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CECIL TREYMANE BULLER

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Figure 13. Portrait of the artist, 1949    

Figure 14. Song of Solomon, Chapter I, Verse 1, 1929

Cecil Treymayne Buller, the second daughter of Frank Buller and Elizabeth Langlois, grew up in an environment that favored the arts.[43] According to art writer Katie Cholette,

Frank Buller was a supporter of the arts and a member of the Art Association of Montreal (AAM), and Cecil grew up in an environment that encouraged her artistic creativity. In 1902 she was exposed to international art when she travelled to Europe with her father and sister, Marguerite. During their trip to Europe Buller visited art museums and is reputed to have studied briefly at the famous Académie Julian in Paris. Upon returning from the trip Cecil began to study under William Brymner at the Art Association of Montreal.[44]

 

An award-winning printmaker, illustrator, designer, water colourist and painter played an active role in the wood engraving revival of the early 20th century. Her engravings superbly exploited the medium’s expressive possibilities through the use of a decorative and lyrical vocabulary.[45]  

 

Cecil Buller’s son Sean Murphy recalled his mother’s early training;

Mom had started by doing drawings of the inside of the eye for Dr. Buller, she then enrolled at the Art Association of Montreal, now called the Montreal Museum of fine Arts, to learn to draw and paint. The Director of the Art Association said [to mom], “I can’t teach you any more, you are too good, you need to go to Paris”. [46]

 

Cecil followed his advice to study abroad by first going to New York to attend the Art Students League in 1910.[47]

When his second daughter, at age 18, told him [ Frank Buller] she wanted to study art in Paris, he readily agreed and encouraged her - a broad-minded decision for the time and one which enabled her to go on to a most distinguished career. Respecting her father’s profession, she later made use of her artistic talent and education by learning to use the ophthalmoscope and painting a number of fundus pictures.[48]

 

 In 1912, Cecil moved to Paris to study privately with Maurice Denis.[49] Next she travelled to London in 1916 studying with British printmaker Noel Rooke at the Central School of Art and Design. [50] While in London she met her future spouse, John J.A. Murphy, a New York print maker recognized for his work in Europe and the United States.[51 He was stationed with the United States army camouflage unit in France during WWI.[52]  They married in Dijon France 1917, moved to New York after the war, where they had their only son Sean.[53]

In New York Cecil received recognition for her wood carvings, most notably in 1929 for her eleven wood engraving series Song of Solomon.[54] She had two exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of New York and a retrospective show at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.[55]  She stopped creating her work in 1956 returning to Montreal where she lived until her death 29 September 1973, at 77 years of age.[56]

 

A recent review of her career suggests a renewed interest in Cecil Buller’s work.

Although [Cecil] Buller did not achieve fame during her lifetime, in recent years she has become the subject of increased interest. There have been four major posthumous exhibitions of Buller’s work: Cecil Buller: Modernist Printmaker was held at the Glenbow Museum in Calgary in 1989, Husband and Wife: The Wood Engravings of John J.A. Murphy and Cecil Buller was featured at the Musée du Québec in 1997, Cecil Buller: A Canadian Modernist was held at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 2005 and Woman Imprinted: The Work of Cecil Buller opened at the Carleton University Art Gallery in 2005.[57]

 

[43] Baptism Record for Cecil Buller.

[44] Katie Cholette, “Cecil Buller”, accessed October, 24, 2012, http://www3.carleton.ca/underhillreview.

[45] “Cecil Buller”, accessed November 18, 2012, http://www.gallery.ca

[46] “Oral Interview with Sean Murphy” 26 April 2013, original tape recording owned by author, Seattle WA, 2013.

[47]  http://www3.carleton.ca/underhillreview.

[48] Murphy, 21.

[49] http://www.gallery.ca.

[50] http://www3.carleton.ca/underhillreview.

[51] “Art Association Recipient of Gift,” Montreal Gazette (Montreal, Quebec), May 22, 1936, accessed May 10, 2013, Google new.; http://www3.carleton.ca/underhillreview; http://www.gallery.ca.

[52] www.3carelton.ca.

[53] www3.carelton.ca.

[54] www.gallery.ca; www.3carelton.ca.

[55] www3.carelton.ca.

[56] www3.carelton.ca.; www.gallery.ca.

[57] www3carelton.ca.

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