Irene McCaugherty


Irene McCaugherty's watercolors explore our cultural narrative and help us to know prairie people and life during the latter part of the 19th and early 20th centuries. She found her voice through her paintings of the historical past of Southern Alberta and of the dress and activities of the people who lived there. 

Irene McCaugherty’s folk art paintings, which do not conform to traditional one-point perspective techniques, invite the viewer to enter her world of auction sales, musical rides, road building and ranching.  It is said that the ‘locals’ can recognize some of the people that populate her work; we identify with her vitality and joy about life in early Alberta. According to Randy Adams, in “The Creation of Art Implies a Future”, Art has been said to embody both a desire for the future and a nostalgia for the past. And, for artists working in the folk tradition, the medium is less important than either the longing to create or the memory that initiated the process.

Early in her areer as an artist, McCaugherty painted flowers, indicating an early influence of fellow Fort McLeod artist Annora Brown.  This was a time when she worked in oil as well as the medium of watercolor.  

Irene McCaugherty was an artist, poet, and writer.  She was born in Hardieville, now part of Lethbridge, on November 27, 1914.  She lived in Fort Macleod, Alberta most of her life.  It was there that McCaugherty painted and wrote about southern Alberta’s pioneer days. She published three books with her poetry, stories, and paintings that illustrate Lethbridge’s past through her memories.  In 1994 she was welcomed as an honorary member of the Alberta Society of Artists. In 1995, the University of Lethbridge presented McCaugherty with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree for her work to preserve the history of southern Alberta.

The works you see in our gallery are from the McCaugherty Estate.