b. 1902, Newholm, Ontario, Canada
d. 1980, Huntsville, Ontario, Canada






Alma purpleAs a child, Alma Rumball liked to draw and she later worked for several years in a ceramic factory where she decorated vases. About 1955 she experienced a life-changing vision. Jesus had appeared to her, accompanied by a panther, and told her to write and draw to help humanity. From then on, she could see other planes of existence and began to communicate with her spiritual guide.

Alma Rumball retired to her cottage on the shores of Huntsville’s Fairy Lake and led the life of a hermit. She never got married. Nothing should distract her from her mission. Her hand chose crayons, pencils and inks without her conscious involvement. It was not she but The Hand that moved vigorously and quickly over the paper and created hundreds of intricate drawings. Alma Rumball began to receive messages from a mysterious source, which she wrote down – many as colorful eccentric calligraphies containing short messages: “Alma came to write and draw”, or “Alma came to earth as Joan of Arc”. She did not understand what was expressed in her drawings, since Alma was a childlike, simple, rural woman who knew only her Christian teachings.

The drawings of The Hand show a preference for fine and confident lines, which form elaborately designed, detailed representations, overfilled with tiny graphic patterns, full of strange symbols, figures and characters. The works of Alma Rumball appear as multi-layered, lively webs of lines and arabesques and winding tracks in decidedly kinetic quality. One is exposed to an onrush of strokes, meandering paths and ramifications from which spectral apparitions emerge as if from bubbles, equipped with communication tubes, or an armed fairy reminiscent of Joan of Arc. Her impressive, extravagant compositions reveal an arsenal of fantastic and fairytale-like figures, emerging from a glittering color space. Looking at Alma Rumball’s works, one is subjected to a ceaseless rhythm of ever-changing shapes that appear on the verge of becoming manifest only to disappear again, like ebb and flow.

Alma Rumball suffered a stroke in the early 1970s, but The Hand continued to allow her to express herself.




2019 Flying High: Women Artists of Art Brut. Bank Austria Kunstforum, Vienna, Austria, 2/15/2019 – 6/23/2019
2016 Starry Stairs: Alma Rumball’s Atlantis. Art Gallery of Sudbury, Canada, 4/15/2016 – 6/19/2016
2016 Starry Stairs: Alma Rumball’s Atlantis. Gales Gallery, York University, Toronto, Canada, 1/18/2016 – 1/29/2016 
2015 Biding Time: The Collection Strikes Back. Art Gallery of York University, 1/14/2015 – 3/15/ 2015
2012 The Automatic Drawings of Alma Rumball in context of Art History, for Georgian Bay Artists, Thornbury, Canada
2006 Outside coming in. Art Gallery of Mississauga, Canada, 6/1/2006 – 7/16/2006
1996 Chapel Gallery, Bracebridge
1983-1986 Unity Church of Truth, Toronto, Canada
1979 The Gallery Stratford, Canada, 6/4/1979 – 9/3/1979
1978 The Automatic Drawings of Alma Rumball, Art Gallery of York University, 1/5/1978 – 1/29/1978
1977 Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Canada




Works by Alma Rumball from CoMA at the exhibition Flying High: Women Artists of Art Brut. Bank Austria Kunstforum, Vienna, Austria, 2/15/2019 – 6/23/2019

Photo © Elmar R. Gruber












Atkinson, Elaine Margaret. The Fringes of Immortality: A Goodly Company and Artistic Collaborations in Visionary Art 1880-1930. PhD thesis, Queen’s University Kingston, Ontario, Canada 2010.
Farnan, Duncan and Freeman, Robert. Outside Coming In : A State of Freedom, Canadian Outsider Art. Mississauga: Art Gallery of Mississauga, 2006.
Godfrey, Stephen. "The Hand with a will of its own." The Globe and Mail, January 21, 1978, p. 33.
Greenwood, Michael. The Automatic Drawings of Alma Rumball. Foreword to Exhibition catalogue. Toronto: Art Gallery of York University, 1977.
Morris, Jerrold. 20th Century Canadian Drawings. (Exhibition catalogue), Stratford: The Gallery/Stratford, 1979.
Oke, Wendy. "An artistic pioneer: Alma Rumball, pioneer in art and in spirit." Muskoka Magazine, March/April, 2004, pp. 32–38.


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