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Maurice Cullen and His Circle

Organized by the National Gallery of Canada

January 16 to March 21, 2010

In the last decades of the nineteenth century, aspiring Canadian artists flocked to Paris for artistic inspiration. Artists Maurice Cullen, William Brymner, James Wilson Morrice, and Edmund Morris where part of this student exodus, meeting in Paris at a time when Impressionism—the art of the fleeting moment—exemplified in the works of Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Alfred Sisley and other artists, was gaining popularity with both art collectors and followers. Cullen and Morrice were interested in the art of the impermanent, adapting aspects of Impressionism in the works they created while studying in France and travelling across Europe and North Africa.

The influence of their experiences abroad became evident in the works these artists painted once they returned home. Although each of the artists painted landscapes, particularly the Canadian landscape, the landscapes of Brymner and Morris reflect only tentative approaches to Impressionism, whereas Cullen’s adaptation of the art form is apparent in his rural and urban images of Quebec. Although they never identified themselves as a formal group, their responses to the aesthetic challenge in eastern Canada contributed to the development of painting in this country, setting important precedents for artists who followed, such as A.Y. Jackson and Robert Pilot.

The exhibition Maurice Cullen and His Circle, organized by the National Gallery of Canada and curated by Crystal Susan Parsons, explores the art and careers of William Brymner, James Wilson Morrice, and Edmund Morris. Comprised of nearly forty oil paintings, this exhibition examines works by Cullen, alongside those of his contemporaries, Morrice and Brymner. The show also features works by artists whom Cullen was known to have influenced, including his stepson, Robert Pilot, and future member of the Group of Seven, A.Y. Jackson.

This exhibition includes several canvases that Cullen and members of his circle painted, both abroad and at home. Contrasted with the rural Canadian winter landscapes for which he is so well-known, these works reveal the complex relationships that figure in the urban and rural boundaries around such cities as Montreal and Quebec at the time.

The exhibition continues at the McMichael until March 21, 2010.

Study for The Ferry, Quebec

James Wilson Morrice
Study for "The Ferry, Quebec"
, 1897
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
Gift of G. Blair Laing, Toronto, 1989
Photo © NGC

Twilight, Levis
Robert Pilot

Twilight, Lévis
, 1933
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
Royal Canadian Academy of Arts diploma work, deposited by the artist, Montreal, 1935
Photo © NGC

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