Terre Sauvage: Canadian Landscape Painting and the Group of Seven Premieres in Mexico
Ottawa, Canada - August 25, 1999
« Terre Sauvage. La peinture de paysage au Canada et le Groupe des Sept est inaugurée à Mexico »
Terre Sauvage: Canadian Landscape Painting and the Group of Seven, an exhibition featuring major works by the Group of Seven, opens at the Museo de Arte Moderno in Mexico City on 26 August and will be on view through 31 October 1999. Organized by the National Gallery of Canada for international circulation in 1999-2000, it includes important works by Tom Thomson, Lawren S. Harris, J.E.H. MacDonald, Franklin Carmichael, Frank Johnston, Arthur Lismer, Fred Varley, and A.Y. Jackson. The National Gallery gratefully acknowledges the collaboration of the Canadian Embassy in Mexico City whose dedicated efforts have helped to make this presentation possible. Support for the exhibition was received from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade of Canada as well as from the Canadian Pacific Charitable Foundation and eighteen other generous sponsors.
The title of A.Y. Jackson's Terre sauvage of 1913, included in this exhibition, captures the particular aspects of the landscape they so prized. When it was exhibited in 1920, one writer commented, "This is the bluest and most Scandinavian thing in a show where blues and Nordland predominate." With a decorative arrangement of the more intimate aspects of the landscape, the Canadians painted the rushing streams and beaver swamps, snow laden trees, brilliant autumn foliage, and dramatic northern skies as exemplified by Lawren Harris' Decorative Landscape of 1917. The more austere aspect of the landscape is evident in Tom Thomson's Burnt Land of 1915-16. The seventy-five paintings included in this important exhibition have been borrowed from a number of Canadian collections, with the largest number coming from the National Gallery of Canada. It marks the first time since 1960 that works by the Group of Seven have been exhibited in Mexico.
" The paintings of the Group of Seven are representations of Canada's cultural heritage and experience ", said Pierre Théberge, Director of the National Gallery of Canada. "However, as their work has not travelled abroad in recent decades, The Group has not achieved the international recognition they deserve. This exhibition provides a rare opportunity for visitors in other countries to view major works by these important artists."
The artists first came together in Toronto around 1913: Tom Thomson, Lawren S. Harris,
J.E.H. MacDonald, Franklin Carmichael, and Frank Johnston from various regions of Ontario; Arthur Lismer and Fred Varley from Sheffield, England; and A.Y. Jackson from Montreal, Quebec. They were inspired by a common ideal: to realize an art uniquely expressive of Canada and of its people.
The Group of Seven travelled and painted the breadth of Canada. They sent exhibitions of their work across the country and abroad, lectured and wrote articles insisting that the arts were crucial for the growth and understanding of a national identity, and supported younger, independent modern artists across Canada. The Group of Seven played a crucial role in the growth of modern art in Canada in the first decades of this century.
The Canadian art movement was part of a larger international movement in which nations sought, through their art, to define their unique identities. Artists in Sweden, Canada, Mexico, and other countries set out to define and valorize what was unique in their own environment. Borrowing from modern art movements in France and elsewhere those elements appropriate to the expression of their indigenous culture, they set out to realize art that was truly expressive of their own land and people. In the older cultures of Sweden and Mexico, history and tradition were essential components of this new expression. In the relatively young Canada, it was Canada's wilderness, its Terre Sauvage that determined a new identity for the nation as expressed in art.
The exhibition includes several remarkable oil sketches painted by the artists during their travels, as well as major canvases created in their studios. Visitors will be able to see J.E.H. MacDonald's intimate and richly coloured sketches of 1912, as well as A Rapid in the North of 1913 bearing witness to the shared purpose of the Canadians and such Swedish artists as Gustav Fjaestad.
Following the presentation in Mexico City, the exhibition will travel to venues in Stockholm, Copenhagen,Lillehammer, and Gothenburg.
As part of the continuing cultural exchange between Canada and Mexico, the National Gallery of Canada will host Mexican Modern Art 1900-1950, on view from 25 February to 21 May 2000. This diverse and stunning exhibition will feature some 280 works by fifty of Mexico's finest artists.
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