The first-ever retrospective of Canadian master silversmith Laurent Amiot (1764-1839), opening Friday, May 11 at the National Gallery of Canada (NGC), highlights the artist’s significant contribution and influence on the development of art in Canada. Covering more than five decades, the exhibition Laurent Amiot. Canadian Master Silversmith presents 75 religious vessels and accessories, domestic silverware and commemorative silver pieces which shed light on Amiot’s training, aesthetic choices, and the society surrounding him. On view until September 23, 2018, the exhibition also features rare preparatory drawings on display for the first time, as well as portraits of Amiot’s patrons and clients.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, silverware played an important role in the life of individuals and institutions. Curator of Early Canadian Art at the National Gallery of Canada, René Villeneuve organized this exhibition and authored the accompanying catalogue. In the preface he wrote that this exhibition will enable [visitors] to appreciate the quality and importance of Laurent Amiot’s oeuvre, and will shed new light on the fascinating history of the society that he helped to shape.
“Laurent Amiot, born in Quebec City in 1764, made a brilliant contribution to the development of silversmithing in Canada,” said National Gallery of Canada Director and CEO Marc Mayer. “He was the first Canadian-born silversmith to be trained in Europe. He was a well-known artist whose influence transcended the borders of Quebec City, yet he was deeply committed to his community. A tour of the Amiot exhibition opens the door into the dynamic society of the period between 1790 and 1840.”
Amiot completed his apprenticeship in Paris between 1782 and 1787. Returning to Canada, he introduced new shapes into dining silver and modified those of ecclesiastical silver. He offered a new decorative idiom, the neo-classical style, which spurred the majority of Canadian silversmiths to follow his lead, setting new standards technically and creatively.
“Laurent Amiot made contemporary art: it was he who redefined his craft, he who pointed the way and was followed!” explained René Villeneuve, who has devoted nearly ten years to preparing this project and the monograph. “Silverware now constituted an art form in itself. With Amiot, it ceased to be regarded as an artisanal craft and was seen as an art.”
Amiot’s silver pieces remained a benchmark in the art world some forty years after his death. The National Gallery of Canada owns the largest public collection of his works, which includes several masterpieces.
The key works on display include the Terrine of the Hertel de Rouville Family, the Coffee Pot of the Le Moine Family, the Ewer and Ablution Basin with the initials of the Bishop of Quebec, the Reliquary-Monstrance of Saint Charles Borromeo, the Teapot with Sibyl, the Cup presented to George Taylor, the Hanging Sanctuary Lamp of the Cathedral of Notre- Dame de Québec, and the Chalice of Monsignor Joseph Signaÿ.
A number of works in the exhibition have come from private and public collections, in particular from the Archdiocese of Quebec, the Royal Ontario Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and numerous parishes in Quebec and even in Nova Scotia.
Layout of the exhibition
The exhibition opens in 1787 when Amiot returns from Paris where he had spent the previous five years completing his training. The first gallery displays a selection of works from the first decade of Amiot’s career, demonstrating his new approach to silversmithing.
The second gallery illustrates the patronage of the Catholic Church, essential to the development of Amiot’s career. Many of the objects in this gallery have never been seen outside of a church setting. Visitors then move into an area displaying a number of dining, drinking and personal silver including serving dishes, tea pots, snuff boxes and wedding bands.
The fourth section, devoted to the graphic arts, presents drawings by Amiot and a selection of engravings that have influenced his research and approach, and perhaps the taste of his patrons.
The fifth and last space is divided into two sections reflecting the last decade of Amiot’s career. This gallery features the first commemorative pieces in Canada, together with items in the neo-rococo style that shaped a new direction and would inspire the next generation of silversmiths. All sections include portraits of Amiot’s patrons or recipients of his work.
A richly-illustrated catalogue written by René Villeneuve accompanies the exhibition. The 240-page publication titled Laurent Amiot. Canadian master silversmith explores the quality and importance of Amiot’s oeuvre while providing a fresh perspective on the history of the society he helped shape and define. Available at the Boutique for $40, or online at shopNGC.ca
All exhibition catalogues and related gift items are on sale at the Boutique, enabling visitors to revisit their favorite works of art for years to come. The boutique opens at 10 am daily. 15% off for members. Shop online at ShopNGC.ca.
On May 10, from 10 am to 5 pm, Gallery members have exclusive access to the exhibition located in the Prints and Drawings Galleries on the lower level. Learn more about NGC Membership.
Meet the Expert: Doris Couture-Rigert
On Saturday, May 12, at 1 pm, Doris Couture-Rigert, Chief, Conservation and Technical Research, will address methods of fabrication, as well as the care and treatment of silver objects in connection with the Laurent Amiot retrospective. In the exhibition space. In English with a bilingual question period. Included with admission to the Gallery.
Activities for children and families
On May 19, 20, 21, and 26, from 10 am to 4 pm, children and their families are invited to shape and etch their own pots and vessels at the Artissimo kiosk as part of Pots and Vessels workshop. Consult the calendar for locations. Included with Gallery admission. Sponsored by Bell.
For the duration of the exhibition, visitors will be invited to take part in creative activities in the foyer of the Prints and Drawings galleries, and watch video interviews with the exhibition curator, René Villeneuve, the National Gallery of Canada’s associate curator of early Canadian art.
Hours of operation
Until September 30, 2018, the Gallery is open daily from 10 am to 6 pm, and on Thursdays from 10 am to 8 pm. Holiday exceptions apply, and hours are subject to change without notice. Please visit gallery.ca for more information.
Tickets: $15 (adults); $13 (seniors); $7 (age 24 and under and full-time students); $30 (families: two adults and three youth, 17 and under). Admission is free for children under the age of 11 and for members. Includes admission to the national collection, and all exhibitions excluding Impressionist Treasures. Free admission on Thursdays from 5 pm to 8 pm. To find out more.
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About the National Gallery of Canada
The National Gallery of Canada is home to the most important collections of historical and contemporary Canadian art. The Gallery also maintains Canada’s premier collection of European Art from the 14th to the 21st centuries, as well as important works of American, Asian and Indigenous Art and renowned international collections of prints, drawings and photographs. In 2015, the National Gallery of Canada established the Canadian Photography Institute, a global multidisciplinary research center dedicated to the history, evolution and future of photography. Created in 1880, the National Gallery of Canada has played a key role in Canadian culture for well over a century. Among its principal missions is to increase access to excellent works of art for all Canadians. For more information, visit gallery.ca and follow us on Twitter @NatGalleryCan
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