Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Van Gogh to Kandinsky, Impressionism to Expressionism, 1900-1914

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Dance Hall Bellevue

I have seen the current show at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts twice now, and hope to see it again before it closes. Attendance has already been much higher than expected. The show opened on October 11 and runs until January 25.

Wassily Kandinsky, Arabian Cemetery

More than 100 works are on display. The Big Names (Van Gogh, Cézanne, Gauguin and Matisse) are well represented, along with lesser-known artists (Kirchner, Friesz, Marc and Münter, among others).

Othon Friesz, Cruiser Decorated with Flags in Antwerp

The documentation details the inter-relationships between French and German artists, and the role that private galleries played in disseminating new ideas about art. We learn how groups splintered to pursue new directions in painting, and about the conflict between nationalism and internationalism that preceded the Great War.

Henri Matisse, Studio Interior

A few details: visitors are allowed to photograph some paintings, but not others, according to the specifications of the owners of the works.

VIP membership ($65 per year) allows unlimited museum visits, and offers free group tours, special events, on-line resources and a discount in the gift shop.

I found the audioguide to have TOO much information, but the one-hour guided tour gives a good overview. The galleries were crowded, and with the strong word-of-mouth, they will only become busier. If you are planning a visit, I would go sooner rather than later.

Vincent Van Gogh, The Restaurant de la Sirène at Asnières

To summarize, a welcome opportunity to see first-rate work in a historical context. Enjoy!

To read the Toronto Star's review of the show, please visit this link

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Robert Genn paintings: exhibition and sale

Those of you who have subscribed to the Robert Genn twice-weekly letters may be interested to know that four Canadian galleries are exhibiting and selling his work, from October 25 to November 9.

Valdelarco in the Sierra de Aracena, Spain, Robert Genn
Robert Genn was a beloved Canadian painter whose on-line series of letters to artists offered advice about painting, art and life, and conveyed his great joy in all three. Robert passed away earlier this year, but his daughter Sara has continued to post inspirational letters of her own and from the archive. Subscription to the letters is available here.

The ad in the Toronto Globe & Mail reads:

Honouring a Lifetime of Painting
1936 - 2014
A Four-Gallery Exhibition & Sale of
Selected Paintings from the Robert Genn Archive

October 25 - November 9
Opening simultaneously on October 25
in four galleries across Canada

You are invited to preview the exhibition on the gallery websites starting October 11:

White Rock Gallery, White Rock BC (
Canada House, Banff AB (
Hambleton Gallerie, Kelowna BC ( and
Mayberry Fine Art, Toronto ON (

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Text'art at the Stewart Hall show in Pointe-Claire

Crimson Fire, Helena Scheffer

For the fourth time, my work has been accepted into the Stewart Hall rental collection. This year over 500 works were submitted, with about one quarter of them selected.

Helena Scheffer, a fellow member of text'art, has two pieces accepted, and Michele Meredith, also of text'art, will be included too.

Finding Home, Michele Meredith

Our little group of seven has done itself proud and given fibre some nice representation.

The chosen works include drawings, paintings, photography, prints and mixed media.

Open Window, Cēsis, Heather Dubreuil
based on a photo by Lauma Cenne

All will be on display at Stewart Hall, 176 Lakeshore in Pointe-Claire, from October 25 to November 23. The vernissage is scheduled for Sunday, October 26 at 2 pm.

Gallery hours are Monday through Sunday, 1 pm to 5 pm and Wednesday 1 pm to 9 pm.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Egon Schiele


The first time I saw the work of the Expressionist Egon Schiele, I was repelled by the raw and dark quality of his all-too-realistic nudes.

I'm over it.

Woman with green stockings

I was fortunate to see more of his work on a recent visit to Vienna, at both the Leopold Museum and the Belvedere Museum. As well, his work is currently on display at New York's Neue Galerie, "Egon Schiele: Portraits", until January 19. Concurrently, the Neue Galerie is showing "Austrian Portraiture in the Early Twentieth Century",  featuring works by Schiele, Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka and Max Oppenheimer.

