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Canadian Artist Kathleen Munn Receives Homecoming Exhibition at AGO

“I am very hopeful that my art will be rediscovered again.”
- Kathleen Munn, 1974

(TORONTO – June 1, 2011) The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) will open a unique exhibition featuring Canadian artist Kathleen Munn on June 4, on view until August 28. The Passion of Kathleen Munn will feature nearly 40 works by Munn, including her highly regarded Passion Series drawings, as well as paintings and prints that introduced Post-Impressionism to Canada beginning in the 1910s. In addition, the exhibition will be supported by archival material from the AGO’s collection, including sketches, notebooks, diagrams, collages and a custom-made light box.

Born in 1887 in Toronto, Kathleen Munn was one of the first Canadian artists to embrace abstraction. Little known yet much admired by fellow artists, Munn studied in New York, and during the 1920s travelled to Europe and exhibited with the Group of Seven. Around 1939, she stopped making art due to family obligations and an unresponsive art public in Toronto. She spent the rest of her life here in relative obscurity, only to be rediscovered a decade after her death in 1974.

The Passion of Kathleen Munn is a collaboration between the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Art Gallery of Windsor (AGW). Georgiana Uhlyarik, assistant curator, Canadian art at the AGO, has amassed important loans from private collections as well as archival material, with special focus on Munn’s work in the 1930s. Cassandra Getty of the AGW curated the travelling exhibition Kathleen Munn and Lowrie Warrener: The Logic of Nature, the Romance of Space, which surveys Munn’s career innovations. Together these form the AGO installation.

“In keeping with our dedication to collecting, exhibiting and researching work by Canadian artists, the AGO is pleased to launch The Passion of Kathleen Munn,” says Matthew Teitelbaum, the Michael and Sonja Koerner Director, and CEO of the AGO. “Munn’s work was groundbreaking in the history of Canadian art and merits the attention of a wider audience. This exhibition beautifully combines her innovative work with fascinating aspects of her life and process.”

Munn’s landmark works are widely considered to be a group of ten large ink and graphite drawings inspired by scenes from the Passion and Resurrection of Christ that together form The Passion Series. She laboured for a decade, from 1928 to 1939, to produce these intricate final drawings that represent the culmination of Munn’s artistic vision and ambition. A gallery space in the exhibition is devoted exclusively to this series.

“Kathleen Munn is extraordinary in many ways,” explains Uhlyarik. “She created art for art’s sake, was highly meticulous and methodical, and pursued a style and way of thinking about art that was yet to be acknowledged in Canada. Art for her was not a goal to be arrived at, but a way of life.”

Along with renowned Canadian painter David Urban, Uhlyarik will lead a tour of the Kathleen Munn exhibition on Sunday, July 17 at 2 pm. The tour is free with admission.

A 177-page catalogue titled The Logic of Nature, The Romance of Space: Elements of Canadian Modernist Painting accompanies the exhibition and is published by the Art Gallery of Windsor and the Robert McLaughlin Gallery. The publication includes 80 full-colour illustrations and essays by Uhlyarik and Getty, among others. It is available at shopAGO for $50.

This exhibition is organized and circulated by the Art Gallery of Windsor and supported by the Museum Assistance Program of the Department of Canadian Heritage. The AGO installation is generously supported by Gretchen and Donald Ross.

With a permanent collection of more than 80,000 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, spiraling up through the roof of Walker Court and into the new contemporary galleries above. From the extensive Group of Seven collection to the dramatic African art gallery; from the cutting-edge works in the contemporary tower 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 ext. 403,
Antonietta Mirabelli, 416-979-6660 ext. 454,

The AGO acknowledges the generous support of its Signature Partners: BMO Financial Group, Signature Partner of the Canadian Collection Program; Amex, Signature Partner of the Contemporary Collection Program; and Aeroplan, Signature Partner of the Photography Collection Program.

The Art Gallery of Ontario is funded in part by the Ontario Ministry of Tourism and 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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