From Rags to Riches

Being an artist is tough, and the chances you will become rich are slim to nil. That said, here are a few who achieved great success – and fortune – in their lifetime.

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ABOVE: Claude Monet, Water Lillies and Japanese Bridge, between 1897 and 1899, oil on canvas, 35.3 x 35.6 inches

Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso arrived in Paris on his twentieth birthday and lived, from 1904 to 1909, in a squalid studio that had once been a piano factory. Working in poverty proved beneficial though, and the beggars, prostitutes and drunks he came to know figured prominently in his paintings. It was an important time in his career that is now referred to as ‘The Blue Period.”

After leaving the piano factory, his career hit astronomical heights, and when he died in 1973, his net worth was estimated at $50 million.

Claude Monet

Claude Monet and his wife Camille lived in poverty throughout most of the 1870’s leading creditors to seize a number of his works. Overcome with the burdens of debt, he contemplated drowning himself in the Seine, but decided instead to keep on struggling.

By 1890, Monet was wealthy enough to purchase a beautiful mansion in Giverny, and while there, he produced some of his most endearing works (see above).

Francis Bacon

Although he came from wealth, Francis Bacon was kicked out of the family home for being gay and quickly fell into a life of petty crime. To support his tastes and avoid destitution, he dated older, wealthier men until his art career began to take off in the early 1940’s.

After a long and successful career filled with many personal losses – his lover, George Dyer committed suicide – he died a wealthy man in 1992. As his haunted, pain-ridden paintings will attest, money can’t buy happiness.

Mystical Landscapes at the Art Gallery of Ontario

This past Saturday, I visited the Art Gallery of Ontario to see Mystical Landscapes: Masterpieces from Monet, van Gogh and more. Here is a quick review.

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ABOVE: Vincent van Gogh, The Starry Night Over the Rhone at Arles, 1888, oil on canvas, 28.5 x 36.2 inches

BELOW: Eugène Jansson, Dawn Over Riddarfjardin, 1899, oil on canvas, 59 x 79 inches

The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) has put together some stellar exhibitions over the years and it’s latest installment, Mystical Landscapes is no exception. Consisting of major works by major artists, it is a feast for the eyes, and the soul.

The show consists of 36 artists from 15 countries and contains almost 90 paintings and 20 works on paper. It covers the years between 1880 and 1930, and includes some of the very best art produced during that time.

Right off the bat, the viewer comes face to canvas with Paul Gauguin’s Vision after the Sermon. Even better, it is presented alongside The Yellow Christ and Christ in the Garden of Olives. This is apparently how Gauguin intended the works to be seen, and it is stunning – really, one of the best walls I’ve ever come across in a gallery.

After starting strong, the show never lets up, and around every corner is another masterpiece to marvel at. Some works, like Munch’s The Sun and Monet’s Water Lillie’s are instantly recognizable (if not iconic), but others, and their creators are lesser known. It is here that Mystical Landscapes really shines. I especially liked the works of Eugène Jansson (whose painting can be seen above), and Charles Marie Dulac (who has a room all to himself). They were incredible talents, and they deserve to be shown alongside the greats.

As flashy as this show is, some of the best art isn’t flashy at all. Emily Carr’s subtle and simple skyscapes are a real treat, and they provide a calming reprieve from some of the louder artworks on display. I spent as much time staring at them as I did anything else.

Towards the end of the exhibition, the overhead lighting gets dark and the beams shone directly onto the paintings make them appear back-lit. I liked the overall look, but I would liked to have seen them under normal conditions as well.

Curatorially, each artist is presented with a description of their religious/spiritual beliefs. While this serves as a nice compliment to the work and fits the overall theme of the exhibition, the pieces themselves are powerful enough to provoke the spiritual side of the viewer.

In summary, I loved this show. I suspect that you will too.

Mystical Landscapes: Masterpieces from Monet, van Gogh and more is at the AGO until January 29, 2017.

And the Winners Are…

Every year, the art world hands out various awards to a select number of artists. Here are the winners of two of Canada’s biggest art prizes. Congrats to them both.