Paul Squire

To understand what can appear to be the brutal realism of his nude portraits, it helps to remember that he was rebelling against the heavy-handed conformity and conservatism of Austrian society at the turn of the century. Mentored by Gustav Klimt, he no doubt chafed under the "prettiness" of Klimt's vision, and decided to come to terms in his own way with the grittiness of society as he saw it. Born in Austria in 1890, Schiele died at the age of 28 in the Spanish Flu Epidemic, along with his wife and unborn child. His twenties had been influenced by the horrors of the first World War and the years leading up to it.

Four Trees

Seeing the beauty of his landscapes opened my eyes to the painterly qualities of his work.

Krumau Town Crescent

I was especially drawn to the rhythms of his towns and villages.

House with Drying Laundry

I began to see that he took a painterly pleasure in the qualities of colour and texture in these paintings, and in some of the nudes as well.

Mother and child

And then look at the quality of line in this drawing.

Instead of seeing Schiele as the "Bad Boy" of German Expressionism, resorting to shock value to gain an audience, I now regard him to be a talented artist with the courage to examine the disturbing elements of his society, with its alienation and its poverty: the full experience of the human condition. And I will seek out other opportunities to see his work.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Artful Vienna

I love to see a hotel using art lavishly to create a welcoming atmosphere for guests. We stayed at the Hotel Das Tyrol in Vienna and I was impressed with their many artful touches.

Their 30 rooms each have at least one big painting, and each hall is hung with several large canvases.

The six stories are connected by an elevator and a winding staircase, and each window opening onto the staircase is thoughtfully decorated.

The breakfast room is an oasis, generously embellished with imaginative window displays and paintings large and small.

Being located so close to the MuseumsQuartier, I would like to think their clientele is especially appreciative of these efforts. I would certainly recommend this hotel on all counts. Their artful environment was a real bonus.

Judith, Klimt

(After staggering out of breakfast at the hotel...)

We saw nine art museums / exhibitions in our four days in Vienna. The difficulty for the art tourist in Vienna is that the holdings are spread rather thinly over a large number of venues. I found there was always a slight disappointment on coming to the end of each collection. Yes, the Secession has the Klimt Beethoven Frieze, 105 feet long and permanently installed in an impressive Art Nouveau building, but little else of interest.

Portrait of Wally, Schiele

Yes, the Belvedere Palace has a few important Klimt paintings (including The Kiss and Judith), but to see the best of Austrians Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka one must go to the Leopold Museum.

Der Perser, Kokoschka

The Albertina collection has works by a number of well-known artists (Picasso, Chagall, Monet, Matisse) but only a few of each, and not really first-rate examples either. (They did have a good temporary show on Miro while we were there.) The MUMOK, the contemporary art museum, is a showcase for the most modern of modern work,  inaccessible to most of us, and unless one has the good fortune to attend when a temporary show of better-known work is scheduled, I would give it a miss.

If you enjoy looking at Old Masters, then by all means plan a visit to the Kunst Historisches and to the Academy of Fine Arts. My tastes are idiosyncratic, no doubt, but I much prefer to spend my limited time on the Impressionists and the 20th-century periods. Fortunately, all these museums are grouped within walking distance of each other.

Inspiration Green, Hundertwasser

By venturing a little further, you can find...

 ...the Hundertwasser Museum, truly a must-see. After spending an hour there, one feels that one really has a good understanding of the man and of his work, with more than a hundred of his paintings, prints and tapestries on display. A detailed biography is posted, and a 41-minute video interview is screened continuously. Hundertwasser designed the space himself in his own inimitable fashion, right down to the washrooms and the courtyard café. An Austrian artist, you won't have the chance to see such a vast collection of his work elsewhere.

Flowers series, Mucha

Similarly, even though I'm not a huge fan of Mucha, I made a point of seeing his work in Prague, where a small museum is dedicated to the pretty, art-nouveau work for which he is best known.  His later, serious master work, the Slav Epic, has most of an enormous building devoted to it outside the city centre. I will never see a better representation of Mucha's work than in Prague.

On a closing note, Montreal's Museum of Fine Arts has just opened its show "Van Gogh to Kandinsky, Impressionism to Expressionism, 1900 - 1914." The show runs until January 25, 2015. See you there?

