Picturing the Americas: Landscape Painting from Tierra del Fuego to the Arctic at the AGO

Thursday, June 25th, 2015. Filed under: Art Canada Toronto
Two Hummingbirds

Two Hummingbirds with an Orchid, 1875, by Martin Johnson Heade. Oil on canvas.

On now at the Art Gallery of Ontario, the exquisite exhibition Picturing the Americas: Landscape Painting from Tierra del Fuego to the Arctic. Five years in the planning and scheduled to run concurrently with the Pan Am Games and Parapan Am Games 2015, the show takes visitors on a spectacular visual journey through the Americas.

European Artists In The American Tropics

The exhibition is divided by themes. Here, European artists in the American Tropics.

The exhibition was organized by the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo and the Terra Foundation for American Art. The 118 works on display were drawn from institutions around the world and offer glimpses of iconic landscapes that fire the imagination and dreams of exploration.

Taunay Baia de Guanabara painting Brazil

Baía de Guanabara, Vista da Ilha das Cobras (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), 1828, by Félix-Émile Taunay. Oil on canvas.

The paintings are primarily from the early 19th century to early 20th century, a period in which nations in the Americas asserted and gained their independence. From the tip of South America to Canada’s Arctic, explorers and artists tried to capture the essence of places and communicate national aspirations and identity. Later, artists like Georgia O’Keeffe, Emily Carr and Lawren Harris would seek a spiritual, deeply personal connection with nature.

Salon installation

Salon-style picture hanging, popular in the 1800s.

 

Bierstadt Yosemite Valley painting

Yosemite Valley, 1868, by Albert Bierstadt. Oil on canvas.

I spent several hours in this absorbing show, having fun spotting places I’ve been (Kakabeka Falls! Montmorency Falls! Niagara Falls!) and marvelling at vistas no one will ever see again, as they’ve long since been altered. But the exhibition is much more than a wander through a long-gone Garden of Eden. From environmental concerns to indigenous resurgence, the issues raised in Painting the Americas still loom today.

Niagara Falls painting

Niagara Falls, 1878, by William Morris Hunt. Oil on canvas.

At the media preview held last week, Georgiana Uhlyarik, Associate Curator of Canadian Art at the AGO, said that the exhibition for her “has always been about belonging”. The take-home message for me was that, no matter where we belong in the Americas, we are all connected.

Picturing the Americas: Landscape Painting from Tierra del Fuego to the Arctic is on at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, until September 20, 2015.

Tarsila do Amaral painting Postcard Brazil

Cartão Postal (Postcard), 1929, by Tarsila do Amaral (Brazil). Oil on canvas.

 

 

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