Lawren S. Harris, Lake and Mountains, 1928, oil on canvas, 130.8 x 160.7 cm, Art Gallery of Ontario, Gift from the Fund of the T. Eaton Co. Ltd. for Canadian Works of Art,1948, 48/8
Steve Martin is on a mission. Working with curators Cindy Burlingham of the Hammer Museum and the Art Gallery of Ontario’s Andrew Hunter, he’s developing an exhibition of major works by Lawren S. Harris from the 1920 and ’30s, with the aim of introducing Harris to an American audience. The exhibition will open at the Hammer—which is part of UCLA—in fall 2015, and after a tour of the U.S. it will land at the AGO. A publication complementing the exhibition will include essays by Martin, Hunter, and Burlingham, who is the Hammer’s deputy director of Curatorial Affairs. A highly knowledgeable collector of 20th-century art, Martin sees Harris as an overlooked artist of great accomplishment and significance. The Hammer is well known for championing the work of emerging and under-recognized artists, and this exciting collaboration will expose Harris to a broader international audience and will more deeply consider his place in 20th century art history. Hunter previously curated the only solo exhibition of Harris’ work shown in the U.S. to date, at New York’s Americas Society Art Gallery in 2000.
Stay tuned for more details about the exhibition in the new year.
About Lawren Harris
From the early 1920s to 1933, Canadian artist Lawren S. Harris (1885 – 1970) produced a remarkable body of work that significantly informed an image of Canada and has remains deeply rooted in the country’s identity. For many Canadians, his scenes of cold and empty northlands, isolated peaks and expanses of dark water washing up on barren shorelines are essential images of their country. As a founding member of the Group of Seven, Harris’s style progressed from a bold, nationalistic portrayal of the northern landscape to a more universal conception of the land, depicting it as a vision of spiritual inspiration. This progression would lead him to a calculated approach to abstraction, inspired by spiritual philosophy and transcendentalism, that he would pursue in the United States (from 1934-39 in New Hampshire and New Mexico) and for the remainder of his life in Vancouver (1940-70). Although Harris was committed to an experimental approach to abstraction, his classic depictions of northern landscapes are still considered to be his most significant and resonant works.
Connect with us on Twitter and Facebook for upcoming exhibition and programming announcements.
Toronto-based artist Sara Angelucci is the AGO artist-in-residence from November 20, 2013, to January 20, 2014, and we’re so happy to share her work with you. Working primarily with photography, video and audio, Angelucci incorporates archival materials such as home movies, snapshots, and vintage portraits into her work and recently has turned her focus to research on endangered and extinct North American bird species.
During her time at the AGO, Angelucci will explore works from our Canadian collection, particularly those with Canadian nature, aviary and forestry subjects. She’s planned a number of initiatives that will activate this research and provide points of engagement for AGO visitors and for staff, including:
a performance in February entitled A Mourning Chorus and featuring a cappella singing that will explore the sounds of disappearing North American song-birds through the historic framework of women’s public mourning rituals;
the installation of two works from Angelucci’s Aviary from November to February 2014 in our Canadian galleries;
a Meet the Artist talk in January, when she will talk to artists Spring Hurlbut and Marla Hlady about their work; and
a panel discussion, also in January, entitled “Art & Ideas: A bird’s eye view on art & extinction,” to be followed by a three-course meal served in FRANK restaurant, specially prepared by executive chef Jeff Dueck in consultation with Angelucci.
As Angelucci settles into the artist-in-residence studio in the Weston Family Learning Centre, we wanted to know what inspired these plans. Here, she offers insight into her practice and its relation to the environment, her fascination with birds and her approach to residencies.
AGO: Do you consider yourself an environmental activist/conservationist as well as an artist?
Sara Angelucci: It is unfair to the true activists out there to call myself that. But, like many people, I’m deeply concerned about what is happening to the environment and in recent years the problems seem to be accelerating as we see weather conditions around the world becoming more extreme.
Where did your interest in songbirds come from? Do you have a personal connection or did you grow interested in them through your practice/research?
I’ve always loved birds and thought they were beautiful. I think a number of things have brought me to thinking about them in a more focused way. I have been spending more isolated time in the countryside and watching them there. Also, in my recent photographic series Aviary I combined images of endangered and extinct North American birds (which I photographed in the ornithology collection at the ROM) with images of anonymous cartes-de-visite.
