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AGO brings rare masterpieces from Monet, van Gogh, Gauguin and more to Toronto this fall

Major exhibition organized by the AGO and the Musée d'Orsay breaks new art historical ground by exploring the mystical experience in nature

TORONTO – This fall, the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) invites visitors to accompany some of the greatest artists of the 19th and 20th centuries on a spiritual journey of self-discovery. Organized in partnership with the renowned Musée d’Orsay in Paris, Mystical Landscapes: Masterpieces from Monet, van Gogh and more breaks new ground by exploring the mystical experiences of 36 artists from 15 countries, including Emily Carr, Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, Vassily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian, Claude Monet, Edvard Munch, Georgia O’Keeffe and James McNeill Whistler. This major exhibition, which features close to 90 extraordinary paintings and 20 works on paper, debuts on Oct. 22, 2016 and runs to Jan. 29, 2017, before opening at the Musée d’Orsay in the spring of 2017.

The years between 1880 and 1930 were marked by rampant materialism and rapid urbanization. Disillusioned with traditional religious institutions, many artists across Europe and North America searched for an unmediated spiritual path through mystical experiences. They conveyed their feelings of unity with nature and the cosmos in some of the most famous landscape paintings ever created. Gauguin found inspiration in the faith of peasants in rural Brittany; Monet sought solace from the First World War through hours of contemplation beside his waterlily pond at Giverny; and van Gogh looked for consolation in the starry skies over Arles.

Mystical Landscapes was conceived and developed by Katharine Lochnan, the AGO’s senior curator of international exhibitions, together with Roald Nasgaard and Bogomila Welsh-Ovcharov, in addition to Guy Cogeval and Isabelle Morin Loutrel of the Musée d’Orsay.

Over the five years it has taken to develop the exhibition, the AGO has been assisted by a multi-disciplinary advisory group drawn largely from senior faculty at the University of Toronto. Leading experts in the fields of theology, history, astrophysics, medicine and psychology have looked at nature mysticism and art through different lenses.

“These masterpieces convey experiences that cannot be put into words,” says Lochnan. “The feeling of connecting with a deeper reality—a power much greater than ourselves—is a mystical experience. These experiences may reach any of us through the contemplation of nature and the cosmos. We are moved by the beauty of sunrise and sunset, the stars in the night sky, the reflections of the moon on lakes, the power of the ocean waves and the vision of snow-capped mountains. These paintings convey the artists’ mystical experiences of something greater than themselves. It is primarily through the contemplation of nature that they have seen with greater clarity.”

Mystical Landscapes will take visitors on a journey through Europe, Scandinavia and North America, beginning on a path through the woods and ending with a view of outer space from a mountain top.

Highlights of the exhibition include:

  • Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night over the Rhone at Arles from 1888, which prompted him to write about feeling “a tremendous need of —shall I say the word—religion...so I go outside at night to paint the stars”;

  • Paul Gauguin’s vivid Vision after the Sermon (Jacob Wrestling with the Angel) from 1888, painted during his sojourn in rural Brittany;

  • Claude Monet’s Water Lilies (Nymphéas) from 1907, which he painted after hours of Zen-like meditation beside his Japanese water garden;

  • Edvard Munch’s The Sun, created to inspire students in the wake of his well-publicized nervous breakdown between 1910-1913

  • Georgia O’Keeffe’s Series I - from the Plains from 1919, showing the terrifying power of an approaching thunderstorm in Texas;

  • A series of mystical lithographs by the recently rediscovered French artist Charles-Marie Dulac, which illustrates St. Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of Creation.

“We have been given extraordinary support for this project from institutions around the world,” says Lochnan. “Many of the loans are ‘magnets’ in their home museums and are very seldom lent. This unprecedented level of generosity reflects the very genuine excitement and commitment to the ideas explored in this exhibition which have never been fully addressed through art historical research.”

Lenders include the Musée d’Orsay; Tate Britain; National Gallery of Canada; National Gallery of Scotland; National Museum, Stockholm; National Gallery, Oslo; National Gallery, Prague; Leopold Museum, Vienna; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Art Institute of Chicago; and many other institutions worldwide.

After stepping through its doors, visitors to the exhibition will feel an immediate sense of escape from the world outside. While designing the in-gallery experience, AGO Senior Interpretive Planner David Wistow has carefully considered ways to help audiences draw their own emotional connections to the art works. “We welcome people to contemplate the role of spirituality in their own lives, and their connection to a deeper reality,” says Wistow. “The artists’ mystical journeys prompt us to ask our own questions of, ‘Who are we, and why are we here?’”

An illustrated catalogue will accompany this exhibition—one of the most ambitious publications in the AGO’s history—and will be available in English and French. Featuring essays by 19 scholars and curators from across Europe and North America, including those who served in an advisory capacity, it will be for sale in shopAGO.

AGO members receive free admission to this time-ticketed exhibition. More information on the benefits of AGO membership can be found at http://www.ago.net/general-membership.

Mystical Landscapes: Masterpieces from Monet, van Gogh and more is organized by the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto and the Etablissement public du musée d’Orsay et du musée de l’Orangerie, Paris.

ABOUT THE AGO
With a collection of more than 90,000 works of art, the Art Gallery of Ontario is among the most distinguished art museums in North America. From the vast body of Group of Seven and signature Canadian works to the African art gallery, from the cutting-edge contemporary art to Peter Paul Rubens’ masterpiece The Massacre of The Innocents, the AGO offers an incredible art experience with each visit. In 2002 Ken Thomson’s generous gift of 2,000 remarkable works of Canadian and European art inspired Transformation AGO, an innovative architectural expansion by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry that in 2008 resulted in one of the most critically acclaimed architectural achievements in North America. Highlights include Galleria Italia, a gleaming showcase of wood and glass running the length of an entire city block, and the often-photographed spiral staircase, beckoning visitors to explore. The AGO has an active membership program, and the AGO’s Weston Family Learning Centre offers engaging art and creative programs for children, families, youth and adults. Visit ago.net to find out more.

March 12 – May 29, 2016:          Outsiders: American Photography and Film 1950s–1980s

July 1 – Sept. 11, 2016:             The Idea of North: The Paintings of Lawren Harris

Oct. 22, 2016 – Jan. 29, 2017:   Mystical Landscapes: Masterpieces from Monet, Van Gogh and more

The Art Gallery of Ontario is funded in part by the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport. Additional operating support is received from the City of Toronto, the Canada Council for the Arts and generous contributions from AGO members, donors and private-sector partners.

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For hi-res images and other press inquiries, please contact:

Andrea-Jo Wilson
Senior Communications Officer

416-979-6660, ext. 403
andrea-jo_wilson@ago.net

Caitlin Coull
Manager, Communications

416-979-6660, ext. 364
caitlin_coull@ago.net

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