on view from October 13, 2017 to March 18, 2018
Starting October 13, the National Gallery of Canada will present James Wilson Morrice: The A.K. Prakash Collection in Trust to the Nation, the first exhibition of the A.K. Prakash Collection of works by James Wilson Morrice (1865–1924), one of Canada’s most celebrated modernist artists. Recently gifted to the National Gallery of Canada, the entire donation of forty-nine works - forty-five paintings in oil and four watercolours - will be on display until March 18, 2018. This exhibition and the accompanying publication bring to life the passion of an avid collector and philanthropist, Ash K. Prakash, who was determined to understand and celebrate the artist’s legacy, preserving it for all Canadians. His collection, assembled over nearly four decades, was donated in 2015 in honour of the 150th anniversary of the artist’s birth.
“James Wilson Morrice is a key figure in Canadian art,” said National Gallery of Canada Director and CEO, Marc Mayer. “The Gallery is deeply grateful to Mr. Prakash for enabling us to provide our visitors with a greater understanding of this major artist’s significance. There are many collectors of historical Canadian art in this country, but there are very few who have collected it so intensively, focusing on collecting such a significant body of work by one artist. The National Gallery of Canada is now the collection of record for Morrice, thanks this outstanding gift.”
“The introduction of a modernist approach to painting in twentieth-century Canadian art owes much to Morrice’s restless search to transform painting from a vehicle of seeing to an aid in feeling. He was indeed the first Canadian artist to sustain an enviable career of international stature at the turn of the twentieth century,” said Senior Curator of Canadian Art at the National Gallery of Canada, Katerina Atanassova, who curated the exhibition. “Surprisingly, Canadian and European audiences are generally not aware of his exceptional career abroad. By intertwining the story of the artist, the collector and the collection, this exhibition offers visitors a journey of discovery that will help enrich our understanding of Morrice and the pivotal role he played in the development of modern art in Canada.”
The stories around Morrice’s widespread travels and rise to fame will come to life in this exhibition. Arranged in chronological order and in accordance with the artist’s preferred painting locations, the exhibition offers visitors an opportunity to follow Morrice’s artistic and geographical trajectory as a modern artist. The presentation of this collection is enhanced and contextualized with photographs from the national collection, including some by Parisian photographer Eugène Atget, Italian photographer Ferdinando Ongania, and Canadian photographer Louis-Prudent Vallée; Morrice’s pencil sketches; a portrait of the artist by his American friend, the painter Robert Henri; archival materials such as vintage postcards showing views of Morrice’s favourite places and subjects, as well as historical exhibition catalogues and newspapers.
The exhibition is complemented by a video conversation between Curator Katerina Atanassova and collector A.K. Prakash about what led him to start collecting Morrice’s paintings and what inspired him to keep collecting them over almost four decades.
Pioneering a fresh and vibrant use of colour, Morrice is known for his delicate handling of paint on small-scale wooden panels, also known as pochades. Montreal-born Morrice moved to Paris in 1890, where he chose to settle for the rest of his life. From there, he travelled across France (including Brittany and Normandy), to Italy (most frequently Venice), to North Africa (visiting Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria), and finally to the Caribbean near the end of his life. In his paintings from these destinations, Morrice depicted, as if on a theatrical stage, the ever-changing drama of modern life as it unfolded in the markets, cafés and parks. Morrice frequently journeyed home during the holiday season, where he painted memorable winter scenes of Montreal, Quebec City and the Côte-de-Beaupré region. Morrice also journeyed to the front as a Canadian War Artist in February 1918, when he was commissioned by the Canadian War Memorials Fund to record the advancement of the Canadian troops in preparation for a large mural painting, now in the collection of the Canadian War Museum. Morrice was one of four artists featured in the inaugural exhibition of the Canada Pavilion at the Venice Beinnale in 1958.
The gift of the A.K. Prakash Collection of works by James Wilson Morrice exemplifies the complex relationship between a collector and an artist. “My relationship with Morrice and his work is that of a lover and a beloved,” said Mr. Prakash. “It has never been didactic, or scientific or analytical. It has been a magnificent obsession that I have pursued with reckless abandon.”
