Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Canada and Impressionism: New Horizons

The Westmount Public Library is always obliging about acquiring books I request. Most recently, I suggested they buy "Canada and Impressionism: New Horizons, 1880-1930", the book that accompanies an exhibition of the same name, currently on tour in Europe. This same show will open at Ottawa's National Gallery in the fall of 2020. You can read more about the show on the Gallery's website.

The first of ten essays in the book is the Prologue, written by ex-Montrealer Adam Gopnik. I am a huge fan of Gopnik, who often writes in the New Yorker and occasionally speaks in Montreal.

Here are a few snippets from his insightful essay, titled "Canada and World Impressionism".
 "As modern art becomes for us less a train racing forward than a many-sided landscape to be explored at leisure, and for pleasure, progress becomes a less certain term." 
"Impressionism is a misnamed French movement from the 1860s to the 1880s. Actualisme might have been closer to its true spirit, which was not to record a quick impression of a scene or place but to give permanent form to the ambivalent pleasures of modern life, and in a style shorn of rhetoric and the painstaking pomposity of official art. It was an art about light and life, and how each illuminates the other."
"Light and life, light as it falls and life as it is. Though truth to local colour is no longer the whole of art, it always will be the heart of painting. Any art that chooses light and life as its object and subject, whatever flag it flies, will shine. The best kind is light on life in a winter house on a snowy city evening, drawing us home, even as we stand outside to look a moment longer."

Maurice Cullen, Winter Night, Craig Street, Montreal, 1899

1 comment:

Margaret said...

Thanks for this suggestion. Although our Regional library has several of Mr. Gopnik's books, I have had to request this one from a library in Calgary. It may take some time to get here, but it sounds as though it's definitely worth the wait!