Although the process by which I came to making this connection is a long one to explain, I think there are interesting overlaps between the craze for collecting cartes-de-visite in the 19th century and the craze for collecting natural specimens. Aviaries become hugely popular at this time, as did taxidermy. The Victorian parlour was a place where both the photographic album and these specimens came together. With this project I’ve been doing a lot of reading on birds and the challenges they face today, which include habitat destruction and pesticides amongs other things.
How do the actions of your residency — the installation of your Aviary portraits, the talks and special meal in FRANK, the chorus — relate to and inform one another?
All of these projects are an attempt to contemplate our relationship to the birds, and by way of extension, the natural world, in a directly embodied way. When we are implicated in a direct way, by combining images of the bird/human, through what we eat, or through the human voice, we cannot separate ourselves from nature. I feel very strongly that one of the reasons we are in such dire straits environmentally is that as humans we see ourselves as apart [from] or above nature. This disconnection is very dangerous for the earth, its species and, ultimately, for us and we are seeing its catastrophic implications.
Do you plan to continue to produce work related to these themes after your residency?
It’s hard to say. At the moment I am very focused on the projects at hand. It’s highly possible that I will, but I try not to get too far ahead of myself on projects.
You’ve done a number of residencies, at NSCAD (Halifax), the Banff Centre, and at Biz-Art in Shanghai – how does the AGO’s program differ from the others you’ve experienced? Did you do localized research during those residencies that influenced your practice afterward?
They have all been extremely different. In each case I have tried to think about what I can do which is special to that place, the people I encounter there and my interests. It sometimes takes a little while to figure that out.
The residency in Shanghai was in some ways the most challenging and so far the most fulfilling. China was a complete culture shock, and I was extremely jetlagged for a good week. So it took me some time to find my footing, and I couldn’t speak to many people. It was very interesting to be silent. You have to find different ways of communicating and making yourself understood. And you have to use keen observation to figure things out.
At the AGO I feel like I’m in luxury. There is so much going on at the gallery that I am invited to be a part of, and so much support for what I want to do. Everyone has been incredibly welcoming, and the resources at hand for an artist are amazing — from technical support to research and curatorial support. Also, it’s my hometown, so it is exciting to be sharing this experience with my family, students and friends as it is unfolding.
By Andrew Hunter, Fredrik S. Eaton Curator, Canadian Art
Jacoposie Oopakak, Family, 2011, antler, bone, stone, metal, 92.7 x 66 x 88.9 cm, detail of skull and base.
We are really pleased to announce that we recently acquired Family (2011), the first major work by contemporary Inuit artist Jacoposie Oopakak (born 1948, Qipisa, Cumberland Sound, Baffin Island) to come in to the AGO collection. Made of antler, bone and stone, this is a rare work: it is one of only three complete sets of antlers carved by Oopakak during his career. Antler is difficult to carve due to its fragility, and Family is also unique for having the antlers and skull intact.
Jacoposie Oopakak, Family, 2011, antler, bone, stone, metal, 92.7 x 66 x 88.9 cm
Jacoposie Oopakak began carving in the 1970s following initial formal training in jewellery workshops run by the government of the Northwest Territories. From the outset, his skill as a carver of intricately detailed and delicate work was widely recognized. His art is rooted in Inuit traditions of hunting, travelling and living off the land and involves complex, multi-figured compositions that suggest evolving narratives and the progression of time.
Like his contemporary Manasie Akpaliapik (who is well represented in the AGO collection), Oopakak is extremely skilled at developing his carvings in a highly sympathetic dialogue with his material, allowing forms to emerge from, and to be suggested by, the structure and material characteristics of bone, stone and ivory, with the natural shape — the extended curving growth of antler in this work, for example — suggesting a narrative trajectory.
In many of his works, one sees a significant transformation in material and in the end it can be difficult to identify the source (a jaw bone or antler for example). In such large, complex sculptures as Family (2011), Power (2011, private collection) and Nunali (c.1988-89, National Gallery of Canada), however, the source material (full antler racks) is explicit and integral to the work.
Jacoposie Oopakak, Family, 2011, antler, bone, stone, metal, 92.7 x 66 x 88.9 cm, detail of antler carving.
Oopakak’s career can be understood in two phases: a very productive period in the 1980s and then a re-emergence in the past decade. In the 1990s, he suffered a series of personal tragedies and illnesses (the death of his wife and son, depression and tuberculosis), during which his production ceased. There has been a marked resurgence in his production in recent years, creating a consistently high level of ambitious work. Much of it was exhibited in Toronto in the fall of 2011 with Family and Power being the two major pieces presented in Masterful Vision: Sculpture by Jacoposie Oopakak (Feheley Fine Arts, Nov. 5 to 30, 2011).
