palette, washes and the subdued light of her later spiritual works. She was influenced by the work of Alex Katz and Alice Neel, both of whom she knew from New York, and by a deep understanding of art history, evident in her classically literate still life compositions.

Donoghue was an educator in the arts, holding positions at, among others, University of Guelph, York University, Sheridan College and the Ontario College of Art (now the Ontario College of Art and Design). She was a leader in the prestigious Emma Lake Workshops. In 1991 she was elected as an academician of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts and in 2002 was awarded the Queen’s Jubilee Medal in recognition of her service to her community.

Biography by Barbara Donoghue Vavalidis, Natalka Duncan, and Luvneet K. Rana



Atkinson, Nathalie. “Art for the artist’s sake: ‘If we were musicians, we’d have a concert.
This is our concert.’”  The National Post, January 10, 2004.

The Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art (CCCA) Canadian Art Database,
Concordia University Fine Arts. “Lynn Donoghue: Bio.”

The Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art (CCCA) Canadian Art Database,
Concordia University Fine Arts. “Lynn Donoghue: Curriculum Vitae.”

The Cult of Personality: Portraits by Lynn Donoghue. Mount Saint Vincent University Art Gallery, 1984. Exhibition Catalogue.

Harris, Marjorie. “Lynn Donoghue.” The Financial Post Magazine, August 1984.
Via The Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art (CCCA) Canadian Art Database,
Concordia University Fine Arts.

Heath, Terrence. “The Vibrant Worker: Lynn Donoghue’s Recent Paintings.”
BorderCrossings 19 (no. 4), November 2000. Via The Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art (CCCA) Canadian Art Database, Concordia University Fine Arts.

Hume, Christopher. “Portrait of (middle-class) artist as practitioner of portraiture.”
The Toronto Star, September 16, 1993.

Lawlor, Allison. “Lynn Donoghue. 1953-2003: A painter of real people; Toronto artist sought to get beneath a subject’s veneer to achieve a ‘luminous presence.’ ”
The Globe and Mail, December 4, 2003.  “Lynn Donoghue.”


“A Toronto Sensibility: an exhibition of paintings by 13 Toronto artists in exchange with the work of 26 artists from Cleveland, Ohio.” Harbourfront Art Gallery, 1978. Exhibition Catalogue.

Burnett, David. “Lynn Donoghue: Presence and Memory.” Canadian Art, Fall 1985.

Last Updated on April 4, 2024 by McIntosh Gallery


See also: Margot Ariss; kerry ferris; Jamelie Hassan; Connie Jefferess; Bernice Vincent

Timeline Entries:
London, Ontario: London Holds its First Exhibition to Feature Only Work by Women Artists


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