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Tribal Art im Dialog mit zeitgenössischer Textilkunst

Mantra, Franka Lechner, 2008, 174 x 81 cm
Stumbled upon a wonderful show of textile art while looking for another museum in Vienna. The show is being held until November 2 at the künstlerhaus in the museum district.

The show juxtaposes "tribal" cloth from all over the world, some of it antique, with contemporary fibre art.

Ad Absurdum, Claudia Maria Luenig, 2009
The piece above, shown in context in photo #2, is a crocheted variation on a garment, suspended and stretched so that it casts a shadow on the gallery wall.

I Love You series, Nora Bachel, 2000/2002
I Love You,  Nora Bachel
Nora Bachel printed antique and contemporary grey-scale photo portraits onto embroidery cloth and superimposed the stitched words "I Love You" in colourful thread.

Das Lied der Flamme, Leena Naumanen, 2006, 50 x 170 cm

detail, Das Lied der Flamme, Leena Naumanen
Wo gehe ich hinLeena Naumanen, 2007, units 120 x 215 cm
Leena Naumanen wove distressed wooden slats into her work.

Tribal garments from various countries
hang in front of four panels by Tone Fink,1995 - 2000
It is always wonderful to discover cutting edge fibre art on one's travels. There is no doubt an interesting history behind the show, in that all the modern work dated from several years ago. The notes accompanying the show are in German, which I am unable to read. Please visit the website of the museum for more information in English.

Beyond their practical purpose or decorative function, the "tribal" pieces had a ritual or cultural significance. By exhibiting the contemporary with the indigenous, the viewer is invited to contemplate the ritual/cultural aspect of modern work in cloth. Fibre art is inherently heavily-worked, with a great commitment of hands-on time and skill by the maker. If the medium is the message, what is the medium saying that isn't said in painting or print-making, for example? How does it function within our "tribe"?

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A visit to Prague

Having spent a few days in Prague this week, I can say with certainty that its beauty is inescapable. One can hardly turn around in the Old Town, the New Town or the Little Quarter without viewing an ideal subject for a photograph.

When taking these photos, my goal was to capture the intersecting roof lines, the small, medium and large shapes, the rhythmic patterning of the windows: all the elements that I look for in my cityscapes.

A skilled photographer would have played with the mix of surfaces: the brick, the tile, the stone, the stucco, much of it bearing the patina of time and wear.

A student of architecture would have catalogued the thousand years of building styles evident in the "City of 100 Spires."

A historian would have listened to the stories that the buildings, the roads, and the town squares have to tell.

I was grateful to capture some images that I might be able to distill down to their essences of shape and line.

And thankful to have three days in one of the most beautiful cities in Europe.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Beautiful Grey

Port Clyde

For a number of years I have subscribed to the brilliant Robert & Sara Genn's Twice-Weekly Letters. Originally written by Canadian landscape painter Robert Genn, since his death earlier this year they are now written by Sara, who includes reprises of her father's inspirational messages.

Here is an excerpt from her latest:
Rue de Buade #1

"Grey is the jazz of colour. When done right, grey is a soul-stirring, weep-worthy passage of luminosity and glow -- a vibration-maker. Virtuosity is achieved by relinquishing black and understanding the Munsell Colour System. You need only invest in a colour wheel, then begin to break it up and take it apart.

Montmartre #2

"Something unexpected happens with grey. The colour itself seems to understand the power of in-between, like suspended twilight or ineffable places of attachment. Perhaps the narrative material is less apparent in grey -- her stories curtained or over-shone by louder, simpler truths. In the meantime, grey's meanings remain fluid. In the language of painting, understanding grey separates us from the obvious. We are removed from the one-note or cacophony of primaries and moved closer to poetry."
Open Window, Cesis

To read the entire item, click here. Like most of the Genn essays, this one is directed primarily to painters, but offers valuable insight to artists in all mediums, and to art lovers too.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Rue de Buade #1

Rue de Buade #1
Here's another work inspired by a photo taken in Quebec City this summer.  I liked the rhythmic patterning of the dormer windows and the intersecting rooflines of the subject, and photographed it twice, once horizontally and once vertically. This version has a more subdued palette than Rue de Buade #2, shown below for comparison. As often happens, the sky was chosen first and from its colours, the rest followed.

Rue de Buade #2