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Archive: June, 2010

Drama and Desire: “Paolo and Francesca” by Gaetano Previati

June 29th, 2010

Gaetano Previati’s Paolo and Francesca is on display for a limited time at the AGO as part of the exhibition Drama and Desire: Artists and the Theatre.

Paolo and Francesca, Gaetano Previati

Gaetano Previati, Paolo and Francesca, oil on canvas, Accademia Carrara, Bergamo.

Looks a bit like a soap opera? This painting depicts an episode from a story originally set in medieval Italy. It tells of the brave but deformed aristocrat Giovanni who sends his handsome younger brother Paolo to propose to the maiden Francesca on his behalf. She falls in love with Paolo, but soon marries Giovanni who is in disguise. Francesca only discovers the trick after her wedding night. She and Paolo become lovers. They are surprised by Giovanni who accidentally kills Francesca as she rushes to protect Paolo. Giovanni also murders Paolo.

AGO Youth Council 2010: Dasha & Carol

June 28th, 2010

It is our pleasure to introduce the members of the AGO Youth Council 2010. Find out about Youth Council projects and activities and how to get involved.

Dasha Kuznetsova

Dasha Kuznetsova

The AGO Youth Council is a creative escape from the busy bubble of day to day life. My name is Dasha Kuznetsova, which is obviously Russian, but with a Kazakh mix. I’ve been lucky to have lived in three countries. Toronto is amazing with its multiculturalism, and so many opportunities. Art, dance, and music have been a big part of my life ever since I was a toddler. I love bragging to people that I was in a Sesame Street Magazine when I was 5, from winning a painting contest. There are many, many other interests I have, but I won’t go on, and try to make this short and sweet.

Carol Yin

Carol Yin

I am Carol Yin.
I want to make small improvements and big differences.
I love Fashion – I believe dressing up is an everyday enjoyment.
I hate the smell of blood.
I think crying is good for my well-being.
I detest liars I watch <> and hum <>.
I wish for happiness I have fun doing the most unconventional things.
and…I will be…

Work In Progress: Behind the scenes of At Work

June 25th, 2010

Kendra Ainsworth is a Masters candidate in Museum Studies at the University of Toronto, and is an Interpretive Planning intern at the AGO.

Work is a learning experience, a process of self-discovery, whether you are an artist, student, CEO, or an intern like me. Everyday you are improving your skills, contributing to your field, and (hopefully!) making a name for yourself.

These are concepts that the artists featured in an upcoming exhibition have grappled with, and which play out in their art. The show, appropriately titled At Work, opens September 22nd, and focuses on the artistic practice of three seminal female artists active during the 60s and 70s: Eva Hesse, Betty Goodwin and Agnes Martin. These three women were incredibly dedicated to their work, and were constantly pushing the boundaries of their respective fields, and of their practice. This exhibition presents a unique opportunity to peer into the inner world of their lives, studios and art.

Before anyone gets a chance to see the show, I’d like to show you what goes on behind the scenes – the work that goes into the making of an exhibition. With this weekly blog series, I’d like to share my perspective on the processes involved in creating an exhibit for the AGO, as I learn about them.

Although I am an intern here at the AGO, I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, an art expert. And when I was first informed that I would be working on this exhibit, I was a little terrified! Much like many visitors to the AGO, visual art and art history are not my background, and although I appreciate art, there will always be more for me to learn. The first step for me in the process of developing this exhibition was to learn about these three artists, and study their work, in much the same way that curators do. I went to the library, took out stacks of books, read artist profiles, looked at images, and made notes, all the while trying to gain insights into the inspiration, drive, and processes of these women that allowed them to create paintings and sculpture as arresting as the ones that you will see in this exhibition.

I hope that you will follow along with me through my work on this exhibition, and get an insider’s view on what goes on behind the scenes at the AGO. Perhaps you will get inspired yourself, whether to do something creative, to come see the exhibit when it opens, or just to think about the work you do in your day to day life, and what it teaches you about the world, and about yourself.

The Storyteller: “Albanian Stories” by Adrian Paci

June 24th, 2010

Adrian Paci’s video work Albanian Stories is on display for a limited time at the AGO.

Albanian Stories, Adrian Paci

Adrian Paci
Albanian Stories, 1997
Single-channel video transferred to DVD, color, sound
7 minutes
Courtesy of Galleria Francesca Kaufmann, Milan

Adrian Paci is an Albanian-born, Milan-based video artist who left Albania following the fall of Communism in 1991 and whose work addresses the political turbulence of his native country as well as his life as an emigré.

Albanian Stories features Paci’s three-year-old daughter recounting a series of improvised fairytales in which folkloric characters, such as a cow, cat and rooster, commingle with surprising references to “soldiers” and “international forces.”

In this half fictional, half real-world account imparted by an innocent narrator, the fairytale becomes a vehicle for exposing both the particularity and the universality of conflict, as well as the way in which our understanding of events is colored by the circumstances surrounding their reception.

The work is on display at the AGO as part of The Storyteller exhibition, which runs until August 29, 2010.

