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AGO looks at art through economic turmoil

(TORONTO – January 5, 2010) As we climb out of the current economic crisis, the Art Gallery of Ontario presents a look at how art stimulated the economy and revived American spirits during the 1930s. American Prints of the Great Depression, features 30 works created from 1927 to 1943. The prints are from the AGO’s permanent collection and from private Toronto collections, and are on view for the first time at the AGO.

In the wake of hard times, many artists turned from abstract art to realism, creating socially conscious works that depicted everyday life as well as visions of what they hoped life could be. The exhibition will take viewers from the roaring twenties through the dirty thirties, from New York to the Midwest, through a time of great political and social change in America.

“These artists provided a distinctly American vision that spoke to the public during this period of social and economic turmoil,” says Katharine Lochnan, the AGO’s deputy director of research and the R. Fraser Elliott Curator of Prints and Drawings. “It also created a moment that is important to the history of graphic art. It had a profound impact in Canada as well as the United States.”

Included in the exhibition are the iconic Four Freedoms posters by renowned artist and Saturday Evening Post illustrator Norman Rockwell. Also featured is The Drunk, a work by great American printmaker George Bellows, purchased in 2009 by the AGO as a gift of the late John Harkness.

American Prints of the Great Depression also showcases works by such well-known American artists as Grant Wood, Thomas Hart Benton, Martin Lewis and Rockwell Kent.

The exhibition is organized by the AGO’s Department of Prints and Drawings, which has been garnering international attention of late. Drawing Attention: Selected Works on Paper from the Art Gallery of Ontario opened to rave reviews at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London, England, in October, earning praise from the Guardian, the Telegraph and the Observer, who called it “unmissable.”


With a permanent collection of more than 79,000 works of art, the Art Gallery of Ontario is among the most distinguished art museums in North America. In 2008, with a stunning new design by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry, the AGO opened its doors to the public amid international acclaim. Highlights include Galleria Italia, a gleaming showcase made of wood and glass running the length of an entire city block along the Gallery’s façade; and the feature staircase, spiralling up through the roof of Walker Court and into the new contemporary galleries above. From the extensive Group of Seven collection to the dramatic new African art gallery; from David Altmejd’s monumental installation The Index to Peter Paul Rubens’ masterpiece The Massacre of The Innocents, a highlight of the celebrated Thomson Collection, there is truly something for everyone at the AGO.

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For media information or visuals, please contact:

Sean O’Neill, 416 979 6660, ext. 403,
Antonietta Mirabelli, 416 979 6660, ext. 454,

The Art Gallery of Ontario is funded in part by the Ontario Ministry of Culture. Additional operating support is received from the Volunteers of the AGO, the City of Toronto, the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Canada Council for the Arts.

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