For the first time in Europe, the Kunsthalle Munich presents masterpieces by Canadian Impressionists from the late 19th to the early 20th century. Featuring 120 paintings that have rarely been seen, if at all, mostly loans from Canadian museums and private collections, the exhibition introduces 36 artists who – quite unjustly – are virtually unknown in this part of the world.
The journey of the young Canadian art scene starts in Paris: the promise of studying under the illustrious artists in the French capital, at that time the heart of the art world, enticed droves of painters to Paris. Some remained in Europe while others returned to their homeland, where they introduced the Canadian public to impressionist painting. In scenes depicting everyday life and landscapes in Canada, they captured the incomparable moods produced by the interplay of the natural environment, light and climate of the North. They made a significant contribution to the worldwide phenomenon of Impressionism with their works, all the while creating a highly distinctive, inimitable art for the young Canadian nation.
“The snow borrows the tones of the sky and the sun. It is blue, it is mauve, it is grey, even black, but never entirely white.” – Maurice Cullen
The paintings beguile us with purple shimmering, Canadian snow scenes of horse-drawn sleighs, towering, awe-inspiring wooden totem poles, an ice harvest under a hazy sky or the hustle and bustle of the country’s young metropolises. At the same time, however, we also encounter the streets of Paris, women in Japanese dress, Breton washerwomen, children engrossed in books or riders on a Moroccan beach. What constitutes Canadian Impressionism? Is the artist’s citizenship, place of birth or residence the determining factor? A Canadian motif or a specific style? By reference to an enormous variety of artworks, the exhibition explores to what extent these questions were relevant during the artists’ lifetimes and how they influence the history of art to this day.
“Impressionism affected all of us. It took us out of doors in the early years, and for most of our lives as painters we remained there.” – Lawren S. Harris
Following in the wake of “Joaquín Sorolla. Spain’s Master of Light” (2016), the Kunsthalle München once again sheds light on a little-known chapter of Impressionism. The Canadian exponents also dared to set a new course, paving the way for the modern era. With loose brushstrokes and vivid colors, they created paintings in which they captured the atmosphere of a moment, the changing of the seasons, the play of the light or the reflections on the water. The aspiration not to paint the scenery but the impression it creates – the credo of the French Impressionists is also discernible in the extraordinarily perceptive works of Canadian artists.
Organized by the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa in collaboration with the Kunsthalle München.