Monthly Archives: May 2013
Recognize this raven? It’s Emily Carr’s signature piece. It gained fame on a Canadian stamp. It’s part of the 100 Masters exhibit currently on view at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Emily Carr is always a great favorite with the school children I take on tours at the gallery. I show them pictures of her camping out in the woods in the little white caravan she nicknamed Elephant. She has her pet monkey Woo on her shoulder and her large menagerie of pets gathered around her. In her book Klee Wyck Carr describes the scene that inspired The Raven. It was one of a pair of wooden birds she saw standing on either side of a British Columbia First Nations village-dwelling that had once housed people dying of small pox. The raven was moss-covered, old and rotting, sheltered from the wind by the trees around it. In her painting Emily brings the raven back to prominence and beauty for us.
The Winnipeg Free Press review of the 100 Masters show noted that the pieces of Canadian art in the exhibit are its greatest strength. In the gallery called The Group of Seven and the Canadian Identity pieces by Canadian artists working in the first half of the 1900’s are displayed. Here are just a few of my favorites in that gallery.
Nicolson chose to paint these Canadian army generals as they prepared to pose for a formal portrait. Behind them is a mural showing the devastation caused during the World War I Battle of Ypres that took the lives of 70,000 soldiers. The artist’s own son was killed in the war and he began this painting only a few months later. William Nicolson also designed the sets for the 1904 theatre production of Peter Pan and did the illustrations for the first edition of the children’s classic book The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams.
Emily Carr and Prudence Heward are two of only seven women in the entire 100 Masters exhibition and both were denied entry into the illustrious Group of Seven because they were women. This painting of Heward’s is such a study in contrasts. The two sisters are different ages, are dressed differently, have such different expressions on their faces and different hair styles and colors. One looks away, the other right at us.
There are so many large, lush and colorful paintings in this gallery by the talented Group of Seven but my favorite is this smaller piece depiciting Algonquin Park in winter by Tom Thompson. I only recently learned that the Group of Seven ( an association of artists who were the first to paint Canada’s great outdoors by actually going outdoors to observe nature first hand) were sometimes called the Algonquin School because Tom Thompson took them to Algonquin Park to paint in different seasons. Sadly Tom Thompson died in Algonquin Park when his canoe tipped. He didn’t live to see the fame of his fellow Algonquin Park painters. The story of his mysterious death is one the kids on my middle school tours find fascinating.
Fitzgerald is not the most recognizable member of the Group of Seven but he is special because he’s from Manitoba. Although born in Winnipeg his family came from Snowflake, Manitoba and he frequently went back there to sketch. It is where his ashes were scattered after he died. He had his first exhibition at the Winnipeg Art Gallery in 1921 and sold enough of his paintings to have money to study in New York for six months. Poplar Woods was painted the same year Fitzgerald became the principal of the Winnipeg School of Art. The kids I take on tours often think the painting looks like a mystical forest from a science fiction or fantasy movie.
When you visit the Hundred Masters exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery be sure to spend time in the Canadian Identity Room . If you’re like me it will be hard to pick out a favorite painting.
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Recognize this Rembrandt? The Princess of Lichtenstein gave it to the National Gallery of Canada in 1953, the year I was born, and now it’s here in Winnipeg till August. Don’t miss your chance to see it. This painting was originally called The Jewish Bride and Rembrandt might have been thinking of the biblical Queen Esther when he painted it. Certainly the central figure’s gold jewelry, elegant attire and doting attendant indicate she was a woman of wealth and her face suggests she was contemplating something serious. If you know Esther’s story she certainly had plenty of serious stuff to think about. Likely Rembrandt’s wife Saskia or his sister Lisbeth were his models.
The Winnipeg Art Gallery director has borrowed a hundred famous paintings from galleries all across Canada to put on display in honor of the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s 100th birthday. I gave my first three tours of the 100 Masters exhibit this week! It was very exciting! I had a group of grade fours who peppered me with excellent questions, a group of grade ones who were such great art detectives and a group of grade tens who were intrigued by the work.
In this blog post I’ll tour the first room called The Old Masters 1500-1700. I can’t write about every piece of art so I’ll just highlight a few I find interesting.
Lucas Cranach was obsessed with Adam and Eve. He did over thirty paintings of their story. Although the Genesis account tells us Adam and Eve were not ashamed of their nakedness before they succumbed to the wily snake (coiled around the top of the tree) Cranach still tastefully conceals the couple’s lower genital regions. However he makes no attempt to hide Eve’s breasts. This painting depicts the Garden of Eden story in a way that has caused undeserved persecution of females throughout history by portraying women as seductive temptresses who get men into trouble. As if males have no minds and wills of their own! Eve is shown luring Adam into sin with the apple and her body. Some say the stag is a symbol of Christ. Cranach was good friends with religious reformer Martin Luther. It’s interesting to ponder Cranach’s painting depicting the origin of sin while thinking about Luther’s theology of salvation by grace.
