Friday, April 10, 2015

Emily Carr at the AGO

Bill and I went to the Emily Carr show yesterday at the AGO. The show is absolutely superb -- exciting, fresh, and inspiring.
Tree Trunk (1931, oil on canvas) is the first painting you will see as you enter. The wall texts, which are brief and helpful, say that Carr painted this after meeting and being inspired by Georgia O'Keefe.
Here's a detail.
Expect glorious watercolours like Tsatsisnukomi, B.C. from 1912
and Tribe Klawatsis, Karlukwees Village, also from 1912.
I was struck by the freshness of the miniature works like this early watercolour Indian Canoes in Harbour, from around 1895.
You could hold Carr's Victoria Sketchbook, from 1898, in the palm of your hand.
The main room is full of wonders -- Carr's famous paintings of the lives and art works of Canada's West Coast Native People. She started work on them after meeting the members of the Group of Seven and being encouraged by Lauren Harris.
That's Blunden Harbour (around 1930) on the left, Silhouette No. 2. (1930-31) on the right.
Left: Ankeda, The Pole of Chief George Kindealda, 1928. Right: Grizzly Bear Totem, Angidah, Nass River, around 1930. 
We loved the West Coast traditional masks. Kwakwaka'wakw: Dzawada'enuxw artist. Weather Dance Mask, before 1952. Wood, fibre, metal and paint.
Kwakwaka'wakw Artist. Deer Mask, date unknown. Wood, paint, abalone shell and metal. 
Raven Frontlet, date unknown. Wood, jute fibre and paint. 
 Kwakwaka'wakw: Gwa'sala Artist. Bear Mask, before 1953. Wood, bear skin, paper, paint and metal.
Bill and I were drawn to a wall containing some gloriously translucent paintings in which Carr mixed her paint with gasoline. Here's Forest Landscape No. 2, from around 1935. 
Forest Interior, around 1936 
 Windswept Trees, around 1937-38.
Detail from Windswept Trees. Those brushstrokes!
Two details from Sunshine and Tumult, 1939.
From the same year: Trees in the Sky and Above the Trees, around 1939.
Detail from Trees in the Sky.
 Left: Forest Scene, around 1938-1945. Right: Trees, around 1939-45. Both ink drawings on paper.
The wall text describes Forest, British Columbia (1940) as muscular. I like that. Carr gave it to another of her mentor's Group of Seven painter Lawren Harris, who treasured it.
 John Davis, Whale Mask, before 1919. wood, leather skin, metal and fibre.
Carr's late paintings were inspired by the sea and sky.  Stumps and Sky, around 1934. Oil on paper
Stumps and Sky (detail)
Let's end today's tour with one final masterpiece: Scorned as Timber, Beloved of the Sky, 1935.

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From the Forest to the Sea: Emily Carr in British Columbia was a cooperative effort between the AGO and the Dulwich Picture Gallery, London, where it opened to great acclaim last November. Our gratitude for the brilliance and taste of the curators: Canadian art critic and journalist Sarah Milroy and Sackler Director of the Duwich, Ian Dejardin. It's worth the drive to Toronto.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Harriet's New Home

Yesterday, Bill and I went to visit our friend Harriet in her new apartment.
In only three weeks, Harriet has completely inhabited the space. 
 Kitchen, living room and balcony door.
 The big, light-filled bedroom comes as a surprise to the left of the patio door.
 The bedroom window looks south onto a magnificent panorama of the city (not shown).
I sat in every chair before settling into a corner of the living room next to "the fireplace".
 Bill made himself comfortable by the couch with a glass of prosecco.
My oldest friend, our hostess, before an early self-portrait. It was a pleasure to help "warm" her new home!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Aga Khan Museum, Toronto

Bill and I visited Toronto's newest museum with our friend Nancy yesterday. The Aga Khan Museum opened last fall.
We're pleased to report that the collection is absolutely sensational. Item by item, the Aga Khan in Toronto matches or surpasses the many times larger Islamic collections at the Met, the British Museum and the Louvre.
The architect is Fumihiko Maki.
You don't need detailed historical knowledge to see the outstanding freshness of the painting on this beaker. Iran, 1200-19. Fritware, in-glaze and overglaze-painted.
Here's another ceramic from the room that houses the personal collection of Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan (Bellerive Room). What an amazing creature -- that face.
 Nancy and Bill looking at a map of historic Islamic empires.
Two Species of Sea Onion. Leaf from the Khawass al-Ashjar (The Characteristics of Trees). Iraq, 1200. Ink and colour on paper. Lovely. 
We soon realized that every item on display was a perfect example of its type. Expect to see one masterpiece after another. Sayings of Pythagoras. Probably Iraq, late 13th century. Ink, watercolour and gold on paper.
And look at the gorgeous calligraphy of this 11th century Qur'an. Ink, gold and opaque watercolour on paper.
Tunic. Iran, early 14th century brocaded silk. I can see myself in this. A man my age could use that corseted waist!
Some pictures to give you a sense of the overall lightness and clarity of the displays.
I need to go back and have a closer look at their collection of Qur'ans. Baghdad, Iraq, mid-14th century. Ink, watercolour and gold on paper.
Mansur's Anatomy. Probably Iran, mid-17th century. Ink and watercolour on paper.
Book of Ecstasy by 'Afefi (d. ca. 1449), copied by Shah Mahmud Neyshaburi. Iran, 16th century. Ink, watercolour and gold on paper.
A great title for all times: The Comfort of Rulers Confronted with the Hostility of their Followers, by Ibn Zafar al-Siqilli (d. 1165). Syria, 1340-50. Watercolour and gold on paper.
Story of Haftvad and the worm. Tabriz, Iran, ca. 1540. Opaque watercolour, ink, gold and silver on paper. Detail, below.
Must return for a longer look at the Aga Khan's superb collection of miniature paintings: more masterpieces. The quality of the composition, the line, the freshness of the colour jumps right out at you.

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Toronto art lovers can also rejoice in a half-dozen masterpieces by British painter Howard Hodgkin in the Inspired By India show, also at the Aga Khan (until June 21st). This painting In the Garden of the Bombay Museum is one of the finest Hodgkins I've seen. This snapshot only hints at this large (4 x 5 feet) painting's quality. 
Surf. 1990-91. Hand painted gouache on intaglio impressed Khadi paper. Find more prints by Hodgkin in Toronto at Metivier Gallery (until March 28th).
The mezzanine overlooking the main floor galleries is currently filled with Hodgkin's extensive collection of Indian paintings and drawings of the Mughal period.
We couldn't take pictures but we did buy the catalogue. Here are two highlights . 
I loved this portrait of Prince Aurangzeb. (c. 1653-55. Gouache with gold on paper.)
Bill drew my attention to this charming sketch: Balwant Singh and a Goose (c.1750-60. Brush drawing with light pigment on uncoloured paper.)
All in all, we had a fabulous time. We would consider the Aga Khan museum to be in the top five reasons to visit Toronto. Not to be missed. Note: the admission is $20. Allow two hours  to see the collection and any temporary shows properly.
Will return in the spring and summer, when the trees and fountains of the central plaza will be at their best. We also want to visit the new Ismaili Center, above, designed by Indian architect Charles Correa.

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Note March 20th: We just learned that the Aga Khan offers free admission on Wednesday evenings from 4 pm to 8 pm.
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Related post: Howard Hodgkin at Gagosian Rome.