Experiencing Mystical Landscapes in a City Centre

(I did not take photos of the paintings and the ones I am using do not do the colours or texture of the real things justice – this exhibition is a must see)

cropThis past Tuesday, Chris and I had afternoon plans in Toronto so we decided to make a bit of a day out of it. We live approximately an hour away from the city and don’t go downtown very often. I am someone who really loves her hometown and usually visits small town antique stores rather than busy city boutiques – this only makes my treks to Toronto all the more special.

Since late October, the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) has been hosting an exhibit called Mystical Landscapes: Masterpieces from Monet, Van Gogh and more. I hadn’t been to the gallery in over five years and was so excited to see the temporary collection, I was also thrilled to be going with Chris who had never gone before. We caught a train into the city just before 10:00 am and did a crossword together for the majority of the ride.

Fun Fact: I love crosswords and keep a pen in my purse just in case I happen upon one.

When we arrived at Union Station, we went upstairs to the Pilot Coffee stand where Chris bought me a hot chocolate (a child at heart) and a coffee for himself. We took our warm drinks and headed to the subway to save time. We rode the University line to St. Patrick and walked the short distance to the AGO.

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Chris and I pre-Mystical experience.

After getting our tickets and checking our coats, we climbed the stairs to the Mystical Landscape exhibition. We chose not to opt-in for audio headsets; although the audio files are educational, I find that they can take away from the viewing experience. Instead, Chris and I moved to the paintings at our own pace, viewed them in our own order, shared discussions, and read the descriptions of pieces that we liked.

The spaces were dim with picture perfect gallery lights that highlighted the masterpieces that were hung on the wall. It was incredible. The rooms were packed with art lovers, listening to their audio sets, and taking in the different forms of expression. I was so excited to see pieces that I had once studied in art history books displayed right in front of me. As soon as

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Vision of the Sermon (1888) – Paul Gaugin

we walked in, I saw Paul Gaugin’s Vision of the Sermon (1888) to our left and couldn’t wait to see more. The first room really started the collection off with a bang, there were famous paintings that I recognized every few feet. Claude Monet pieces were outstanding, I hadn’t imagined them to be so large! as a fan of impressionism, I couldn’t get enough of the colourful shading in person, you could really see the flecks of warm colours mixing with the blues and purples to represent

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Haystack, Sunset (1891) – Claude Monet

shadows – no use of black. Two of Monet’s haystack paintings were there and were a favourite of mine, but they also had some water lilies and two of the Rouen Cathedral series (allowing us to see his practise of painting the same building at various times of the day for light and colour study).

One section featured four or five different artists that depicted scenes from World War I (WWI) – Chris deemed this the Battlefield 1 display. My favourite WWI themed painting was Frederick Varley’s Gas Chamber at Seaford (1918) and Chris’ was Felix Vallotton’s Verdun (1917). It’s always fascinating to see artists’ drastically diverse interpretations, as well as how subjective viewer’s tastes are. I really enjoyed seeing which pieces Chris liked and thought about how great it would be to study a person’s psychology based on artistic preferences. If this already exists, please lead me to a link for further reading!

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Left: Gas Chamber at Seaford (1918) – Frederick Varley | Right:Verdun (1917) – Felix Vallotton

Without a doubt, the most anticipated and most enjoyable painting to see was Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night over the Rhone at Arles (1888). It was incredible to stand mere feet away from the colourful textured strokes

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Starry Night over the Rhone at Arles (1888) – Vincent Van Gogh

that are much more beautiful in person than they are in any art history textbooks. I pointed to the man and woman in the bottom right corner and told Chris that they were us and we should paint our dog Summit in. We made sure that we really allowed ourselves to take the piece in because it’s quite likely that we’ll never get to see it in person again.

If you are in or near Toronto before February 12, 2017 (the last day of the exhibition), I strongly encourage you to see Mystical Landscapes. You will not be disappointed, it was truly exceptional.

Other favourites (see below) between Chris and I were: Henri Sidaner’s Moonlight, Bruges (1900); Eugene Jansson’s Dawn over Riddarfjärden (1899), Edvard Munch’s The Sun (1909); Lawren Harris’ Decorative Landscape (1917); and Georgia O’Keeffe’s Red Hills, Lake George (1927).

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Moonlight, Bruges (1900) – Henri Sidaner
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Dawn over Riddarfjaren (1899) – Eugene Jansson
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The Sun (1909) – Edvard Munch
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Decorative Landscape (1917) – Lawren Harris
Georgia O'Keefee - Red Hills
Red Hills, Lake George (1927) – Georgia O’Keefe
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