McMichael - Canadian Art | Collection d'art Canadien

Current Exhibitions

Field Trip: Sarah Anne Johnson
Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival

On Paper


A Foundation for Fifty Years: McMichael Masterworks

For Every Season

Legends: Norval Morrisseau and Anishinabek "Woodland School" Artists

Reframing Canadian Art: Jessie Oonark

Reframing Canadian Art: Norval Morrisseau


Field Trip: Sarah Anne Johnson,Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival
(Galleries 8 and 9)

March 5 – June 5, 2016

As a Primary Exhibition partner with the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival, the McMichael’s exhibition Field Trip: Sarah Anne Johnson shows the artist’s latest project about Canada’s outdoor music festivals. Johnson sees these festivals as a forum for a community of people coming together to create a modern day Dionysian celebration through a connection to nature, music and dance, and the rejection of social norms.

Canadian artist Sarah Anne Johnson (born in 1976) lives and works in Winnipeg. While her work is primarily photo-based, she also employs a full range of media including painting, sculpture and performance where she addresses issues that are environmental, social and personal. Johnson received her MFA from Yale University and a BFA from the University of Manitoba. Her work is featured in numerous public collections including the Guggenheim Museum in New York, The Phillips Collection in Washington, DC, the National Gallery of Canada and the Art Gallery of Ontario, each of which has extensive holdings of her work. She has also received recent commissions from Louis Vuitton, the Winnipeg Art Gallery, and the Bank of Montreal, and was a finalist for the Sobey Art Award in 2015.

Read more about this exhibition

Sarah Anne Johnson, Pink Forest, 2015, photoshopped chromogenic print, 28 x 42
Courtesy Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto; Galerie Division, Montreal; Julie Saul Gallery, New York


On Paper
(Galleries 2 and 3)

February 6, 2016 – May 1, 2016

Curated by Sarah Stanners and Chris Finn

Most great works of art begin with a drawing. Ideas come out on paper first. There is a degree of intimacy and immediacy that is inherent with works on paper, and this exhibition aims to celebrate these qualities in art. Yet paper also grants a level of democracy and accessibility to works of art through printmaking and easy circulation. On Paper explores a variety of ways in which our story of Canada has been shaped by works of art on paper.

On Paper is on view for a limited time only, since light exposure can be a conservation concern. This exhibition will be a rare glimpse of the best works on paper from the McMichael permanent collection and should not to be missed!

Highlights of this exhibition include a comprehensive exhibition of Clarence Gagnon’s original artworks for Maria Chapdelaine, a diary/sketchbook by Emily Carr, our best Milne watercolours, including a never-before publicly exhibited watercolour called Morning Paper, which is a recent promised gift to our collection, the best watercolours by AJ Casson, and more.

Exhibition Micro-site

Clarence Gagnon (1881-1942), The Betrothal, 1928 – 1933, gouache over colour monotype on paper, sheet: 24.1 x 26.5 cm; image: 21.5 x 22.6 cm, Gift of Colonel R.S. McLaughlin, McMichael Canadian Art Collection, 1969.4.54


A Foundation for Fifty Years: McMichael Masterworks

(Gallery 1)

Curated by Sarah Stanners

The McMichael owes its existence and collection to the generosity of donors. A Foundation for Fifty Years will present some of the most significant donations made for the McMichael gallery’s founding year, 1966, by Signe and Robert McMichael, as well as their peers, who were all excited to make Canadian masterworks a gift to the public of Ontario. Installed in the McMichael’s principle gallery on the ground floor, this collection of masterworks celebrates our core artists - the Group of Seven and their contemporaries. Artists on show include Tom Thomson, Lawren Harris, David Milne, and Emily Carr, to name just a few. The exhibition space has been restored to its 1960s modernist style, in a manner that the McMichaels intended: traditional materials with modern lines. This special exhibition kicks off the 50th anniversary of the McMichael Canadian Art Collection.

Exhibition Micro-site

Arthur Lismer (1885-1969), Canadian Jungle, 1946, oil on canvas, 44.8 x 53.7 cm (17 5/8 x 21 1/8 in.), Gift of the Founders, Robert and Signe McMichael, McMichael Canadian Art Collection
1966.16.107


For Every Season

A re-installation of the permanent collection in 4 galleries
October 2015 — May 2016
Curated by Sarah Stanners

"The breath of the Four Seasons must ever be our basic inspiration." — J.E.H. MacDonald, A Landmark of Canadian Art (1917)

Canada is celebrated for its four beautiful and distinct seasons, which have especially inspired our landscape painters. Riots of colour in the fall leaves, soft quietude in the winter snow, the fresh promise of spring green, and the long hours of the summer sun are all vividly expressed in the painted canvases throughout this four-part exhibition. Drawn entirely from the permanent collection of the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, the masters of each season come forward in full colour as four galleries are dedicated to each of the four seasons: winter, fall, summer and spring.

