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Archive: May, 2013

Introducing the Aimia | AGO Photography Prize

May 27th, 2013

Today is a brand-new day for Canada’s largest photography prize, and we wanted you to be among the first to hear it.

This morning we announced the expansion of one of Canada’s largest and most innovative art prize programs. The Grange Prize will now be known as the Aimia | AGO Photography Prize, with a greater international focus and a new national scholarship program fostering the next generation of Canadian photographic artists across the country.

What’s changing? First, we’re going international. The new Prize will invite a group of eight leading Canadian and international experts in photography (critics, curators or artists) to each nominate two artists for the Prize — one international and one from their home country/region of expertise, forming an international long list for the Prize. From there, a jury of three experts led by the Lead Juror (an AGO curator) will select a shortlist of four, including at least one Canadian artist.

Second, we’re introducing a major new initiative: the Aimia | AGO Photography Prize Scholarship Program. The scholarship program, valued at more than C$20,000, is intended for full-time students — Canadian or international — who are entering their final year of study toward a bachelor’s degree with a focus in studio photography. Eight respected and established visual arts institutions from across the country will participate in the first year of the Prize with the hope of expanding the roster of participating schools in the coming years.

And of course, there is our new name. Aimia, a global leader in loyalty, is the new presenting partner of the Prize. Aimia is also the parent company of Aeroplan, the Prize’s founding partner.

You can read more about these exciting shifts at our new website: And to stay connected with the latest updates about artist alumni and next year’s artists, events and programs, follow us on Facebook, Vimeo, and on Twitter @AimiaAGOPrize.

Here’s to an exciting new beginning for the Aimia | AGO Photography Prize and thank you for your support over the first five years!

A century of exhibitions

May 23rd, 2013

Visitors have been experiencing art here since June 5, 1913

The Grange, c. 1880. Harriet and her second husband, William Goldwin Smith, entertained guests on what is now known as Grange Park.

The Grange, c. 1880. Harriet and her second husband, William Goldwin Smith, entertained guests on what is now known as Grange Park.

With notes from Jenny Rieger, historical site coordinator of The Grange

A hundred years ago, if you came upon the site where the AGO now stands, you would have seen a beautiful home — The Grange. If you walked inside, you would have been part of something very exciting: the Art Museum of Toronto’s first exhibition in that space, featuring art collected by the people who owned and occupied the house.

Members of the local media had glowing things to say about the exhibition and the AMT’s new home: “The Museum will undoubtedly become of the most interesting show places in the city,” read the Telegram on June 5, 1913, while the next day the Toronto Daily Star declared, “It is the nucleus of an art museum which will doubtless grow, as time passes, to be a national treasure house.” The writer went then detailed plans for this bright future:

The Grange is not intended to be an art gallery, but rather the germ from which such a gallery will be evolved. The trustees propose soon to make a campaign for funds with which to commence building operations. The main front of the gallery will face on St. Patrick street, which will provide with its new car line easy access from the heart of the city. The widening of Anderson street will also greatly improve traffic conditions in the vicinity of the Gallery. The site is a noble one, and the great elms of the Grange will for generations provide a worthy background.

Toronto Daily Star, June 6, 1913.

Toronto Daily Star, June 6, 1913.

The first exhibition held in The Grange in June 1913 was not the first exhibition organized by the Art Museum of Toronto (now the AGO). Between April 6 and May 31, 1906, the AMT held a exhibition of works by Glasgow Painters lent to them by the Albright Museum in Buffalo. In June of 1909, the AMT leased rooms in the newly built library on the corner of St. George St. and College streets for five years. The first exhibition held there was of works borrowed from private collections.

The June 1913 exhibition is special to us because it began 100 years of people experiencing art at this location on Dundas Street. It was never intended that The Grange be the art museum, although it was the site of many small exhibitions for years. There was always the intention to build a gallery to the north of The Grange and, indeed, the first wing of Walker Court was built in 1916.

