Recorded: Thursday May 9, 7 pm in Jackman Hall
Contemporary art in the early twenty-first century is often discussed as though it were a radically new phenomenon unmoored from history. Yet all works of art were once contemporary to the artist and culture that produced them. In this lecture, based on his recent book What Was Contemporary Art?, Art Historian Richard Meyer reclaims the contemporary from historical amnesia, exploring episodes in the study, exhibition, and reception of early twentieth-century art and visual culture.
Richard Meyer is the Robert and Ruth Halperin Professor in Art History at Stanford University. He is the author, most recently, of What Was Contemporary Art (MIT Press: 2013) and co-editor, with Catherine Lord, of Art and Queer Culture (Phaidon Press: 2013).
Pacino Di Bonaguida (active around 1303-1347), The Apparition of Saint Michael, Leaf from the Laudario of Sant’ Agnese, around 1340, tempera and gold leaf on parchment. The British Library, London (Add. Ms. 35254 B)
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Recorded: Wednesday, May 22, 7 pm in Jackman Hall
Gilles Mongeau and Sasha Suda
Listen as Gilles Mongeau and Sasha Suda discuss the challenges faced by early Renaissance artists, like Dante and Pacino, whose efforts to depict their changing world precipitated a radical new visual language.
Gilles Mongeau is the Director, Master of Divinity and Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at Regis College in Toronto. Sasha Suda is the Art Gallery of Ontario’s assistant curator of European art.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This spring we’ll have a lot of Sorel Etrog’s work inside the Gallery, but we’re also seeking photos of his work to add to the map above. Etrog’s sculptures are visible in many public spaces around Toronto, from Sunlife at the corner of King Street and University Avenue to a cluster of works near Yonge and Davisville, and we’re inviting you to help us celebrate his impact on Toronto’s streetscape with your own photography.
Do you have your own photo of Etrog’s work to add, from around Toronto or beyond? Email the photo, title and date of the work (if available), the date when you took the photo and the location to email@example.com and you could win a prize pack, including a Sorel Etrog exhibition catalogue, a poster and two passes to the exhibition Sorel Etrog.
Contest closes June 7, 2013.
We’re happy to receive new views of the works already indicated on the map, as well as photos of other works in Toronto. Some of Etrog’s sculptures are also in public spaces in cities around the world, so if you spotted one while travelling, we’d love to add those to map. Submissions are welcome from anyone, but due to the nature of the prizes, the contest is open only to residents of Canada (excluding Quebec).
About the exhibition:
Sorel Etrog, running April 27 to Sept. 29, 2013, is a career-spanning exhibition that will cast the artist in a new light in his adopted hometown of 54 years. It will include his archetypal sculptures as well as drawings, paintings, book illustrations and prints from the AGO’s collection and private collections. One of the highlights, and one of Etrog’s pivotal works, will be his rarely seen film, Spiral. This meditation on the human condition, from birth to death, will be a catalyst for renewed reflection on the accomplishments of one of Canada’s most diverse and challenging artists.
Giotto di Bondone, Italian, about 1266 – 1337, The Peruzzi Altarpiece, tempera and gold leaf on panel, 105.7 x 250.2 cm, The North Carolina Museum of Art
A guest post by Sasha Suda, coordinating curator of Revealing the Early Renaissance and AGO assistant curator of European Art
Patti Smith and curator Sasha Suda look at Pacino di Bonaguida’s painting The Chiarito Tabernacle.
On March 9, 2013, Patti Smith came to the AGO to preview the Revealing the Early Renaissance exhibition. In preparation for her arrival, I read an interview where Patti described the inspiration that St. Francis brought to her work: “In this period of my life his idea of simplicity and of being close to nature is what I wish to aspire to. It’s simply his example. It’s that simple. He is a holistic example of how to conduct oneself in the world.”
In that same interview, she discussed helping to restore one of Giotto’s frescoes from his famous fresco series at the church of St. Francis of Assisi. This boded well — we have four works by Giotto in the exhibition, and even one image of St. Francis painted by the master himself (far-right panel in The Peruzzi Altarpiece, above).
Patti’s passion for the art on display was palpable as soon as she entered the exhibition space. It was clear that she had seen a great deal of medieval and Renaissance art — she hardly needed a guide.
After taking in the art, Patti asked me a question that addressed one of the exhibition’s most meaningful nuances: who was Pacino di Bonaguida and didn’t he seem to be doing something far more mystical than the other artists in the show?
Pacino di Bonaguida (active about 1303–about 1347), The Crucifixion, ca. 1315–20, tempera and gold leaf on panel, Fondazione di Studi di Storia dell’Arte Roberto Longhi, (cat. 1980, n. 19.), EX.2012.2.16, cat. 4
Specifically, Patti asked about the Longhi Crucifixion (see left) painted by Pacino. “Why is the background black?” Pacino approached imagery in new ways — painting the black background to accurately depict the biblical account describing the darkness that followed Christ’s crucifixion. “I’m sure that Pacino was a mystic,” I explained to Patti. “He chooses the theological resonance of darkness over the opulence of a gold background.” My favourite part of this painting, I confessed, was Mary Magdalene’s hair — “Isn’t it wild?”
Patti took the painting in for a moment more, and but it wasn’t until that night that I realized what she had been thinking about. During her performance at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, she incorporated our conversation into her song Beneath the Southern Cross (click here to watch her perform the song and hear what she had to say).
Seeing and hearing Patti Smith riff off of Pacino di Bonaguida, the great early Renaissance manuscript painter, was one of my best-ever curatorial moments. Thanks, Patti.
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Jon Rafman, Brand New Paint Job (Emily Carr Master Bedroom), 2013, digital image.
