On February 9th Hilary and I visited the AGO in Toronto (Art Gallery Ontario at 317 Dundas Street West). First time ever for me, and last seen some 40 years ago by my wife.
The special draw had been an exhibit of French Impressionism (Gaugin, Monet, Van Gogh and others). It was a thrill to stand moments in front of Starry Night in Rouen. The slapped on texture of the oils. The bold blue colours of the sparkling night sky and lively waters beneath. The curious interjection of the human element within the celestial grandeur. Van Gogh reputedly a crazy man and his works near the edge brilliant.
We were pleased that the permanent exhibits included much of our own Canadian impressionists, the Group of Seven. Their pieces honoured the cold north, the mountains, the small rural villages, the dense green Pacific cordillera and the wind and wavy wild around Georgian Bay. Names like Thompson, Jackson, Harris and Carr. Most students know of the strange disappearance of Thompson in a canoe trip.
At one point there was need for a sit-down and we found ourselves in a room honouring the “Prairie Ukrainian” artist William Kurelek. We just wanted to enjoy the big sofa but we found ourselves growing in fascination for the images. Small town with the big attraction of a mother moose and calf on the main street focus of a large entertained crowd, or a potato farmer hauling in his harvest by horse wagon before bad weather and with a young couple under a bright orange-leaved tree thinking of their romance, the full moon above and perhaps some apples.
In traveling Europe Kurelek admitted himself to a mental hospital in London. Studies and healing had both provoked the trip. Doctors used new pieces of his art as therapy and diagnosis. His piece called The Maze has drawn much comment. It represented an open section of the painter’s head with small compartments revealing life experience or fears or disillusionments. At the centre was a little mouse curled up in fear, purportedly Kurelek.
At the first hospital and the second he found himself increasingly drawn to the Gospels and he launched a series of images called The Passion. Impressionist ideas on the noble mission of Jesus.
My study is ongoing, but I will say that I am thankful that the 2 of us got tired of being on our feet and discovered this rich body of work, feeling and life experience.