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Picturing the Americas, by the numbers

June 19th, 2015

By Raechel Bonomo, AGO Communications Assistant

This summer at the AGO, we’re taking visitors on a landscapist’s journey through portrayals of 14 different countries that illustrate the discovery, succession and expansion of the Americas. The exhibition Picturing the Americas: Landscapes from Tierra del Fuego to the Arctic spans from tropical settings such as Rio de Janeiro to the icy waters of the North. Your summer vacation just got a whole lot cooler.

With the vast size of these landscape paintings — the largest (Niagara Falls, painted in 1878 by William Morris Hunt) measures approximately seven by 10 feet framed — it’s easy to get a bit lost and miss the works’ finer points. So we sifted through the exhibition’s 118 pieces to pick out those tiny details hidden within the expanses of the landscapes. Find your way through the bushes, forests and mountains with our Picturing the Americas By the Numbers guide below.

Covering the vast region of the Americas, these landscapes depict specific terrestrial features unique to the locations, from the flowing waters of Montmorency Falls in Quebec to the volcanoes by Texcoco Lake in Mexico.

  • Volcanoes: 5 (one volcano appears twice)
  • Rivers: 46
  • Icebergs: 17
  • Rainbows: 2
  • Waterfalls: 16

In addition to the striking natural forms within the landscapes of Picturing the Americas, artists used animals to populate the scenery, sometimes to show action or to hint at scale. These animals — wild, domesticated or used for labour — contributed immensely to the development of the Americas.

  • Monkeys: 2
  • Horses: 145
  • Birds: 223 (Lagoa das aves no Rio Sao Francisco, 1830, by Carl Von Martius has more than 120!)
  • Dogs: 16
  • Sad pigs: 1

Throughout the exhibition, there are several paintings of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. A popular icon of this location is Sugarloaf Mountain, so called because Brazil was one of the world’s major sugar producers in the 1500 and 1600s.

On large plantations, slaves harvested and processed sugarcane. They squeezed the stalks to release their juice, before boiling it and pouring it into a cone-shaped mould called a pão de açúcar (sugarloaf), where it crystallized. Sugarloaves were then exported to Europe. And so the Portuguese called the mountain Pão de Açúcar or Sugarloaf because of its similar shape. Today, this landmark is recognized as one of the most recognizable geological formations in the world.

  • Sugarloaves: 4

It may look like a tall green hill, but a Sugarloaf can be seen here in the centre of Postcard, 1929, by Brazilian artist Tarsila do Amaral.

Tarsila do Amaral  Brazil, 1886-1973 Postcard, 1929 Oil on canvas 50.2 x 56.1 in. (127.5 x 142.5 cm) Private Collection, Rio de Janeiro, Photo Credit: Romulo Fialdini

Tarsila do Amaral, Brazil, 1886-1973, Postcard, 1929, Oil on canvas. 50.2 x 56.1 in. (127.5 x 142.5 cm)
Private Collection, Rio de Janeiro, Photo Credit: Romulo Fialdini

Science and industry are predominant themes in Picturing the Americas. As populations expanded and settlements grew, the development of technology and infrastructure kept pace, and artists took note as bigger and faster transportation systems made their way across the Americas.

  • Boats and canoes: 170
  • Horse-drawn vehicles: 33
  • Flags: 12
  • Smokestacks: 17
  • Monuments to General Wolfe: 1

Visiting soon? Count along with us and share your favourite details from Picturing the Americas on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook using #AmericasAGO. Learn more about Picturing the Americas, buy tickets and see related events and programming at

Please note: we did our best to count carefully but due to an element of subjectivity, some numbers above are approximate.

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