What was there before the Group of Seven and Tomson? Well, it happens to be a lot, from indigenous art which went back thousands of years to a little-recognized school as the Canadian Impressionists, who happened to come one generation before the legendary group of Seven was founded in 1920.
They included men and women from diverse groups travelling to Europe, mostly to Paris for the purpose of studying art and began to paint in a modernistic fashion became famous by the people like Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. They did not just work on religious and mythological scenes but they emphasized painting contemporary life and its light and changing qualities.
Reputed “Group Of Who” a few years ago in this newspaper by arts writer James Adams, the Canadian Impressionists lost his repute in time.
They are found again in 2020. After two disappointing delays because of pandemic restrictions, a special exhibition to celebrate their achievements will finally open at the National Gallery of Canada on Feb.2.
This exhibition will highlight 108 works of the famous 36 artists which include James Wilson Morrice , Maurice Cullen, Clarence Gagnon, Marc-Aurèle de Foy Suzor-Cote, Helen McNicoll, and even Emily Carr and many others of the Group of Seven who began painting as impressionists.
A version a little bit different from the exhibition has already considerably succeeded in Europe where it opened in 2019 to give reviews in Munich, Switzerland, Montpellier, Lausanne, Germany, and France. Enthusiastic Germans were so excited that they lined up to get into Kunsthalle, with 100,000 taking in the Canadian Impressionists.
“Wherever the exhibition travelled, the overwhelming reaction of the German, the French, the Swiss was, ‘How did we miss to know about this Group?” says Ash Prakash, The Toronto-based art collector who serves as the exhibition patron.
Katerina Atanassova, (The National Gallery’s senior curator) fell in love with the works of the Canadian Impressionists, when with the assistance of Prakash, she curated the mega exhibitive work of the Morrice. The 75-year-old Prakash once donated dozens of paintings of the Morrice to the National Gallery and he believed for a long time that Canadian artists such as Thomson, Carr and Morrice should be as respected and admired as Monet and other European masters.
“It is no denying the fact that most Canadians are of the opinion that the Group of Seven as the canon, or the pioneering group of artist, says Sasha Suda, National Gallery Director and Chief Executive officer. “I don’t know about the perception of the public about what came before them”.
“Those were the really brave people in those days, Atanassova says. Many believed that undertook long and difficult journeys to travel abroad to learn from the best teachers. “ it was appalling to go abroad. Their accomplishment is worthy enough to acknowledge them and feel proud of them. but we only then acknowledge the achievements of an artist when is accepted abroad.