Impressionism in Canada

A work meeting in Munich a couple of weeks ago got canceled at the last minute. That left me with a free day to look around. A quick internet search of things to do in Munich turned up an exhibition of works by late 19th/early 20th century Canadian impressionists at Munich’s Kunst Halle. Canada is the last place you associate with Impressionism. I was intrigued.

While many Canadian painters finished their education in ateliers of Paris, they eventually returned and applied the techniques of Impressionism to subjects and landscapes of their own country. I was interested in seeing how the ochre palette of sunny, southern French rural idyll would transpose to the vast, snowy, Canadian landscape thousands of miles across the Atlantic:

Lawren S. Harris: Snow IILawren S. Harris: Snow II

Clarence Gagnon: The Train, WinterClarence Gagnon: The Train, Winter

Lawren S. Harris: A Load of Fence PostsLawren S. Harris: A Load of Fence Posts

Marc-Aurèle de Foy Suzor-Coté Thaw, ArthabaskaMarc-Aurèle de Foy Suzor-Coté Thaw, Arthabaska

You also caught glimpses of a nation in the process of rapid industrialisation:

Clarence Gagnon: The Train, WinterClarence Gagnon: The Train, Winter

J. E. H. MacDonald: Tracks and TrafficJ. E. H. MacDonald: Tracks and Traffic

Robert Pilot: Waiting For The FerryRobert Pilot: Waiting For The Ferry

Then there were scenes from daily life in cities of Canada1:

Lawren S. Harris: Toronto Street, Winter MorningLawren S. Harris: Toronto Street, Winter Morning

Kathleen Moir Morris: Nuns, QuebecKathleen Moir Morris: Nuns, Quebec

Kathleen Moir Morris: After “Grand Mass”, Berthier-en-HautKathleen Moir Morris: After “Grand Mass”, Berthier-en-Haut

Lawren S. Harris: Winter Afternoon, City Street, Toronto, aka ‘Sunday Morning’Lawren S. Harris: Winter Afternoon, City Street, Toronto, aka ‘Sunday Morning’

It was not all desolate winters and bleak northern light - quite a few works that depicted scenes from spring/autumn2:

David B. Milne: The Blossom PickersDavid B. Milne: The Blossom Pickers

Arthur Lismer: The Guide’s Home, AlgonquinArthur Lismer: The Guide’s Home, Algonquin

And quite a few human subjects too:

Paul Peel: The Young Gleaner, aka ‘The Butterfiles’Paul Peel: The Young Gleaner, aka ‘The Butterfiles’

William Brymner: The Girl and The DogWilliam Brymner: The Girl and The Dog

George Reid: In The Cellar WindowGeorge Reid: In The Cellar Window

And of course, a scene that would perhaps rank as the most Canadian of them all - maple syrup being harvested:

Arthur Dominique Rozaire: Winter, Sap Buckets, QuebecArthur Dominique Rozaire: Winter, Sap Buckets, Quebec

The sense of immediacy, life and a masterful depiction of light that seems to illuminate impressionist works from within, were all too present in the works on display here. Glad I could visit!

  1. One of the paintings in this section had an alternate title: Sunday Morning”. It suddenly brought back memories of No Doubt’s 90s music video for the song of the same title. Upon returning home and watching it on youtube, I realised that I had remembered nothing of the video except the food fight in the end. I am always amazed at the memories our minds selectively choose to preserve and triggers that evoke them.

  2. There was even an entire section of scenes from beaches.

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