Florence Wyle’s bronze sculptures depict women and men at work on the home front. From top to bottom: Woman With Adapter; Furnace Man.
For sculptor Florence Wyle, WW I brought welcome relief from chronic poverty. It came in the form of a commission from the Canadian War Memorials Fund, a private project run by Lord Beaverbrook that employed artists to depict the war.
Between 1918 and 1919, Wyle produced a number of bronze sculptures and most of them depict women at work on the home front. The Canadian War Museum holds nine of these and they range in height from 21 to 36 inches. Each sculpture depicts a single figure and all nine are sensuous and precise works of art.
Wyle sculpted on her lap and paid careful attention to the detail and accuracy of each figure. The brass figures were created from moulds made from clay or plaster forms. At times, Wyle’s working conditions were far from perfect. She and fellow sculptor Frances Loring worked out of a dilapidated church at North Rosedale in Toronto, and during the winter they’d have to place each clay or plaster form close to the stove so it wouldn’t freeze before it was completed.
Wyle’s style was classical and all her life she resisted the modernism that came to be the preferred method of sculpting.
Born at Trenton, Illinois, in 1881, Wyle decided initially to follow her family’s wish and study medicine. However, she received so much encouragement for her anatomical drawings that she switched to sculpture and transferred from medical school to the Art Institute of Chicago where she met Loring. The two women had very different family and artistic backgrounds, but they established close ties in short order and eventually moved to Toronto.
Wyle was a member of the Ontario Society of Artists from 1920-33. She was also a founder and member of the Sculptor Society of Canada, and in 1938 became the first woman to receive a full membership in the Royal Canadian Academy.
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Many of the Canadian War Museum’s holdings are available in reproduction at affordable prices. For more information, contact Image Reproduction Services, Canadian War Museum, 1 Vimy Place, Ottawa, ON K1R 0C2; tel: 1-819-776-8686; fax: 1-819-776-8623; e-mail: Imageservices@warmuseum.ca