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Charles Pachter and Margaret Atwood:
The Journals of Susanna Moodie

July 18 to October 12, 2009

I am watched like an invader
who knows hostility but
not where

The day shrinks back from me

—Margaret Atwood, Paths and Thingscape,
The Journals of Susanna Moodie

Margaret Atwood’s celebrated book of poems, The Journals of Susanna Moodie, is based on the autobiographical writings of Susanna Moodie, a nineteenth-century English emigrant to Upper Canada. After having a particularly compelling dream about Moodie, Atwood began writing poetry about this author’s “bare survival in the face of hostile  elements”—related to Moodie’s Canadian experience.   The poems are divided into three journals, each of them loosely based on the series of events described in Moodie’s books, Roughing It in the Bush and Life in the Clearings versus the Bush. Journal I (1832–1840) takes the reader through Moodie’s arrival in Quebec, her life in the backwoods, and her departure from the backwoods to the city of Belleville. Journal II (1840–1871) is a haunting account of Moodie’s years in Belleville while Journal III (1871–1969) depicts Moodie as an old woman and finally as a ghost haunting the streets of Toronto in the 1960s.

In October 1980, Charles Pachter, known for his artistic interpretations of Canadian subjects and who is also a close friend of Atwood’s, released a livre d’artiste, a limited-edition artist’s book, which combined Atwood’s poetry with Pachter’s visual imagery. The original prints in this publication required 115 separate colour runs—over 14,000 hand-pulled impressions—which limited Pachter’s production of the book to only 120 copies.

Opening at the McMichael on July 18, 2009, the exhibition Charles Pachter and Margaret Atwood: The Journals of Susanna Moodie will explore the unique collaboration between these two artists. Curated by the McMichael’s Chris Finn, the exhibition will include a collection of approximately thirty original prints with the accompanying poems from Atwood and Pachter’s livre d’artiste.

Exhibition Merchandise

Charles Pachter (b. 1942)
The Planters , from The Journals of Susanna Moodie  poems by Margaret Atwood, 1980
serigraph on paper
46.2 x 76.0 cm
Collection of the Artist, Toronto


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