The Boulton and Smith collections

The Grange, built in 1817 by D’Arcy Boulton Jr. and his wife Sarah Anne, was occupied by the same family until its last owner, Harriet Boulton Smith, died in 1909. Her second husband, Goldwin Smith, died a year later. The house had been in Harriet’s name since her marriage to William Boulton in 1846, and it was her decision to leave her home to the Art Museum of Toronto. When Harriet and Goldwin died, their art collection and The Grange became the property of the AMT.

While we know what works were owned by Goldwin Smith, unravelling the Boulton collection is more difficult. The Boulton family loaned a number of their paintings to various fundraising bazaars during the 19th century and the catalogues of those events identify paintings’ lenders by name. The difficulty is that they are listed simply as being owned by Mrs. Boulton without identifying if it is Mrs. D’Arcy Boulton (Sarah Anne) or Mrs. William Boulton (Harriet). We also don’t know where these mainly European works were acquired. There were art dealers in Toronto who sold European works and copies—copies being an acceptable form of art. Harriet and her first husband, William, spent an extended time in Europe in the late 1850s and, using the travel guides of the time, would have known what galleries and copyists to visit to purchase art. William’s father and brother were in England and continental Europe in the early part of the century and could have bought works then. But there are no records that can clarify the mystery.

Goldwin Smith with his pet terrier on lawn of The Grange , c.1905.

Goldwin Smith with his pet terrier on lawn of The Grange , c.1905.

The works of art in Goldwin Smith’s collection are reflective of the era in which he lived. He commissioned portraits of famous 17th-century Puritans (John Milton, John Bunyan, Oliver Cromwell) from an artist named G. E. Sintzenich. In a purchasing catalogue for Sintzenich’s copies is a testimonial from Goldwin Smith stating how pleased his is with them. He notes that “the Portraits will hang where all my guests will see them, and I shall have the greatest pleasure in showing them to anyone who may call for the purpose.” They were hung in the dining room. Smith continued to collect copies and acquired a copy of Thomas Gainsborough’s famous The Blue Boy among others. Included in his collection are also originals. He had a series of watercolours of Reading (England) where he grew up and other works on paper and small oil paintings. Photographic copies of the Reading works (copies we made to protect the originals, which would fade over time) are currently hanging in The Grange library. The Boultons also had copies in their collection, including a Madonna after Titian and a detail from The Embarkation for Cythera by Jean-Antoine Watteau.


George Theodore Berthon,  Canadian, 1806 - 1892, Portrait of William Henry Boulton, 1846,  208.3 x 144.8 cm (82 x 57 in.), oil on canvas, Goldwin Smith Collection, Bequest of 1911. ©  Art Gallery of Ontario

George Theodore Berthon, Canadian, 1806 – 1892, Portrait of William Henry Boulton, 1846,
208.3 x 144.8 cm (82 x 57 in.), oil on canvas, Goldwin Smith Collection, Bequest of 1911. © Art Gallery of Ontario

As any prominent family did at the time, the Boultons and Smith commissioned portraits. William’s portrait when he was mayor of Toronto and Harriet’s wedding portrait, both by George Berthon, are hanging in the AGO’s Canadian wing today. Born in Vienna, Berthon was the son of the court painter for Napoleon I and trained in studios throughout Europe. He moved to England and became the drawing master to Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel’s daughters. Berthon came to Toronto in 1846, and set up his studio at 61 Yonge St., very quickly becoming the most important portrait artist in the city.

While there is no portrait of the builder of The Grange, D’Arcy Boulton Jr, William’s mother, Sarah Anne, had her portrait painted by James Bowman. Bowman was an American artist who, after studying for eight years in Europe, moved to Quebec City in 1831. In 1834 he moved to Toronto where he spent a year painting portraits of important families.

