Tuesday, 10 November 2015



An exhibition called Embracing Canada has recently opened at the Vancouver Art Gallery. The exhibition looks back through history to a 100-year period of artist interaction with the rugged Canadian landscape. Paintings from 1840 to 1940 chart the changing ways in which artists interpreted their experiences across the varying geographies of the nation. This is a period in which exploration and growth allowed for increased access to far off and remote places. Art production has coincided with the discovery of our lands from early 19th century voyageurs on expeditions, to railway-funded artist trips, and then visionaries finding beauty in the vast northern country. This includes British colonists meticulously documenting the wilderness; as well as newly established forts, villages and towns, and their interaction with the First Nations peoples they encountered. Venturesome artists traveled westwards as the railway was built to help promote settlement and holidaying across the prairies and mountains. By the time the country was settled from east to west with growing populations in the towns and cities, artists like the Group of Seven aimed to use the beauty of the northern landscape for the nationalistic purpose of highlighting the attributes of the country. A century later we are left with a rich mosaic of art that illustrates why it is that landscape art will always hold such a precious place in Canadian art.

(Cover detail of the exhibition catalogue)

The vast majority of the art that is exhibited in the Embracing Canada exhibition comes from a single private collection that was generously loaned. The collection has been amassed with astute connoisseurship and therefore includes works of art by Canada’s very best. It is a treat to have the works of art from private collections on display for the public, as public institutions are not the only custodians of our country’s masterpieces of art. I often hear comments that all of the best Canadian art should be in public galleries and museums, however these institutions already have quantities of art beyond what they are capable of displaying permanently. Therefore many of the amazing works of art end up in storage and do not see the light of day often or ever. Yet, works of art in private collections are generally on display all the time and often loaned. Typically the owners are passionate about their art and therefore show and educate the art to more friends and family than a painting might see in an institutional basement. It is important to have major works of art that are institutionalized, but it is also good to see great works that are accessible among the population. The art market itself also heightens the interest and prestige of Canadian art by continually drawing attention to how special and desirable our country's best artists are. After all, originally these works of art were owned and cherished by someone(s). Our gallery specializes in historical works of Canadian art, much of which comes from the same period, 1840-1940, which is represented in this show. We love to help put great works of art in the homes of passionate collectors. There they hang and present great opportunities for their custodians to tell their tale and help pass on the story of our artistic interaction with out national landscape.

Embracing Canada is a superb collaboration between public and private art collecting, made accessible to visitors and citizens of Vancouver. To compliment this collaboration I have picked a selection of works of art that have been sold at Masters Gallery in the past. These paintings have passed into private hands to be enjoyed and shared by collectors, family and friends, and every once and awhile with the greater public as well.

Cornelies Krieghoff, Indian Pulling a Tobaggan, oil

Cornelius Krieghoff, Shooting the Rapids, oil

Frederick Verner, Caribour Resting, watercolour ,1889

William Armstrong, Hudson Bay Post, North Shore of Lake Nipigon, 1888, watercolour

Frederic Marlett Bell-Smith, The Great Yoho Valley, 1905 watercolour

Maurice Cullen, After A Heavy Snowfall, North River, circa 1929 oil

JW Beatty, Autumn, Algonquin Park 1920 oil

Anne Savage, Skeena River, oil, 1927

Emily Carr, Harbour Scene BC, 1908 watercolour

Tom Thomson, Woodland Algonquin Park oil

Arthur Lismer, Autumn Georgian Bay 1938 oil

Frederick Varley, Lynn Valley, 1935, oil

Lawren Harris, Icebergs Smith Sound II, 1930, oil

JEH MacDonald, Mount Odoray, Rockies, oil

Note that these paintings are all past highlights, but there are always great new things coming available in both the Vancouver and Calgary galleries that highlight Canada's landscape over time.


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