Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Traveller in Her Own Land

Captivating skies over highway 407, heading east.
Although I've written about my last full day in Switzerland, I still haven't brought you up to speed on our (relatively) local travels since then. There's something about visiting another country or region that casts a real contrast with what you're used to.

I wasn't homesick while I was gone, but it awoke a new appreciation for me. So, rather than dashing back to Ottawa after attending a lovely wedding in Welland, Ontario, Steve and I decided to go see the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, a gallery in Kleinburg, Ontario, just north of Toronto.

Set in the midst of forested parkland, it is easy to miss, and well off the beaten path, but so worth the trip.

Lawren Harris quote: "We had commenced our great adventure. We lived in a continuous blaze of enthusiasm. We were at times very serious and concerned, at other times hilarious and carefree. Above all, we loved this country and loved exploring and painting it."
Stephen looking at one of the smaller studies,
with a gorgeous, surreal Lawren Harris northern landscape in the background.
The early part of the museum focuses on the Group of Seven, a group of Canadian landscape artists who really put Canadian art on the world stage in the early 1900s.

One of the remarkable things here was that so many of the paintings -- studies, really -- were so very small. Barely 8" x 10".

And, contrasting with what I'd seen in Holland, the gallery really evoked the Canadian experience. The vibrant colours of fall, the drama of winter.

Algonquin Park, by Tom Thomson
Algonquin Park, by Tom Thomson
I mentioned, in my post about the Van Gogh museum, that seeing an oil painting in person is a more textured experience than seeing a print or a photo of that painting. The same was true of the paintings at this gallery.

What colour is snow? If you answered "white," that is the wrong answer.
Looking at the texture and colours of that snow, you can really see the impressionist influence. The following two pictures also show those influences.

(I failed to take a picture of the identification card beside this one.)
The windswept trees (below) are quintessentially Canadian.

Split Rock Island; I took this picture at an angle, to better highlight the texture of the paint.
While passing from room to room, we would enter dimly-lit spaces with windows opening onto the forest, as if framing what the artists might have seen. (Next time, we'll pack a lunch and allow time for a walk and a picnic on the trails around the gallery.)

Although Canadian artist Emily Carr was a contemporary of them, she was not a member of the Group of Seven. (She was a girl.) She is, however, represented at the McMichael Collection, as she should be.

Edge of the Forest, by Emily Carr
Edge of the Forest, by Emily Carr
Her brushwork is worth a close-up. (Note: she painted this on paper, and I can't help but wonder if the paper used to be much whiter than the yellow showing through.)

Doesn't that make you think of Van Gogh's "The Starry Night"?
The gallery also includes modern and native artists, but photography is not permitted in those galleries.

Leaving the gallery, we hopped in the car for our long drive home, and I was fascinated by the big, dramatic skies and the quaint beauty of small-town Ontario.

 I imagined visitors from Holland or Switzerland clicking pictures through their car windows.

And then beauty of the fall colours (I was afraid I'd missed them all) just got so much that we had to stop and take some "real" pictures of them.

This is my Canada.
I looked at the water and trees and clouds with the eyes of the Group of Seven, of Emily Carr. I grew up with this. I take it for granted, and I love it.

This is the landscape where I feel completely at home.
It really was the perfect transition from other-ness to home.

1 comment:

  1. I would love to visit that museum! But it is true, I really need only walk out my own front door to see what those artists saw. Especially in the Ottawa area -- it's so beautiful.


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