Your Stories: Remembering a friendship, a Maharaja and his doctor

June 22nd, 2010

To kick off our call for your maharajas stories, we are delighted to share with you this story from Barbara Stephen. Just last week Barbara wrote to us with her very own memory, not of a particular Maharaja, but how a family friend brought a little bit of royalty into her family’s life through a silver cup and saucer. Dr. George Martos was once the personal physician to Maharaja Yeshwant Rao Holkar II of Indore and he gave her mother this gift after a trip to India to hunt tigers with the Maharaja.

silver demi-tasse and saucer

Here’s her story:

During the 1950s and early 1960s, my mother worked with Dr. George Martos, a Hungarian doctor who had gone from teaching at the University of Berlin to Indore where he was Medical Officer of Health during WWII, and was closely connected with the Maharaja. He built a hospital for him there, and retained his connection with Indore after immigrating to Canada after the war, requalifying, and opening an obstetrical practice in Toronto.

From time to time the Maharaja would extend an invitation to join him in India for the tiger hunt, and in due course a ticket would arrive from the maharaja desk at a London travel agency. My mother heard lots of details about life in Indore, and as Dr. Martos was also my doctor and a family friend until his untimely death, I too learned about raising lion cubs, managing elephants, hunting tigers, etc.

I suspect the current Maharani may remember Dr. Martos from her childhood. I believe it was my mother, Charlotte Burry, who wrote to inform the family of his death in the 1960s, not too long after the death of the Maharaja. Dr. Martos always spoke of the Maharaja with great affection and respect.

My mother was given a silver demi-tasse cup and saucer from Indore after one of his last trips, very plain and moderne in style, with an angular handle. It was locally made and he indicated to her that it was quite special.

— Barbara Stephen is a Curator Emerita and Early Chinese Specialist with the Royal Ontario Museum.

I will post more about the Maharaja of Indore (now part of the state of Madhya Pradesh) later. Not only was he a fascinating individual – he was photographed by Man Ray, commissioned a sculpture by Brancusi, built hospitals and loved cars – we expect to have his life-sized portrait in the exhibit!

Do you have a Maharaja story? We’re on the prowl for your connections and we’ll be highlighting various anecdotes and memories that come our way. Share your story here.

Piali Roy is a Toronto freelance writer with a long-held interest in South Asian culture and history. You can contact her at

Drama and Desire: “Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth” by John Singer Sargent

June 22nd, 2010

John Singer Sargent’s Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth is on display for a limited time at the AGO as part of the exhibition Drama and Desire: Artists and the Theatre.

John Singer Sargent, Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth

John Singer Sargent, Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth, 1889, oil on canvas, Tate Britain

Ellen Terry (1848-1928) was the greatest English-speaking actress of her day. “Miss Terry”, wrote artist John Singer Sargent, “has just come out in Lady Macbeth and looks magnificent.” Terry soon agreed to be painted by Sargent in a dramatic pose of the artist’s invention. “The picture is splendid,” commented Terry. “It’s talked of everywhere and quarreled about as much as my way of playing the part…. Sargent has suggested in this picture all that I should like to convey in my acting.”

Ellen Terry, Queen of the Stage

Terry’s London debut in 1888 as Lady Macbeth, in a spectacular dress decorated with beetles, sparked an unprecedented response from artists. Photos of this dress, and Terry wearing it, will be featured in the AGO’s installation. Coincidentally, the Toronto Public Library owns personal archives of Ellen Terry which have been borrowed for the exhibition.

The dress was made from knitted wool and tinsel decorated with Jewel Beetles (Sternocera Aesquisignata). Mrs. Cosmyn-Carr, the designer, commented: “I wanted to make this particular dress look as much like soft chain mail armour as I could, and yet have something that would give the appearance of the scales of a serpent.” The AGO has borrowed a selection of Jewel Beetles from the ROM to include in the show.

Ellen Terry and Toronto

Ellen Terry regularly toured North America to great acclaim. With the London Lyceum Theatre Company she performed at Toronto’s Grand Opera House at least four times through the 1880s and 1890s. But all was not work. “When we were first in Toronto,” she commented, “I tobogganed at Rosedale. I should say it was like flying! The start! Amazing! A very nice Canadian man was my escort, and he helped me up the hill afterwards.”

How to Dress An Elephant (Video)

June 21st, 2010

The Maharaja exhibition features a life-sized model of an elephant dressed as if part of an imperial procession. But exactly how do you dress an elephant for a grand parade?

Here staff members from the Victoria & Albert Museum in London check out Ramu, a freelance elephant, to see how he is being adorned with textiles, howdah and elephant jewellery belonging to the Maharana of Mewar.

Society Cut-Ups: Victorians and the Art of Photocollage (Audio)

June 18th, 2010

Elizabeth Siegel

Playing with Pictures exhibition curator Liz Siegel explores the whimsical and sometimes surreal world of Victorian photocollage. By cutting up photographic portraits and pasting them into elaborate watercolor scenes they painted, aristocratic British women made work that is at once perfectly Victorian and ahead of its time, challenging both photographic convention and societal tradition. 

Elizabeth Siegel is the Associate Curator of Photography, Art Institute of Chicago.

Recorded: Saturday, June 5, 2010 @ Marvin Gelber Prints and Drawings Centre, Art Gallery of Ontario
Duration: 51:41

Click to play:

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Download 71 MB MP3

This Weekend: Come visit us at Taste of Little Italy

June 17th, 2010

The AGO’s community ambassadors continue their schedule of summer festivals at the Taste of Little Italy festival. Come visit us this Saturday June 19th from 11am to 6pm and check out our booth themed around our upcoming exhibition Maharaja: The Splendour of India’s Royal Courts, opening November 20, 2010.

You can also learn more about this show and share your stories and ideas by posting here on our blog, or by emailing us at

This show  is organized in collaboration with the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.