Helen McNicoll, Sunny September (detail), 1913

Canada and Impressionism: New Horizons

Featuring more than 100 works by 36 artists, Canada and Impressionism: New Horizons offers new perspectives on the influence of Impressionism in Canadian art.

Through seven thematic sections, visitors will see works reflecting the influence of the Barbizon School to early Post-Impressionism, follow in the footsteps of Canadian artists from North America to North Africa, and learn how Impressionism ushered in new ways of seeing and depicting life in Canada.

The exhibition and its catalogue showcase the technical skill and versatility of Canadian artists, as well as their important place within the international Impressionist movement. By exploring works by renowned painters of the 19th and 20th centuries, the exhibition provides a fascinating primer on the contributions of Canadian artists to world Impressionism, and to the advent of modernity at home.

Organized by the National Gallery of Canada

I was saving to go to Paris… I wanted now to find out what this ‘‘New Art’’ was about. I heard it ridiculed, praised, liked, hated. Something in it stirred me.

– Emily Carr


Saturday, February 26, 2022 Sunday, July 3, 2022


National Gallery of Canada
380 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, ON K1N 9N4


Musée Fabre
Montpellier, France
September 19 to October 29, 2020

Fondation de l’Hermitage
Lausanne, Switzerland
January 24 to March 13, 2020

Kunsthalle München
Munich, Germany
July 19 to November 17, 2019

Explore what’s in store through our virtual audio tour.


James M. Barnsley  ∙  Henri Beau  ∙  Mary Bell Eastlake  ∙  William Blair Bruce  ∙  Franklin Brownell  ∙  William Brymner  ∙  Florence Carlyle  ∙  Emily Carr  ∙  W.H. Clapp  ∙  Maurice Cullen  ∙  L.L. FitzGerald  ∙  Joseph-Charles Franchère  ∙  Clarence Gagnon  ∙  Lawren S. Harris  ∙  Robert Harris  ∙  Edwin H. Holgate  ∙  Prudence Heward  ∙  A.Y. Jackson  ∙  John Y. Johnstone  ∙  Ernest Lawson  ∙  Arthur Lismer  ∙  J.E.H. MacDonald  ∙  H. Mabel May  ∙  Helen McNicoll  ∙  David B. Milne  ∙  Kathleen Moir Morris  ∙  James Wilson Morrice  ∙  Laura Muntz  ∙  Paul Peel  ∙  Marc-Aurèle de Foy Suzor-Coté  ∙  Sophie Pemberton  ∙  Robert Pilot  ∙  George A. Reid  ∙  Henry M. Rosenberg  ∙  Arthur Dominique Rozaire  ∙  Tom Thomson


What Is Canadian Impressionism?


Canadian artists began going to Paris in the late 1870s to expand their artistic training, while also exploring Europe and its art collections. Working outdoors around Île-de-France, Brittany and other artistic hotspots, many Canadians developed an abiding interest in landscape painting, while also absorbing Impressionist techniques and incorporating these into their work.

The Canadian public did not immediately accept impressionism. Many artists returning home from their studies abroad faced obstacles selling their work and gaining critical acceptance; however, this did not deter them.

Marc-Aurèle de Foy Suzor-Coté, A Thaw, March Evening, Arthabaska, 1913, oil on canvas.
Laura Muntz, The Pink Dress (detail), 1897, oil on canvas.

Laura Muntz, The Pink Dress (detail), 1897, oil on canvas, 34 × 45 cm. Private collection.

Finding the Canadian art scene ripe for reinvention, Canada’s Impressionists began introducing radical new techniques to represent local subjects. They painted landscapes that captured the bright winter light. They explored both rural and urban street scenes, as well as vernacular activities. Women artists such as Florence Carlyle, Helen McNicoll and Mabel May challenged traditional gender roles and modes of representing the modern woman in their work.

As the work of Canadian Impressionists became better known and more widely appreciated, it began to shape broader art movements in Canada. The emphasis on interpreting, rather than simply reproducing the landscape would inform the work of the Group of Seven, while a focus on modern life and the city influenced the bold compositions of the Beaver Hall Group.

Canada’s Impressionist pioneers were innovative, experimental and daring—they made an indelible mark on Canadian art.

Always when I am in my own country, and among my own people, I have feeling and inspiration.

– Marc-Aurèle de Foy Suzor-Coté



In the Footsteps of the
Canadian Impressionists

In the Footsteps of the Canadian Impressionists


Six Things You May Not Know About Canadian Impressionism

Laura Muntz drew inspiration for her charming painting The Pink Dress, not from Impressionism, but from the childlike putti frolicking across works such as Michelangelo’s ceiling in the Sistine Chapel.

Painter Clarence Gagnon was fascinated with Quebec’s traditional handicrafts and he often collaborated with women practitioners of these arts to design tableware and patterns for hooked rugs.   

Artist Helen McNicoll lost her hearing after contracting scarlet fever as a child. Some have suggested that her deafness contributed to the trademark stillness and quiet that we can observe in her work.


Artist William Brymner, who would later become a celebrated art teacher in Canada, didn’t think much of the training at the Paris art academies. “Master is perhaps not an appropriate word,” he wrote in a letter to his mother. “They are rather celebrated artists who deign to give their advice twice a week.”

French locals soon figured out how to make some extra money from artists. Coming upon a painter diligently working in a field of flowers, a farmer might suddenly decide that the field needed cutting. The hapless painter would either have to start over, or pay the farmer to go away.

Impressionism owed a lot to the invention of paints in tubes, making it easier for artists to work en plein air. Despite this innovation, artists in Canada found the outdoors challenging. James Wilson Morrice once wrote to an artist friend that it was difficult to work in sub-zero weather because the paint became stiff and unworkable.




Canada and Impressionism: New Horizons

This lavish overview of Canadian Impressionism and its enduring influence features ten essays by curators and other art experts, along with some 300 illustrations and an illustrated timeline.

By Katerina Atanassova, with contributions by Krista Broeckx, Tobi Bruce, Adam Gopnik, Anna Hudson, Laurier Lacroix, Loren Lerner, Tracey Lock, Gerta Moray, Julie Nash, and Sandra Paikowsky | Hardcover | 296 pages

Learn More



Adult group webinars

Learn more about one of the world’s most revolutionary art movements and the Canadian artists who made it their own. Register your group for a lively and informative Canada and Impressionism webinar, presented free of charge by one of our staff interpreters.

Register for a webinar

School webinars

Introduce your students (Grades 7 to 12 or Secondary I to V) to one of the world’s most revolutionary art movements and the homegrown artists who gave it a new twist. Register your class for an engaging and educational Canada and Impressionism webinar, delivered free of charge by one of our professional learning specialists.

Register for a school webinar


Family guide
and scavenger hunt

Pick up a copy of our Canada and Impressionism Family Guide and Scavenger Hunt for some serious family fun.

Family guide and scavenger hunt.


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The National Gallery of Canada Foundation gratefully acknowledges the additional support of Karen Colby-Stothart, Thomas and Susan d’Aquino, George and Doone Estey, Jim Fleck, Félix Furst, Rosamond Ivey, Galerie Eric Klinkhoff, Tracey Novak and Scott MacDonald, Don and Sheila Pether, Fred and Beverly Schaeffer, Anne Stanfield, and Arni Thorsteinson and Susan Glass.