Reta Summers Cowley

By (author) Terry Fenton
Categories: Art
Series: Art in Profile
Publisher: University of Calgary Press
Paperback : 9781552381830, 118 pages, November 2006


Reta Cowley came to maturity as an artist in the late 1950s and early 1960s at a time when abstraction was on the ascendant and the Regina Five and the Painters Eleven were stars of the Canadian art scene. However, Cowley explored other directions, becoming a major contributor to the development of Canadian landscape painting after World War II. Reta Summers Cowley is devoted to the life and work of this often overlooked prairie painter.

Terry Fenton has drawn from both his personal acquaintance with the artist and his own long career in the arts to provide an in-depth look at Cowley’s contributions to Canadian art history. Known primarily as a watercolourist, Cowley is sometimes dismissed as a "hobby painter," but she was a vital and influential part of the thriving arts community on the prairies for over three decades. Her inspiration came from the landscape around Saskatoon, and she painted primarily on location for her entire career.

Reta Summers Cowley provides a critical analysis of Cowley’s work from the 1940s through the early 1990s, placing it in the context of the popular influences of the time and of modernist painting in general. Also included is a section titled "Cowley on Cowley," which offers an uncensored glimpse of Cowley’s own thoughts on her work and practice through interviews, personal diary entries, and study notes.


  • Short-listed, Saskatoon Book Award, Saskatchewan Book Awards 2007
  • Short-listed, Saskatchewan Book Awards - Saskatoon Book Award 2007