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ABOVE: Andrew Shaw, Variations FQ, 2013, 16mm film with original soundtrack, dimensions variable, 11:02 minutes, film still

SOBEY ART AWARD

Arguably Canada’s most prestigious art prize, it is presented annually to an artist under 40.

2016 winner:  Jeremy Shaw

Based in Berlin and Vancouver, Jeremy Shaw works primarily in video and photography.

ABOVE: Brian Hunter, Two empty trays mounted vertically, 2015, oil on wood, 36 x 48 inches

RBC CANADIAN PAINTING COMPETITION

An annual competition for emerging artists. One winner is chosen from a shortlist of 15 finalists.

2016 winner: Brian Hunter

Born in Winnipeg, and trained at Concordia University, Brian Hunter works in a variety of mediums including painting, sculpture and video.

A Happy Place

Like many, the US election has dominated my week and left me speechless. So, instead of a written post, here are some ‘happy’ artworks. I could use some ‘happy’ right now.

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ABOVE: Jeff Koons, Cat on a Clothesline, 1994-2001, sculpture, 123 x 110 x 50 inches

ABOVE: William Wegman, Walk-a-thon, 1999/2012, photograph, 22 x 17 inches

ABOVE: Mary Cassatt, The Child’s Bath, 1893, oil on canvas, 39.5 x 26 inches

Toronto Gallery Hop

Last Saturday, I decided to gallery hop in Toronto’s west end (the day after an official one took place). Here’s a very brief review of each of the galleries I visited.

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ABOVE: Douglas Coupland, Shinjuku, 2016, transmount, LED light panel, wooden frame, 30 inches (in diameter). As seen at Daniel Faria Gallery.

BELOW: Michel De Broin, Étant Donnés, 2013, sink, tubing, water, propane, 65.4 x 36.2 x 18 inches. As seen at Arsenal Contemporary Art (Division Gallery).

Angell Gallery

The reason for my trip. The Kim Dorland show, that closed on Saturday, was stellar. As for the space, it’s a little out of the way, but much bigger than their previous location. Fortunately for them, this is a great gallery that consistently shows good work. Definitely worth the trip.

Arsenal Contemporary Art (Division Gallery)

A huge space located just north of Bloor Street where the Michel De Broin show – which doesn’t close until December 25 – is exceptional. I highly recommend you check it out.

Christopher Cutts Gallery

A nice space located just across from the Olga Korper Gallery, the Christopher Cutts Gallery is a must visit for Toronto Art Lovers.

Clint Roenisch Gallery

Often a bit more conceptual than other galleries, its current offering from Kristan Horton & David Armstrong Six – which runs until December 17 – is a little less so and makes excellent use of the gallery space.

Daniel Faria Gallery

A heavy hitter on the national (let a lone local) scene, the Daniel Faria Gallery reps Douglas Coupland, whose current show Polychrome can be seen until this coming Saturday (the 5th).

Gallery TPW

A non-profit, artist run centre that focuses on photography, film and video, Gallery TPW serves as a nice compliment to the more commercial spaces in the area.

Olga Korper

Another Toronto staple, the physical space is almost worth the trip alone. Make sure to hit up the Christopher Cutts Gallery while there.

Robert Kananaj Gallery

Although less familiar with this gallery, I was impressed with its current group show, the Tribute “Art Fair” RKG 2016. It’s totally chaotic but worth checking out if you can make it before Saturday – when it closes.

Art of the US Election

Like many, I have been following the US election with amusement and disgust. Seems a number of artists have as well. Here are some of their most caustic works.

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ABOVE: Naked Donald Trump statue by Joshua Monroe aka Ginger (photo by davitydave)

ABOVE: Hillary Clinton mural by Lushsux (photo via Lushsux’s Instagram [since deleted])

ABOVE: Make America Great Again by Illma Gore

ABOVE: Naked Hillary Clinton statue by Anthony Scioli (photo by Laura Bult/New York Daily News)