Skip Navigation
Where Am I?...

What's Happening

digital collections

Customer Satisfaction Survey

Hortense Mattice Gordon (1886 - 1961)

Image of Hortense Gordon
Hortense Gordon, 1886-1961, Hamilton artist and member of the Painters Eleven
Image of 'Composition'
Composition, 1948 Hortense Mattice Gordon [Art Gallery of Hamilton]

About the Artist:

"For over forty years Hortense Mattice Gordon was Hamilton's unelected (some might say self-appointed) minister of culture. A natural artistic mover and shaker, she abhorred indecisiveness, mediocrity and apathy and did all that she could to eradicate those conditions wherever she found them. Her unswerving conviction that art was supremely important was backed up by an indomitable will to convert anyone and everyone to her viewpoint."

Born in Hamilton in 1886, Hortense Mattice and her sister Marion were encouraged from a young age to study and draw. While Marion, the elder sister pursued a painting career and years of study in Europe and Toronto, Hortense had little formal training. She was a student at the Hamilton Art School for a time and later took some advanced art lessons in Chatham from A.M. Fleming, (ARCA), where she remained as an art instructor for two years. When John Gordon, principal of the Hamilton Technical Institute, as it was then named, saw a piece of her work at the 1916 Royal Canadian Academy Exhibition, he was so impressed he offered her a job as an art instructor. In 1920 they were married and Hortense continued teaching at the institute until 1951, the last twenty years as head of the Art Department, succeeding her husband. "In the final decade of her life, her daring abstract paintings were widely accepted and she participated as an active member of Canada's first English-speaking abstract group, Painters Eleven."


About the Painting :


Hortense Gordon began experimenting with abstract painting in the 1930's becoming one of the first abstract artists in Hamilton and probably in Canada. Initially drawn to Mondrian's ideas of pure design and colour, she became possessed by the theories of Hans Hoffman whom she studied with in Massachusetts in the early 40's. "His theories of positive and negative areas in painting, of suspension and movement, and of push and pull" totally captivated Hortense and she continued to paint under his influence for the next two decades. 'Composition' shows that Hortense Gordon mastered Hoffman's concept of push and pull on her canvases."  The "tensions created between different areas in a painting and to the spaces pushing forward and backward, into depth and out, up and down, right and left on the canvas, transforming dry, dead elements, lines tones and colours into leaping points of life".

Stuart MacCuaig

"Climbing the cold white peaks:

A survey of artists in and from Hamilton 1910-1950"



Back to A Short History of Art in Hamilton


Central Library 4th floor -- Not available to public from March 13 to 15

The 4th floor of the Central Library will not be available to the public from March 13 to 15 because of special JUNO events happening during these dates.

Log in to My HPL

Renew Items   Check Holds


Try This:
Looking for something to read?