Carved into the antlers of Family is a mix of wildlife, human figures and pictorial scenes all reflective of the artist’s recollections of family life and community traditions. The skull is anchored to a green stone base featuring a self-portrait. Like a number of senior Inuit artists, Oopakak’s work is a bridge to the traditional life on the land into which he was born, articulated from the perspective of modern settlement life.
Family was a Chalmers Inuit Fund purchase and allowed us to acquire a rare and major work by a senior artist who is under-represented in the AGO collection. (The small carving Sea Goddess from the 1980s, donated by Samuel and Esther Sarick, was the only Oopakak work in the AGO collection). Family will be an anchor work within the AGO’s permanent collection having great potential for exhibition and education purposes and, like the National Gallery of Canada’s Nunali, a signature sculpture in the Canadian and contemporary Inuit collection.
By Andrew Hunter, Fredrik S. Eaton Curator, Canadian Art
Original cover of Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography (2003)
For over two decades, Chester Brown has been one of Canada’s leading cartoonists, known nationally and internationally for such works as Yummy Fur, Ed the Happy Clown, I Never Liked You and Paying for It.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the publication of his critically acclaimed, innovative and highly influential Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography. As part of an ongoing series of interventions in the Canadian galleries, we have installed a selection of Brown’s original Riel drawings in the Georgia Ridley Salon, one of the AGO’s most memorable spaces to which, like the Henry Moore Sculpture Centre, visitors regularly return. First designed as part of a 1990s reinstallation of the permanent collection, it was re-imagined as part of the Transformation program in 2008. The current installation is based on a chronological hanging of works from Confederation through to the First World War (1867-1917), with an additional emphasis on the work of women artists.
The Georgia Ridley Salon also highlights a period of nation building marked by civic growth and the accumulation of wealth in central Canada. With the establishment of art patronage and art institutions, Toronto emerged as a major centre of affluence and nationalism during this period. While this was a positive and powerful affirmation of the goals and visions of many Canadians — primarily those of British descent committed to an expanded Dominion of Canada — it was not a perspective shared by all. This idea of Canada was challenged by many, particularly in the Western regions that would become the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
Chester Brown, Portrait of Louis Riel (2003), ink on paper, collection of the artist.
Louis David Riel (Métis, 1844-1885) led two rebellions challenging the new Canadian government’s plans for the West. Employing armed, diplomatic and democratic means, the Red River Rebellion in Manitoba (1869-70) was followed by the North-West Rebellion in Saskatchewan (1885). Although strongly supported by First Nations and French settlers, Riel was eventually arrested and hung for high treason.
Louis Riel remains a polarizing figure. Seen as a “founding father” to Manitobans, a spiritual leader to the Métis and a folk hero in Francophone and Catholic communities across Canada, he was considered a traitor in English Canada, particularly in Ontario and once–Protestant dominated Toronto. Through a creative collaboration with Toronto-based cartoonist Chester Brown, the goal of this project is to position Riel’s story within the salon’s story and to provoke reflection on a significant challenge to the nation building narrative.
Besides being one of the world’s most influential and most talked-about contemporary artists, Ai Weiwei is a cat lover. The artist lives with about 40 of them in his Beijing studio home, and they have become a constant element in his life, both public and private. Alison Klayman’s 2012 documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry begins with a scene in which the artist ponders one of his pet’s special skills, linking it to the power of the individual: “Out of the 40 cats, one knows how to open doors. If I’d never met this cat that can open doors, I wouldn’t know cats can open doors.”
During a recent interview with ARTINFO, Ai took photos of cats lounging in between him and the writer, noting that they can’t keep away when a recording device is nearby: “Are they national security guards? Or are they’re just interested in sound?” Ai asked. For an artist known for work that investigates serious and sometimes grave issues like his government’s restrictions on freedom of expression and mishandling of national tragedies, Ai’s Instagram feed offers fans a rounded view of his life at home, his friends, family and visitors and what brings him joy, including his cats. Lots of cats. Have a look at Ai’s recent cat-snaps below, and follow @aiww on Instagram to see what else is happening in his world. Read the rest of this entry »
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)
Click to play:
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.