The year is 1939.
Westdale Secondary Technical School is newly built and considered a modern example of education, basing its values on industry, labour and individual merit. One of its graduates, Rae Hendershot, is leaving with a four-year diploma from the school’s art program.
To Hendershot, art was a means of reclaiming herself from the experience of reality, and reflected itself in her use of design and colour theory. Following her graduation from Westdale, Hendershot entered the drawing and painting program at the Ontario College of Art. On graduating, Hendershot returned to Hamilton and set up a studio on King Street. With the exception of the two student years she spent in Toronto as the Ontario College of Art, Hendershot lived her entire life in Hamilton.
In Hamilton, Hendershot was active in local art circles, co-founded the Contemporary Artists of Hamilton, and contributed to juried and traveling art shows. In 1950, Hendershot married Montreal painter, T.R. MacDonald, named as the first Director of the Hamilton Art Gallery.
Despite her work as an artist, and a marriage which placed Hendershot at the centre of a respected arts organization, her career never flourished. It was not until 1974- the same year that her husband was ending his career at the AGH- that Hendershot would have a solo exhibition at the gallery. She died in 1988, and in 1990, the AGH curated a retrospective of her work.
Since her death, Hendershot’s work has been offered at auction at multiple times, with a record price being set in 2013 for her work Cafe Scene, which sold for $2,564 USD.
For all of her accomplishments as a local artist, little has been published on the life of Rae Hendershot- until now.
The Rae Hendershot Project is dedicated to showcasing the artwork and biography of the artist. According to a press release, through their work, the project reveals the struggles and persistence of a twentieth-century woman artist to articulate the cultural ironies that shaped her art and career. Her work is a deep investigation into the bonds of love, womanhood, family and the relentless condition of artistic obscurity.
The Rae Hendershot Project’s website is a rich resource of material on the life and art of Rae Hendershot. The Rae Hendershot Project’s online collection includes over 100 images of selected works, many previously undocumented. Established in 2018, the Rae Hendershot Project oversees the archives and estate of Rae Hendershot and through its initiatives is dedicated to bringing the artist’s work to wider audiences.
The project website will have its official launch with an event at the Dundas Museum and Archives (139 Park Street West) on Saturday, November 19. All are welcome to attend. Light refreshments will be served, with opening remarks at 2pm.