A stag and a beautiful nude female also play a prominent role in this art piece. Diana the goddess of the hunt rides on the stag. Diana was bathing nude when a young hunter named Actaeon spied her. An embarrassed Diana splashed water on him and he turned into a stag. His fellow hunters didn’t recognize him, set their hounds (shown under the stag) on him and killed him. Once again we have a beautiful woman causing the demise of a tempted man. This piece has a mechanical base and when it was placed on a dinner table it actually moved from diner to diner and stopped in front of them. Each guest could then lift the stag’s head and drink wine which had been poured into the artwork’s hollow interior.
Why is this guy sticking his finger in a skull’s nose? Apparently to show how short our lives are. The artist only lived to be 46 and when he was 34 he became a Jesuit priest. Ten years later he decided to go to China to save souls but the other priests on the journey sent him away because they said he was ‘unstable’ and ‘incompatible.’ He then spent two years in a Jesuit community in India before he died.
Jesus and his mother are looking at each other sadly in this pair of panels. Blood runs down Jesus’ face, tears trickle down Mary’s. Jesus’ robe is red and the background in his mother’s painting is red. Mary’s robe is black and the background behind her son is black. Her head is covered with a white cloth, his with prickly thorns. His hands are open showing the nail holes, hers are closed in prayer for her wounded son. These paintings remind me of my walk down the Via Delorosa (the Way of Sorrow) in the old city of Jerusalem.
The 100 Masters is at the Winnipeg Art Gallery till August. I want to do more posts about all the rooms in the exhibit. The exhibition is well worth a visit!
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I attended a writing conference at Winnipeg’s Millenium Library where I got some valuable advice from both writers and authors. Read all about it in my post Inside Publishing on Vast Imaginations the blog of my children’s authors’ group.
My sister gave me a voucher for a cooking class at De Lucas Italian restaurant as a Christmas gift. Last night we finally cashed it in. What a great meal! You receive copies of the recipes for every dish on the menu and a chef prepares each course while you watch in a giant mirror or on the large TV screens. You can ask questions and later the De Lucas’ store is open so you can buy all the supplies you need to recreate the meal you’ve just had at the cooking school in your own kitchen at home.
De Lucas is a Winnipeg institution. It’s been around since 1968. It started out as a very small grocery store and restaurant, catering primarily to Winnipeg’s Italian community. Now it runs a busy cooking school and thriving speciality food store.
Pasta with tomato basil sauce and veal and pork meatballs
Red wine and brie cheese started the meal and lattes ended it. We were full!
We want to go back to De Lucas grocery store soon on a shopping trip. It only took me about thirty minutes to walk there and by bike the trip would be much faster. We’re entertaining a couple of times in the next week so we’ll have to try our hand at some of the recipes we learned.
A big thank you to my sister for a terrific Christmas gift!
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Just got back from the annual Winnipeg MS Walk. Here I am with my cousin Dirk about to set out on the 5 km. course on an absolutely beautiful spring day. Our family was walking in memory of my cousin Connie who died from complications resulting from MS in 1997. Although our family team wasn’t quite as big as last year we had good representation all the way from my 87-year-old uncle to my cousin’s nine-year old daughter.
Last year after the walk I wrote about my talented and beautiful cousin and my relationship with her. You can read about it on my post Walking For Connie. Recently I found the text of the tribute I gave at Connie’s funeral and here is an excerpt.
One gift my cousin Connie gave me was a new image of God. When I would go and see her on one of her bad days and watch her struggle to breathe, or swallow her food, or lift her head, I would wonder what kind of God would allow such suffering. Connie forced me to create a new image of God, no longer as a judge or the director of our lives. My relationship with Connie helped me understand that God does not cause tragedy, nor does God prevent it. But God does send people who ease the pain in our lives and through the love of those people we are given the strength to carry on. When Connie first got sick I wanted answers. Why did this happen? I wanted justice for Connie. This wasn’t fair. What happened to Connie certainly wasn’t fair. I came to realize however that there were no answers. There was no justice. There was only love.
Our family’s walk today, organized by Connie’s niece Caryn was a concrete reminder of the love we shared with Connie.
We saw some sobering statistics along the walk route.
After the walk my cousin Connie’s sister Lynne and her husband Rod had us over for a fabulous lunch. It was a chance for all of us to visit and catch up with each other. Connie continues to draw our family together even though she is no longer with us.
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