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AGO Pays Homage to the History of Playing with Pictures

First comprehensive exhibition dedicated to Victorian photocollage

(TORONTO - April 21, 2010) Sixty years ahead of the avant-garde, aristocratic women of the 1860s and 1870s combined photographs and watercolours to create the little-known phenomenon of Victorian photocollage. From June 5 to September 5, the Art Gallery of Ontario hosts Playing with Pictures: The Art of Victorian Photocollage, organized by the Art Institute of Chicago.

"This exhibition allows us a playful look into the lives of Victorian women, whose sharp wit and absurd sense of humour debunks the strict conventions of aristocratic society," says Sophie Hackett, AGO assistant curator of photography.  "This was a forum for ladies of the time to showcase their talents and challenge our ideas about photography in the 1870s. They're surprising and irreverent."

Curated by Elizabeth Siegel, associate curator of photography at the Art Institute of Chicago, Playing with Pictures: The Art of Victorian Photocollage showcases over 40 works, including framed collages, full albums in display cases and interactive virtual albums on computer monitors. One of the highlights of the exhibition is the Madame B Album, featuring more than 140 pages of photographs and watercolour designs, part of the collection from the Art Institute of Chicago.

The extraordinary works in the show are on loan from various collections and institutions, including: Art Institute of Chicago; Musée d'Orsay; Victoria & Albert Museum; National Gallery of Australia; J. Paul Getty Museum; University of New Mexico Art Museum; Wilson Centre for Photography; The Gernsheim Collection from the Harry Ransom Center at The University of Texas at Austin; and the collections of Paul F. Walter and Hans. P. Kraus, Jr.

Two catalogues, Playing with Pictures: The Art of Victorian Photocollage by Elizabeth Siegel ($57.95 and The Marvelous Album of Madame B: Being the Handiwork of a Victorian Lady of Considerable Talent by Elizabeth Siegel and Martha Packer ($22.95), accompany the exhibition and will be available for purchase at shopAGO.

To celebrate the exhibition's opening, the AGO is hosting a lecture with curator Elizabeth Siegel on Saturday, June 5. Siegel will explore the whimsical and sometimes surreal world of Victorian photocollage. To register, visit:

Playing with Pictures: The Art of Victorian Photocollage kicks off the AGO's 2010 summer season, which includes The Storyteller, opening June 9 and, Drama and Desire, a North American exclusive, opening June 19. 


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 to 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.



For more images and more information, contact:

Sean O'Neill, 416 979 6660 x 403,
Antonietta Mirabelli, 416 979 6660 x 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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