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Pluralities/Polarities 1950-2000:


In the post World War II era, Canadian art experienced rapid and disparate growth. Diverging from the national idiom that was the artistic program of the Group of Seven, and participating in the creation of late modern or contemporary art movements, Canadian artists across the land produced a body of work that much like the country itself could be described as non-cohesive, occasionally regionalist, mostly congruent with international trends, and sometimes steeped in ideology and theory. Amongst the diverse styles and
attitudes, two major streams of thought appeared: abstract art and realism.

In Canada’s largest art centres, new associations such as Painters Eleven in Toronto (formed in 1953) and the Automatistes in Montreal (formed in the mid-1940s) were first to introduce abstraction into the Canadian art market. The artists’ commitment to nonobjective
art was not only in keeping with the artistic interests of their influential American and European counterparts but, as in the case of the Automatistes, was linked to deeply rooted beliefs in artistic freedom and social change.

Abstract art was an infectious avant-garde style that soared to great heights in the midtwentieth century and spread across the country, but some artists opted for a different kind of artistic expression in the conventional language of realism. With clear and crisp depiction of subject matter and acute attention to minutiae, they captivated an audience in their evocation of a heightened sense of mood.

Still other artists created works that blurred the lines between abstraction and realism. They chose an artistic language that allowed for the blending of these two modes of expression. The resulting imagery had much in common with hyperrealism, surrealism
and even post-impressionism and romanticism.

The latter half of the twentieth century was an explosive period of national and cultural creativity. In his/her endeavor, each Canadian artist contributed to the dynamic and mosaic -like portrait of Canadian art.

Mary and Olga Visiting by Jack Chambers
Jean Paul Riopelle (1923-2002)
Sur les traces, 1958
oil paint on canvas
65 x 81.3 cm
Gift from Mr. & Mrs. L.L. Odette, Toronto
McMichael Canadian Art Collection
1994.19

 

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