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One woman, five decades of inspiration

March 13th, 2017

AGO Director and CEO Stephan Jost and Dr. Katharine Lochnan at the opening of Mystical Landscapes in Paris on Monday, March 13.

To celebrate International Women’s Month, we’re highlighting some amazing women of the AGO and the projects that are keeping them busy. Read last week’s entry here. Today we highlight Dr. Katharine Lochnan.

This week marks a milestone in the history of the AGO: the opening of Mystical Landscapes: Masterpieces by Monet, Van Gogh and more at the prestigious Musée d’Orsay in Paris, after a hugely successful run here in Toronto. The guest of honour at the opening? The exhibition’s curator Dr. Katharine Lochnan.

Katharine, the AGO’s Senior Curator of International Exhibitions, recently retired after 47 years at the AGO. Mystical Landscapes* is unquestionably her most ambitious project, and that’s really saying something considering she also curated the hit show Turner, Whistler, Monet: Impressionist Visions. After conceiving the idea for Mystical five years ago, Katharine invited 20 experts, largely from the University of Toronto, to explore the very challenging concept of the “mystical.” What is it? Which artists were proponents of it? Which paintings best exemplified its complex character?

As you can imagine, there was no easy answer. Over the years Katharine adeptly stickhandled her way through the debates, encouraging open talk and a constant flow of ideas. What emerged was an intriguing, often moving story about nature and our place in it, together with a new understanding of 50 years of European, Scandinavian and North American landscape. The story and the artwork struck a chord: the exhibition attracted an unprecedented number of visitors to the AGO, sold over 8,000 catalogues, and garnered widespread international attention both for the Gallery and for Katharine.

Katharine has held numerous positions here at the Gallery, and now has the honorific title of Curator Emerita. Her contributions to the Gallery have shaped the AGO immeasurably. She led the development of the foremost collection of European Prints and Drawings in Canada, has curated countless exhibitions and her reputation and expertise have led to significant international partnerships with museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the British Museum, Tate Britain, the Musée d’Orsay and the Dulwich Picture Gallery.

Check out Katharine Lochnan at the AGO throughout her career:

Dr. Katharine Lochnan outside the AGO, Date Unknown. Photo courtesy of the AGO.

Dr. Katharine Lochnan (left) with William Withrow, former director of the AGO, Date Unknown. Photo courtesy of the AGO.

Dr. Katharine Lochnan with Adam by Auguste Rodin, 1973. Photo courtesy of the AGO.

Dr. Katharine Lochnan (right) at event for Selected Impression: Recent Acquisitions of Master Prints from the Fifteenth to the Twentieth Centuries, 1979. Photo courtesy of the AGO.

Dr. Katharine Lochnan and Ralph Presgrave, 1979. Photo courtesy of the AGO.

Dr. Katharine Lochnan and Sam Wagstaff at reception for Photographs from the Collection of Sam Wagstaff, 1981. Photo courtesy of the AGO.

Let’s hope Katharine enjoyed a well-deserved glass of French champagne at this week’s opening.  What a fitting way to conclude a wonderful career – with a bang, or is it a pop? We thank her for contributing so richly to our institution, our city and our country.

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*Mystical Landscapes was conceived and developed by Katharine Lochnan, the AGO’s senior curator of international exhibitions, together with Roald Nasgaard and Bogomila Welsh-Ovcharov, in addition to Guy Cogeval and Isabelle Morin Loutrel of the Musée d’Orsay.

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