Exhibition Micro-site

Tom Thomson (1877-1917), Autumn Birches, 1916, oil on wood panel, 21.6 x 26.7 cm, Gift of Mrs. H.P. de Pencier, McMichael Canadian Art Collection, 1966.2.3

Gallery 4: Spring

Spring is considered by many to be a time of fresh starts—a blank canvas to start a new year. As the rain renews and breaks up the snow, new growth leaps forward in fresh greens against earthen browns. While traditional landscape painters embrace the spring as a time to get out into nature to paint what they see, abstract artists often use spring as a metaphor for how they feel.

Gallery 5: Summer

The long and lazy days of summer are best expressed in paint. Twilight colours in the evening promise tomorrow’s wide-open blue skies and respite from cruel weather prompts deeper explorations of the landscape. The mighty snow-topped mountain paintings—our cultural icons—are, in fact, summer subjects. For the Group of Seven, evoking the experience of the land in their painting was most important. Lawren Harris recalled that the overriding feeling he had when painting Mount Robson was a fear of the grizzly bears. Bugs were another matter, according to A.Y. Jackson.

Gallery 6: Fall

Nature is an avant-garde painter in the fall season. Audacious bursts of colour abound in the trees that are so often the primary subject of Canadian landscape paintings. For this reason, the Founders of the McMichael Canadian Art Collection set their home-turned-public gallery on the edge of the Humber River Valley where a connection between their beloved Canadian paintings and the inspirational landscape could be both seen and felt.

The fall is favoured for painting en plein air (that is, painting while out in the open air of nature). Long sessions of sketching are enjoyed while the weather is neither too hot nor too cold.

Gallery 7: Winter

Canadian painters learn quickly that mastering the representation of snow-laden hills means embracing shades of blue and violet to signal shadow. This sleepy season is anything but pure white. The low slung sun in the sky prompts a softer palette but moods are sterner, as if to acknowledge the fortitude required to survive the cold climate.



Reframing Canadian Art: Jessie Oonark

(Gallery 12)

Renowned artist Jessie Oonark (1906–1985) was born in the Back River area north of Qamani’tuaq (Baker Lake). Oonark and her family led a nomadic existence as did other Inuit who depended on hunting and fishing for survival. After moving into the developing community of Qamani’tuaq in the 1950s, Oonark was encouraged to make drawings which were at times playful reinterpretations of life in the North. Her earliest works attracted the attention of James Houston, founder of the print program at Cape Dorset on Baffin Island. Prints made from Oonark’s drawings were included in the second and third annual print releases from the Cape Dorset workshop. Oonark achieved international recognition for her drawings, prints and wall hangings.

Following their recent major gift of contemporary Northwest Coast artworks to the McMichael, Jamie Cameron and Christopher Bredt have donated 189 Baker Lake drawings, collages and prints from their extensive collection of Inuit art. This generous gift effectively allows the McMichael to reframe the work of Jessie Oonark – as no fewer than 50 works by the artist stem from this new gift, providing an extensive new context for the wall hangings and other works on paper from our existing collection.

Image: Jessie Oonark (1906 - 1985), wall hanging, Untitled, c. 1972, felt with embroidery thread, thread, 203 x 152 cm, Gift of Vincent Tovell, Object number: 1990.4


Reframing Canadian Art: Norval Morrisseau

(Gallery 14)


Shaman and Disciples by Norval MorrisseauNorval Morrisseau’s passion for visual storytelling led him to develop a pictorial vocabulary, which transformed the traditional readings of the teachings and stories of the Anishinaabe people, and enabled him to express his own spiritual voice.

The artist’s imagery drew inspiration from renderings transcribed on rock as petroglyphs and pictographs, or hand-drawn on birch bark scrolls by ancestors. Morrisseau sought to reinterpret the cultural and spiritual narratives of his heritage by exploring various means of invoking a state of transcendence. The artist’s work also presents references to Christianity as well as Eckankar, a contemporary belief system.

The use of acrylic paint, canvas and paper marked a shift towards European-influenced art traditions. Morrisseau’s acrylic paintings demonstrate an intuitive use of bright, pure colour, where dark lines delineate figures within figures. Some of Morrisseau’s symbolic representations are suggestive of an inner power, while others express an inherent spirituality. These vibrantly coloured images offer compelling chronicles of an individual connected to a broad-based cultural core.

Morrisseau’s paintings have traditionally been shown in the far, long gallery (#8) here at the McMichael. With this reinstallation, we aim to reframe the way we see even the most familiar works from our permanent collection. Display space can act as a frame and therefore influences the way in which we look at art.

Image: Norval Morrisseau (1931-2007), Shaman and Disciples, 1979, acrylic on canvas
180.5 x 211.5 cm, Purchase 1979, McMichael Canadian Art Collection, 1979.34.7


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