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.

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