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Travel back in time

July 17th, 2017

Jean-Baptiste Armand Guillaumin. Chaumière à Damiette, c. 1885. Oil on canvas, 54.2 x 69.8 cm. Gift from the Estate of R. Fraser Elliott, 2005. (2005/172) © 2017 Art Gallery of Ontario.

The AGO’s Look:Forward reinstallation project is marching forward! The latest gallery to get a facelift is the Richard Barry Fudger Memorial Gallery on Level 1. It’s now home to some of the AGO’s most outstanding pieces of European art from the 1800s, an exciting time for artists across the continent, as our Assistant Curator of European Art, Caroline Shields, explains in the video below:

For more information, watch Caroline’s Facebook Live interview.

While you’re there, check out Armand Guillaumin’s Thatched Hut in Damiette, on display for the first time since the AGO acquired it in 2005.

“When I saw this painting in our vaults, I hoped to include it in the reinstallation, but once I learned of its fragile state, it was uncertain whether the conservation staff here would have time to treat it before the Fudger Gallery’s reopening,” Shields said.

“Maria Sullivan, the Head of Conservation, took on the project and worked tirelessly to treat the painting in time for it to go on view. We were able to include it so quickly thanks entirely to her efforts. The timing was perfect—this painting went from Maria’s bench, to framing, and into the gallery just as the art handlers were hanging the (second-to-) last painting.”

Guillaumin’s painting off its stretcher.

As a canvas attached to a wood frame called a stretcher, the edges of Thatched Hut in Damiette had become very frail and brittle, and the rusting nails had eaten away at the canvas and formed larger holes. In another area, the canvas was distorted, curving up and down almost like ripples in the surface of water. To restore it, the AGO’s Conservation team removed the painting from its frame and added an extra strip of lining material around the inner edges of the canvas (with buffers around the nails to prevent future damage), and then carefully laid weights on the distorted section, gradually increasing them until the corner flattened out.

The painting in its conservation process.

While not widely known today, Guillaumin was at the core of the Impressionist movement. He exhibited at six out of the eight official Impressionist exhibitions, and was a friend of Cézanne and Pissarro. Later, he was part of Van Gogh and Gauguin’s circle. Vincent van Gogh wrote in a letter to his brother Theo that Guillaumin “has found a true thing and he’s satisfied with what he’s found… My word, he isn’t wrong, and I like this sincerity he has enormously.”

The painting reattached to the stretcher.

This painting is characteristic of Guillaumin’s painting in the 1880s, with its vigorous brushwork in the sky, and the bright violet, pink and green of the landscape. This style marks a shift in Guillaumin’s career from Impressionism toward a more expressive use of colour.

There are other newcomers to this gallery as well; including a painting by Paul Gauguin titled Young Breton Woman, which is generously on loan to us from a private collection. Later this summer an Impressionist painting by Gustave Caillebotte from a private collection will also go on view here for the first time. In the fall, James Tissot’s The Shop Girl will come back from a current loan and go on view in our galleries for the first time since 2011. Of course, in addition to artworks that have not been seen for a long time or ever, many long-loved paintings are now placed in new contexts, giving visitors a fresh new way of seeing them.


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