Margaret Florence grew up in Peterborough, Ontario. She was a talented painter and was inspired by the lakes, rivers, waterfalls, forests, and hills of the nearby Kawartha Lakes region. She studied at and graduated from the Ontario College of Art (now Ontario College of Art and Design University) in 1951, when relatively few of its students were women.
In 1954, she married Bernard Ludwig, an obstetrician and gynecologist. (Personal disclosure: Bernard Ludwig was my mother’s brother, and Margaret is therefore my aunt). While raising four children over the next two decades, Margaret painted whenever she could. Bernie was devoted to his calling, readily available to his patients, and over 40 years of practice delivered 20,000 babies. I memorialized Bernard in a “Lives Lived” column in The Globe and Mail a decade ago. (If you can’t access it, I posted a slightly different version on my website.)
Given Bernie’s work schedule, it was salutary that Margaret persevered in her career as an artist.
Margaret’s favourite type of painting is landscape and her favourite settings northern, starting in the Kawarthas and extending to the Arctic. Her preferred medium is oil. She does not paint from photographs, but rather paints on-site to better appreciate the setting and its weather.
The place she has painted most often is Burleigh Falls, a set of rapids between Lower Buckhorn Lake and Stoney Lake in the Kawarthas. Burleigh Falls is a dramatic setting, encompassing calm water, rushing water, rock, and trees. Here is one of her Burleigh Falls paintings that I own.
Margaret paints with vibrant colours and sharp contrasts, and uses oil paint to create impressions, rather than provide details. Her paintings often have big dramatic skies.
Over the years, Margaret took her painting farther afield, especially to Nunavut. Here is a painting that she did there. It, too, emphasizes the elements, with a sharp contrast between sunlight and shadow, mountains, glacier, ice, and turbulent water. These two paintings demonstrate the straight-forwardness and boldness of colour that, in my view, make her work compelling.
Though Margaret preferred landscapes, she occasionally painted portraits. She painted Bernie and their children, and our family as well. My parents asked Margaret to paint a portrait of me for the invitations to my Bar Mitzvah. I remember quite a few sittings the summer after I turned 12. The portrait depicted me as serious and thoughtful and perhaps was an invitation to me to be that type of person.
According to my mother, Bernie encouraged Margaret to turn to portrait painting, especially of the wealthy and powerful. It has long been known that that type of portraiture enables artists to make a good living (Rembrandt, John Singer Sargent). Margaret, however, stayed true to passion for landscape.
If you are interested in Margaret’s paintings, many of them are displayed on her website.
Margaret is now in her mid-Nineties and her vision has deteriorated. Nonetheless, she continues to paint. Her children have cottages in the Peterborough area and continue to take her to paint Burleigh Lake. T.S. Eliot’s lines from the Four Quartets seem particularly appropriate to Margaret’s artistic passion at this stage of her life:
“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”