Wednesday, May 3, 2017

National Art Gallery of Canada

The National Art Gallery of Canada made me proud to be Canadian. I’d not been here in decades so it was almost like seeing it anew.  The architecture was cathedral, a work of joy and wonder itself.

It’s known for it’s Group of Seven collection.  My visit to the McMichael Collection in Kleinberg in my formative years added to my love of art, the love of galleries and their presentation of art.  Curators are great artists in their own right.  I especially liked the presentation  in the National Gallery.  The Group of Seven works were closed today as was the famed collection of art of the indigenous people of Canada.Living in Vancouver,  I love and have made regular visits to the  UBC Museum of Anthropology  and the  Kwagiulth Museum and Cultural Centre on Quadra Island.  I believe these  are greatest displays of native art though that visited museums across Canada celebrating the plains and mohawk tribes .I would have liked to have seen this as much for the choice and presentation as the art itself.  
Having worked with the Inuit in Churchill I did however appreciate the selected sculptures of Inuit art.

What I really was interested  in this time  and thoroughly delighted by  was  the European and  contemporary art collections.  I’d just this winter been again to the Met and Moma in New York.  In recent years I was truly blessed to visit the Hermitage in St. Petersburg and the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Art Moscow. I’ve loved the art in Washington DC  and when I lived in London was a regular visitor to the National Gallery. The Instanbul Museum of Modern Art was a surprise delight. Travelling across Europe and in others places in the world I’ve always enjoyed my visits to art galleries and museums.  The National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City is one of the greats like the Acropolis Museum of Athens. Still love the Ontario Art Gallery in Toronto.  Now walking through the National Gallery I felt as uplifted and inspired  as if I were strolling through a wooded glen in spring. .
The National Gallery Contemporary Collection was especially impressive but it’s European collection was most revealing.. I love Christian art, all of it, Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, Roccoco, Neoclassical, and Romantic. I love the landscapes and towns and activities of the people and portraiture especially of the Neoclassical and Romantic periods. Portraiture once interested me more but for a few years now I’ve been fascinated by the different artists portrayal of the Madonna and Child.  In art classes everyone must paint the bowl of fruit.  In Modern art the reclining naked woman is a matter of much consideration indeed. But the Modonna Child was for years the greatest test of the artist of old.   A subject that all the artists of thousands of years  approached with reverence and awe.  It is no little matter where the baby looks, forward, at or away from the mother.  The same goes for the eyes of the mother.  These are just a few of the myriad of permutations and combinations available in this apparently simple construction. Contemplating and meditating on this art is a spiritual past time.  The more God inspired the work, the closer I feel to the subject.

I especially loved the The Christ Child with Infant John the Baptist and lamb.  The extraordinary story of Jesus has been told more times than the Spanish Chord Progression has been used in Rock and Roll.  Yet here is a new twist on an old story.  John and Jesus are thought related so here the artist portrays them as children with a lamb, the lamb representative of humans.  I love the allegory and stories in the art of old with all the symbolism that so fascinated the likes of Dr. Carl Jung.  After the first glance at a Newman modern art work, while moving there's not much more to the experience.
European art of old, in addition to it's Christian themes draws from the stories of Classical Greece as well as celebrating sites of interest. I especially loved Lucas Cranach the Elders 1518 painting of Venus.

My brother Ron and sister in law Adell had travelled to Venice to see one of Ron's wildlife photography exhibited in their Natural History Museum.  We enjoyed the photographs of Venice. I've only been to Milan and Rome so do wish dearly to return to see the Venice they so enjoyed. 

Most telling though was the Canadian art that one would be unlikely to see in any other place. I loved the painting of the famous Mohawk Joseph Brant as well West 1770  painting of the death of General Wolfe on the Plains of Abraham where the English won against the French.

Landscapes were well represented with Constable's Salisbury Cathedral a favourite. I also loved the early Rousseau and Pissaro's Hay Harvest.

I was rewarding to see the unusual Degas portrait and I always love to see Renoir. I had a Renoir print on my student rooms and I will always be thankful for his paintings ability to lift the spirit and lighten a room.  

I loved the Van Gogh even more since I'd so recently seen the his painting Starry Nights in Moma, the subject of a song I like dearly as well. 

Since being in New York, Max Beckman has grown on me, so I loved that the National Gallery had his works.  

My favourite piece, after seeing the Woman in Gold at the Neue Gallery,  was the Gustave Klimt, Hope.  What an incredible work of art! It really is a shame that one can't fully appreciate the true glory of a work without seeing it in person.  

Rodin and Moore scultures are always a delights but I  really did like the Nancy Graves Camels too.  

There was so much to be seen. I would love to return again and again.  The portrait of Mrs. Paul Martin was really magnificent and a true tribute to one of Canada's great ladies. 

I loved the portrait of TE Lawrence mostly because I've just read his Four Pillars and always loved the movie Lawrence of Arabia, perhaps because my Aunt Sally after touring Egypt brought back exotic Arab head gear and camel souvenirs for us as children long before I'd as an adult mount a camel in Israel

Having been taken to the 1967 World Expo Fair, Man and His World,  in Montreal by my Aunt Sally where I experienced Habitat and Buckminister Fuller's Dome, it was a thrill to see the Newman, Voice of Fire for the Expo 67 US Pavillion.  

A tour of a gallery is enriched by a last stop at the cafe.  I've have actually been to the Winnipeg and Vancouver Gallery cafe's more often than I've been to the exhibits.  One does need to eat daily. Gallery cafe's are an art in themselves,  elegant and refined.  The National Gallery  cafe was delightful with a stupendous view of Canada's Parliament  across the Ottawa River.  The final exhibit we saw was a collection of drawings by the children that regularly visit the Gallery. Leaving I took a picture of the great Spider Statue I remembered most from my last Ottawa visit. Our Canadian Spider looks across at the American embassy.   

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

thank you for your thoughts

on Art

I have been given much from all your trips