In April 2012, we joined dozens of other galleries and museums worldwide who are sharing their collections through Google Art Project, which allows users to explore a wide range of artworks at brushstroke level detail and build their own collections to share. Our initial GAP collection shared 43 high-resolution images and represented the work of 38 artists.
This year, as other Canadian organizations are adding their collections to GAP, we’re excited to expand ours, bringing the total number of artworks to 97. Our new additions include pieces by 10 celebrated Canadian artists: Tom Thomson, Emily Carr, J.E.H. MacDonald, Franklin Carmichael, Paul Peel, Morrice Cullen, James Wilson Morrice, Mary Hiester Reid, Cornelius Krieghoff and Helen Galloway McNicoll.
Another new addition to our GAP collection is the work of contemporary Canadian artist Jon Rafman. We’re excited to present his series of digital images alongside the works from our collection that inspired their creation. Below, read a summary of the project by its curator, Stefan Hancherow, and see more of Rafman’s work. Read the rest of this entry »
This March, Patti Smith is visiting Toronto, and we’re very excited for her performances here at the Gallery during our next 1st Thursdays event on March 7. She will also be participating in screenings of the film Patti Smith: Dream of Life and doing a book signing while she’s here for the exhibition Patti Smith: Camera Solo.
This won’t be Smith’s first visit to Toronto, of course. She was here more than three decades ago, in 1976, for a Patti Smith Group concert, and we were lucky to hear from a photographer who was there and captured some amazing images of Smith on stage. Below, Toronto’s Vince Carlucci describes the event that brought his appreciation for Smith and her music to a new level and shares his photos.
Camera Solo highlights the many connections between Smith’s photography and her interest in poetry and literature, and this same interest is present in her music. Thanks to Vince for his contribution and for helping us celebrate Smith’s art across all media. Read the rest of this entry »
On Feb. 10, AGO artists in residence Life of a Craphead presented a new edition of Doored, a monthly performance show that they have been curating and hosting since 2012. Doored features exciting new work from performance artists and comedians in Toronto. This edition’s participants were Bridget Moser, Cameron Lee, CN Tower Liquidation, Daniel Goodbaum, Fake Injury Party, Glenn Macaulay, Gwen Bieniara, Laura McCoy, Lisa Smolkin, and Neil LaPierre and David Tallis, with live music by Man Made Hill, visuals by Nikki Woolsey and door by Zoe Solomon.
Doored is part of the regular programming at the artist-run venue Double Double Land in Kensington Market.
About Life of a Craphead
Life of a Craphead is the collaborative work of Amy Lam and Jon McCurley, comprising performance, comedy, theatre and video. Established in 2006, their projects include transporting two psychopaths in a cage on the back of a truck, touring a live comedy show, giving away everything on a restaurant’s menu, and building a three-storey maze. Their first feature-length film, Bugs, is in post-production. Life of a Craphead have presented work at The Power Plant, Toronto; Gallery TPW, Toronto; Hotel MariaKapel, Hoorn, The Netherlands; Department of Safety, Anacortes, U.S.; and the Banff Centre, Banff, as well as at numerous comedy venues and music shows in Canada and the U.S.
Life of a Craphead live and work in Toronto and collaborate frequently with other artists and performers.
Bridget Moser is an interdisciplinary artist whose performances combine inanimate objects, affect, prop comedy, and escape art. She has presented work in various venues across Canada, the United States, and Europe.
Cameron Lee received his BFA in Drawing and Painting from OCAD U, the University of the Imagination. He hasn’t drawn or painted much since graduating.
CN Tower Liquidation is Sebastian Butt, Charlie Murray and Xan Hawes. They specialize in the dematerialization and reconstitution of objects into cubes. Recent shows include Free(or Best Offer), Ed Video Media Arts Centre, Guelph; THASDF FORDFBDFG CDFBLLimdbbing MEAD, Gendai Workstation; and Paul Petro’s Christmas Spice.
Daniel Goodbaum is either an artist/comedian or a comedian/artist. He’s attempting a ‘reverse Woody Allen’ by starting as a filmmaker and working his way into standup. He makes videos about food, fashion, film, and one or two things that don’t start with the letter ‘f’.
Fake Injury Party are three full grown men who know how to get the job done and have fun doing it! Experience: catering, dishwashing, serving.
Glenn Macaulay has been performing comedy in Toronto since 2005. He believes in true love and has to get to the theatre nice and early in order to fully enjoy the experience.
Gwen Bieniara is an artist from Toronto who works closely with performance.
Laura McCoy lives and works in Toronto.
Lisa Smolkin is an artist living in Toronto. Some of her creative stand-out moments include hosting a connectedness workshop, having a home-museum tailored to its visitors, and co-presenting a performative installation about the idea of emotional receptivity/industrial receiving areas.
Man Made Hill is the Solo Funk Agenda of Randy Gagne. Incubated in a crusty basement in Cambridge, ON, Man Made Hill has been steady mutilating sounds since 2004. Armed with a modest arsenal of synthesizer/sampler/drum-machine/voice/dance MMH assumes a series of transformational stage personas including Extra-Terrestrial Sex Judge, Diseased Futuristic Priest, Energy-Mayonnaise Demonstrator, Prison Disco-Enthusiast etc…
Neil LaPierre and David Tallis are prophets of the hypercassional (events you’ll be finding yourself doing everyday several times a day). This is their first performance at the AGO.
Nikki Woolsey lives in Toronto and makes mostly sculpture and photography. She collaborated with Life of a Craphead at the Hotel Maria Kapel residency in The Netherlands and contributed to CN Tower Liquidation’s performative “Theory of Condensation” event at the AGO. She was included in the recent exhibition “That’s not a run in your stocking, it’s a hand on your leg” at Narwhal Art Projects. She sometimes works as a prop maker and production designer.