Goldwin Smith and Harriet also had their portraits done by J. W. L. Forster. Forster was born in Norval, Ont., in 1850 and trained in England and France before returning and settling in Toronto in 1883. Canadian artist Wyly Grier also did a portrait of Smith. Canadian sculptor, Hamilton Plagenet McCarthy and Scottish sculptor Alexander Munro created busts of Smith (located today in The Grange library) and Walter Allward made his death mask. When Harriet was young, she and her family travelled for a year in Europe and a bust of her was done by the Italian sculptor Camillo Pirstrucci. It is on view in the front hall of The Grange.

The Grange as subject

The Boulton/Smith collection also included paintings of the house itself. Henry Bowyer Lane, who was born in England and moved to Toronto in 1842, was an architect known for designs of additions to Osgoode Hall, St. George the Martyr Church (now the Music Gallery) and numerous homes and churches. It is possible he was the architect for the 1840s addition to The Grange, as he was friends with the Boulton family. In 1847 he did a watercolour of The Grange that was shown in the 1847 Toronto Society of Artists exhibition. In 1875, Canadian artist Henri Perre also painted The Grange.

Henry Bowyer Lane British, 1817 - 1878, The Grange, c. 1840, overall: 28.6 x 44.1 cm (11 1/4 x 17 3/8 in.), watercolour on paper, Gift of Mrs. Seawell Emerson, Marblehead, Massachusetts, 1972, transferred from the Grange, 2008. © Art Gallery of Ontario

Henry Bowyer Lane
British, 1817 – 1878, The Grange, c. 1840, overall: 28.6 x 44.1 cm (11 1/4 x 17 3/8 in.), watercolour on paper,
Gift of Mrs. Seawell Emerson, Marblehead, Massachusetts, 1972, transferred from the Grange, 2008. © Art Gallery of Ontario

Canadian art in the collection

While the Boulton/Smith collection is largely made up of European works, the families did collect works by Canadian artists (in addition to the portraits mentioned above). Some of these are works on paper, including two lithographs of scenes from the War of 1812 and various watercolours. Continuing with the acquisition of copies, there is a copy of William Berczy’s portrait of Joseph Brant. In 1852 an exhibition was held to liquidate the debt on St. George the Martyr Church. The exhibition included a number of works loaned by the Boultons, including one by Cornelius Krieghoff, entitled Windmill. While his name is printed on the back, the work itself does not show the skill or characteristics of a Krieghoff. During a cleaning of the work in 1986, a different signature was found on a rock in the foreground. Even this signature is mysterious. “C. Stanfield, Roy’l Aca” might seem genuine, but the abbreviation that an artist of the Royal Academy would have used was “R.A.”

Madonna and Child (in the style of Raphael) was done by a prominent Canadian copyist who worked in Florence named Antoine Sebastian Falardeau. There is also a large cast plaster bust of Sir Charles Metcalfe, a mid-19th century governor general of Canada. It is the only known surviving copy, signed by Samuel Gardner, of what is possibly the earliest example of modelled sculpture produced in Ontario. A Canadian painting that is not a copy is a landscape by D. C. Grose, an itinerant English artist active in Toronto from 1860 to 1865.

How we’re celebrating this milestone

On June 5, we will display three paintings from the first exhibition near Walker Court, and Gallery Guides will be on hand to talk about them.

In The Grange, starting June 5 and for the rest of the summer, see a work from the first exhibition that has undergone partial conservation work and that revealed its secrets to an AGO intern who was conducting research on it.

Also in June, Gallery Guides will lead “100 Years AGO” tours

Finally, cookies made from the 1913 Five Roses Flour Cookbook, the most popular cookbook in 1913, will be on sale in the Norma Ridley Members’ Lounge and in caféAGO throughout June.

Conservation Notes: Rebooting Max Dean’s As Yet Untitled

May 13th, 2013

Max Dean, As Yet Untitled , 2007/670, Puma 550 industrial robot, found family snap shots, conveyor, shredder, metal, electronics, installation: 60” x 144” x 120” (152.4 x 365.8 x 304.8 cm), edition of 3. Collection Art Gallery of Ontario. Photo by Sean Weaver/AGO.

