Two centuries of Canadian landscape painting and drawing is on display at Glenhyrst Art Gallery of Brant.
Thirty selections from the gallery’s permanent collection, including works by Group of Seven artists and more than a dozen others crafted during the 19th and 20th centuries, will excite local art enthusiasts, said Marcia Lea, executive director and curator of Glenhyrst.
“Given our collection, we are able to provide a nice overview of the transformation of the landscape genre over 200 years,” Lea said.
Lea said techniques used in painting Canadian landscapes have evolved much during the past two centuries.
“A lot of painters in the 18th and 19th centuries were born and taught in England or the rest of Europe,” Lea said. “They had a tendency to paint (the Canadian landscape) as if it was Europe.
“Some say painters did this because they were homesick and catering to their clients’ tastes. The Canadian landscape was wild and untamed then, but the European landscape had witnessed thousands of years of Europeans shaping their landscape into farmland and urban areas.”
Lea said English painter Robert Reginald Whale was one of the first artists to authentically capture the Canadian landscape with his brush.
After arriving from England during the 1850s, Whale settled in Burford and later moved to Brantford.
“Whale painted a pretty accurate view of what he was seeing,” Lea said. “It is very realistic.”
Lea said the invention of photography in the 19th century changed painting.
“Photography had been invented by this period, but was not in common use,” Lea said. “But photography influenced painting because it freed it.
“Early 20th century painting became more exploratory with a freer use of colour and brushstrokes. (Some artists) became less worried about detailed realism.”
Group of Seven painter A.J. Casson used increased abstraction to depict the Canadian landscape, Lea said.
“These pieces show some of the broad range that landscape painting and drawing can cover,” Lea said. “(Casson’s work) is definitely still a landscape and realistic, but it shows some elements of abstraction.”
Lea said another Group of Sevent artist, Lionel LeMoine Fitzgerald, used unique composition in some of his works.
“He used unusual composition that pulls the viewer’s eyes to move around the edges rather than focus on the distance or depth of the landscape,” Lea said. “It is all about how you interpret it.”
Lea said many later works in the collection currently on display show significant abstraction.
“Some of this is so loose that it’s an exciting mix of lines and colours,” Lea said. “But our minds sort it out into a landscape.
“An abstract is often taking something that is real and translating it through the artist’s vision into something else that looks completely different.”
Glenhyrst owns and preserves more than 700 pieces by Canadian artists. The current exhibit runs until Aug. 19.