Lionel LeMoine FitzGerald
L. L. FitzGerald was a Canadian artist and art educator. He was the only member of the Group of Seven to be based in western Canada.
His landscapes and still life paintings were drawn from his immediate surroundings—the view of the back lane outside his house; a potted plant on the windowsill. His style grew more spare and abstract over his career. His body work includes painting in oil and watercolour, drawing, printmaking and sculpture.
L. L. FitzGerald was born in Winnipeg on March 17, 1890, to Lionel Henry FitzGerald and Belle (Hicks) FitzGerald. His father, L. H. FitzGerald, was of Irish descent, born in the West Indies and raised in Quebec. He was employed as a bank messenger and sometimes dealt in real estate.
His mother’s family had left Devonshire for Canada, eventually settling on a farm in the Pembina Hills near Snowflake, Manitoba. As a boy, FitzGerald spent the summer vacation months on his grandmother’s farm where he and his older brother were free to explore the woods and prairies.
FitzGerald left school at 14, with a Grade Eight education. This was not unusual at that time for families who did not expect to send their child to university. He worked first as an office boy, then was employed as a clerk for various businesses. He found it was not how he wanted to spend his life.
In his spare time, FitzGerald began to draw and paint regularly. He used John Ruskin’s Elements of Drawing (1857) as a guide for his self-directed study. He signed up for a winter of evening classes at the A. S. Kesthelyi School of Fine Art. He remarked in later years that “I am still wondering how it was possible to find out so much in so short a time.”
FitzGerald married Felicia Wright (1883–1962) in 1912. They had two children, a son Edward in 1915, and a daughter Patricia in 1919.
After their marriage, FitzGerald determined to work as an artist while taking on a variety of jobs to support himself and his family. He arranged window displays, did free-lance interior decorating and painted theatre backdrops. His artistic work met with some success. In 1913, he exhibited at the Royal Canadian Academy (Montreal). In 1918, his painting, Late Fall, Manitoba was purchased by the National Gallery of Canada and in 1921 he received his first solo exhibition, at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.
He spent the winter of 1921–1922 at the Art Students League of New York in New York City.
In 1930, FitzGerald exhibited his work with the Group of Seven in two shows. The Group of Seven invited him to join their group in 1932, after the death of J. E. H. MacDonald.
FitzGerald died in Winnipeg of a heart attack on August 5, 1956. His ashes were spread in a field in Snowflake, Manitoba.