Canada on Canvas

Glenbow Museum, Calgary, AB • June 2-September 3, 2012

Judith and Norman Alix Art Gallery, Sarnia, ON • September 18, 2012-January 2, 2013

Varley Art Gallery, Markham, ON • February 2-May 4, 2013


Each of the forty works in Canada on Canvas falls under one or more of three thematic areas: people, place, and paint. These themes structure the exhibition, allowing for a powerful, concise, and yet broad look at Canadian painting between the 1840s and 1970s

Many of the earliest paintings produced in Canada portrayed human figures. For early genre and ethnographic painters like Cornelius Krieghoff and Frederick Verner, generalized depictions of everyday life subsumed individual identities. This tradition continued through the 20th century with Phillip Surrey and William Kurelek, whose tableaus crystallized the fluctuating social relations of the modern age. This exhibition also includes a selection of portraits. Some, like that of an anonymous woman by an unknown painter from Quebec/Canada East dating from the 1840s, confirm the subject’s elevated social status, while examples by later artists such as Prudence Heward and Emily Coonan depict broader segments of Canadian society with sensitivity and concern.

The way a landscape is painted can influence how we understand the place or region depicted. In the late-19th century, artists like John Hammond suited established European aesthetic templates to the Canadian scene. European influence continued through Impressionism, whereby paintings showed highly decorative worlds devoted to relationships of form and colour. In the 1920s and 1930s, the Group of Seven and their followers celebrated a Canadian terrain that was harsh, sparsely populated, and unindustrialized, while others such as Kathleen Morris and Nora Collyer turned their view toward bustling cities and hardscrabble agrarian landscapes. Finally, influenced by mystical world views, the canvases of Emily Carr and Jock Macdonald reconfigured the physical environment into a node of spiritual significance.

Between the 1940s and 1970s, the act and material of painting itself became discernable subjects for many Canadian artists. Jean Paul Riopelle and the Automatists, their canvases infused with psycho-revolutionary significance, transformed Montreal into an international hub of modern art. In Toronto, artists like William Ronald began practicing a dizzyingly eclectic array of approaches under the influence of British and American precedents. Beyond central Canada, painters like Kenneth Lochhead produced grand canvases that revelled in their own material and two-dimensional limits. Others, like Tony Tascona, combined gestural mark-making with an industrial aesthetic. Finally, in eastern Canada, under the influence of conceptual art, painters like Tim Zuck engaged in an irreverent and humorous dialogue with the abstract painting tradition and, in so doing, extended that very tradition.

By framing the exhibition with three broad thematic placeholders—people, places, and paint—Canada on Canvas promotes the opportunity for viewers to consider the way in which painting in this country emerged, shifted, and developed. At the same time, it affords the chance of discerning key moments of overlap, whereby works relate to one another across different regions and times, and are drawn together into a painting tradition.

Exhibition Details
Artists: Unidentified Quebec Artist, Cornelius David Krieghoff, Frederick Verner, Emily Coonan, Frederick Horsman Varley, J.W.G. Macdonald, Prudence Heward, Ozias Leduc, Jack Weldon Humphrey, Philip Surrey, Jean Paul Lemieux, William Kurelek, John Hammond, James Wilson Morrice, Maurice Galbraith Cullen, J.E.H. MacDonald, Marc-Auréle Fortin, Tom Thomson, Frank H. Johnston, Arthur Lismer, Marc-Aurèle de Foy Suzor-Côté, Anne Savage, Lawren S. Harris, Kathleen Moir Morris, A.Y. Jackson, Franklin Carmichael, Nora Collyer, Emily Carr, A.J. Casson, Doris McCarthy, Jean-Paul Riopelle, Marcel Barbeau, Don Jarvis, Guido Molinari, William Ronald, Richard Gorman, Kenneth Lochhead, Tony Tascona, Rita Letendre, Tim Zuck

Curator: Andrew Kear, Associate Curator of Historical Canadian Art

Exhibition Includes:
• 40 paintings from the collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery or on loan from a private collection
• supporting materials: bilingual (English and French) introductory panel outlining the exhibition’s curatorial premise: 3 didactic panels (one for each thematic area: people, place, and paint): 40 labels with extended text for select works. All text provided by electronic files
• exhibition brochure
• packing and crating

click here for illustrated list of works

Requirements of host institution:
• approximately 1400 running feet; 2100 sq feet
• environment and security requirements:
•       relative humidity: 50% fluctuations less than + - 5% RH in 24 hours
•      temperature: 20°C with fluctuations not to exceed 1°C in 24 hours
•      light levels 150 lux maximum
•     security: constant surveillance when open to the public; security alarm system in use when closed to the public
• Pro-rated shipping costs

Venue length: 12 weeks
Tour Schedule: Fall 2010 to Winter 2013

For more information contact:
Helen Delacretaz, Chief Curator
Winnipeg Art Gallery


Tom Thomson, Winter, Algonquin Park, 1916.

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