Indeed, the story of Ash K. Prakash’s collecting reflects his own journey of introspection and his commitment to Canada’s foremost modernist painter. “Each work in the A.K. Prakash Collection reveals a self-assured forerunner,” said Katerina Atanassova, “who epitomized the new axiom in painting through compression rather than elaboration, which was then at the heart of modern art. Instead of adopting one set of artistic principles, Morrice’s art evolved into a personal aesthetic informed by varied influences and experiences. His artistic growth directed his path towards becoming a modernist urban painter, making his art strikingly innovative in both Canadian and international settings.”
James Wilson Morrice: The A.K. Prakash Collection in Trust to the Nation is presented with the exceptional support of The A.K. Prakash Foundation, The Donald Sobey Family Foundation, RBC, The LangLeven Group, Michael and Renae Tims, and the National Gallery of Canada Foundation.
Thursday, October 12, at 6 pm, NGC Director and CEO Marc Mayer will be in conversation with Katerina Atanassova about Morrice’s work and the exhibition themes. In the Auditorium. Free admission. Seats in the Auditorium will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.
Meet the experts
Saturday, October 14, from 11 am to 12 noon, exhibition curator Katerina Atanassova and art historian and essay contributor to the Morrice: The A.K. Prakash Collection in Trust to the Nation related publication, Sandra Paikowsky, C.M., will give a guided tour of the exhibition, during which they will discuss Morrice’s career, with a special focus on the artist’s paintings made during his trips to Venice. In the exhibition space. In English with bilingual question period. Free with Gallery admission.
Saturday, October 14, from 1 pm to 2 pm, exhibition curator Katerina Atanassova and Esther Trépanier, art historian and essay contributor to the Morrice: The A.K. Prakash Collection in Trust to the Nation related publication, will give a guided tour of the exhibition. During this visit, they will discuss Morrice’s career, with a special focus on the artist’s Quebec landscapes. In the exhibition space. In English with bilingual question period. Free with Gallery admission.
After its presentation at the National Gallery of Canada, the exhibition will be on view at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, Fredericton, NB, from April 12 to July 2, 2018; the Art Gallery of Alberta, from July 20 to October 7, 2018; and the Musée d’art de Joliette, from 2 February to 5 May, 2019.
A 240-page lavishly-illustrated publication, Morrice: The A.K. Prakash Collection in Trust to the Nation, complements the exhibition.Written by Katerina Atanassova with contributing essays by Anne-Marie Bouchard, Sandra Paikowsky, Esther Trépanier, Julie Nash, and Nancy Mowll Mathews, this comprehensive volume is co-published by the National Gallery of Canada and Figure 1 Publishing. Included is an interview with the donor and collector, A.K. Prakash. The publication will be on sale for $40 at the Gallery Boutique or the Boutique online at ShopNGC.ca.
NGCmagazine.ca, the National Gallery of Canada’s online magazine, is a frequently updated source of information on the Canadian art world and events at the National Gallery of Canada. Correspondents from across the country provide engaging and exclusive content on historical and contemporary art in Canada. This online magazine also includes interviews with artists. Read the article titled Impressionism in Canada: A Journey of Rediscovery, online this Friday.
Connect with the Gallery
The Gallery is open Tuesday to Sunday, from 10:00 am to 5 pm, and until 8 pm on Thursdays. Closed on Mondays. For more information call 613-990-1985 or 1-800-319-ARTS.
Tickets: $15 (adults); $13 (seniors and full-time students); $7 (24 and under/students); $30 (families: two adults and three youth, 17 and under). Admission is free for children 11 and under, and for Members. Includes admission to the NGC Collection. Free admission on Thursdays from 5 pm to 8 pm.
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
About the National Gallery of Canada Foundation
The National Gallery of Canada Foundation is dedicated to supporting the National Gallery of Canada in fulfilling its mandate. By fostering strong philanthropic partnerships, the Foundation provides the Gallery with the additional financial support required to lead Canada’s visual arts community locally, nationally and internationally. The blend of public support and private philanthropy empowers the Gallery to preserve and interpret Canada’s visual arts heritage. The Foundation welcomes present and deferred gifts for special projects and endowments. To learn more about the National Gallery of Canada Foundation, visit ngcfoundation.ca and follow us on Twitter @NGC_Foundation
For media only:
To arrange an interview, obtain images, or more information, please contact:
Senior Media and Public Relations Officer
National Gallery of Canada