Max Dean, As Yet Untitled , 2007/670, Puma 550 industrial robot, found family snap shots, conveyor, shredder, metal, electronics, installation: 60” x 144” x 120” (152.4 x 365.8 x 304.8 cm), edition of 3. Gift of Jay Smith, David Fleck, Gilles Ouellette and Terry Burgoyne, 2007. Collection Art Gallery of Ontario. Photo by Sean Weaver/AGO.

By Sherry Phillips, Conservator of Contemporary and Inuit Art

“The viewer has the opportunity to determine the fate of found family photographs. The robot is programmed to pick up a photo from the hopper on the right, present it to the viewer, wait several seconds for a response before proceeding. Should the viewer choose to intervene by covering one or both of the hand silhouettes in front of them, the robot will place the photo in an archival box. Should the viewer choose not to act, the robot will place the photo in a shredder and the shredded photo will be conveyed to a pile. The robot runs continuously.” (Dean, 2013)

The passage above, taken from artist Max Dean’s website, provides a description of As Yet Untitled as the robot featured in the artwork might: succinct and detached, without any of the emotion we often attach to a family photo. Photographs are often the first personal possessions rescued from a fire or flood that has devastated a home. They are records of times past and loved ones who may no longer be with us. On the other hand, the photographs used in this artwork were all found, which means that someone discarded them. What circumstances could lead to the discarded family memories? And when faced with shredding or salvation, what response will the viewer, a stranger, choose for someone else’s photographic memories?

The concepts that the time-based media installation evokes are complex, and so are the physical components that allow it to operate. Like all pieces of technology, they need upkeep. The Conservation Department of the AGO is undertaking a restoration and mechanical upgrading of As Yet Untitled, in collaboration with Max Dean, Dr. Richard Voyles — associate professor in the University of Denver’s Department of Computer Engineering — and Marcel Verner of PV Labs in Hamilton, Ont. The aim is to prepare the work, which became part of the AGO’s collection in 2007, to be exhibited and ensure that the technology is rugged and reliable well into the future. The work has been promised for loan to the city-wide Le Mois de la Photo, in Montreal, Quebec, September to October 2013.

Time-based media, meaning that time or duration is a dimension of the artwork and is revealed to the viewer over time, often involve a kinetic component. In the case of As Yet Untitled, there are several synchronized moving parts and as with any mechanical system, components wear or become obsolete. Unlike more traditional areas of art conservation, the conservation of contemporary art may involve the replacement of an artwork, in part or entirety, in order to continue the operation and comprehension as the artist intended. In this case, all components of the work will be inspected and upgraded as needed, and a new controller will be designed and programmed to correctly operate the various components. Max Dean as well as computer and robotics specialists will take the lead on upgrades to the mechanical and operational program systems and, as the conservator, my main role will be documentation of changes to the current format of the artwork.

Sherry will be conducting work on As Yet Untitled until mid-August 2013, and will add updates to the blog along the way. Use this link to find more As Yet Untitled posts!

Curious about Conservation?
If you have a burning question about Conservation, leave a comment below. We’ll do our best to give you an answer in an upcoming Conservation Notes post.

Signature Partner of the AGO’s Conservation Program

Conservation Notes: Saying “so long” but not “goodbye” to Floor Burger

May 6th, 2013

AGO staff moved Floor Burger into the Conservation Department for the final phase of treatment in mid-February

If you’ve been following our Floor Burger conservation stories, you know that Sherry Phillips has a special relationship with this particular Claes Oldenburg sculpture. From October 2012 to March of this year, Sherry worked with the piece closely — sometimes very, very closely — getting it in tip-top shape for a short-term loan to the MoMA. To wrap up our Floor Burger series on a personal note, Sherry wrote about her experience accompanying the sculpture on its journey to the Big Apple. Read the rest of this entry »