Magnetic North
Imagining Canada in painting 1910-1940

Sept. 11, 2021 – Jan. 9, 2022
Hal
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Lawren S. Harris (1885 -1970), Icebergs, Davis Strait, 1930, gift of Mr. en Mrs. H. Spencer Clark, McMichael Canadian Art Collection 1971.17 © Family of Lawren S. Harris
The magic of the northern lights, idyllic expansive landscapes, and impressive panoramic views of the Arctic. Kunsthal Rotterdam will be showing examples of the majestic art of Canadian painting between 1910 and 1940 – immensely popular back home, but hardly known in the Netherlands.

A mythical image of Canada

‘Magnetic North’ presents over eighty magical paintings and thirty sketches by the Canadian modernists. At the beginning of the twentieth century, these artists moved away from the crowded cities to settle deep in Canadian nature. Through experimenting, they were searching for a new visual language to match the way in which Canadian society was expanding and changing at that time. The members of the Group of Seven, a famous collective of landscape painters, as well as the artist Tom Thomson who was their source of inspiration, created an almost mythical, exalted image of Canada in their paintings. Depicting an uncultivated territory, they ignored the reality of the country’s original inhabitants and its rapidly growing population and industrialisation.

At the heart of the exhibition, photographic and video material puts these paintings in a critical context. Seen from the perspective of the First Nations, this documentation offers a framework for the historical narratives that are missing from these famous paintings. Also part of the exhibition is the work of Emily Carr, who was a contemporary of these artists and known for her paintings that did pay attention to the native communities of Canada in the early twentieth century.

The exhibition is organised by the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, and the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt. 

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