Category Archives: WInnipeg Art Gallery

Picasso Acrostic

We have a new Picasso exhibit opening tomorrow at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Before I start to give tours of the exhibit I need to learn more about the famous Spanish artist.

high school students and teacher in spain

With my students in Spain

I have a little background knowledge about Picasso because I once chaperoned a high school art trip to Spain and saw Picasso’s famous work Guernica in the Renia Sofia in Madrid and visited the Picasso Museum in Barcelona.

guerinca fair use

Guernica was painted by Picasso in 1937 to show his anger about the bombing of the town of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War.

However my trip to Spain was ten years ago so I need a refresher. I’m using an acrostic poem to help me remember interesting things about Picasso. picasso book for kidsThe information for this comes from a great children’s book I found called  Pablo Picasso Breaking All the Rules. 

picasso with sister public domain

Picasso with his sister Lola

P is for pencil.  Pencil is the first word Picasso said.  He could draw before he could talk. Picasso was born in Spain in 1881.

picasso public domain

Picasso in 1908

I  is for in love.  Picasso fell in love repeatedly. He had long-term relationships with many women including- Fernande, Eva, Olga, Marie-Therese, Dora, Francoise and Jacqueline and fathered four children Paulo, Maya, Claude and Paloma. 

C is for Carles Casagemas.  He and Picasso were roommates in Paris. They were so poor Picasso painted furniture and bookcases on the walls to make their apartment look less bare.  Carles committed suicide in 1901. This made Picasso very depressed and is said to be the reason he went through a blue period when he painted sad and lonely people in blue colors. 

Gertrude Stein portrait wikipedia

Picasso’s portrait of Gertrude Stein in the Metropolitan Museum of Art New York City.

A is for American woman.  Gertrude Stein was an American poet living in Paris who became Picasso’s friend.  He liked to hang out at her house.  That is where he met another famous painter Henri Matisse.  He and Picasso became life long friends. 

j. Cocker photo of picasso sculpture in chicago

Sculpture by Picasso in Chicago. Photo was taken  by J. Cocker. 

S is for sculpture. Picasso was a painter and a potter but he was also a sculptor.  His sculptures were often made of junk he found like parts of a baby carriage or old cake pans or milk pitchers or baskets. 

picasso self portrait public domain

Picasso self-portrait done in 1907.

S is for self-portrait.  Picasso painted more than a dozen portraits of himself in his life time.  If you look at all of them you can see not only how Picasso’s physical appearance changed but also how his style of painting changed.  

Les_Demoiselles_d'Avignon public domain

Les Demoiselles d’Avignon by Pablo Picasso – Museum of Modern Art, New York. Can you see the African masks on the two women on the right? Picasso painted this in 1907. 

A is for African art.  Picasso was very interested in the African masks and sculptures he saw in museums in Paris.  You can see this influence in his work in particular from 1906-1909. 

Other posts…….

Spanish Inspiration

A Personal Dali

The Dakota Boat

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Portraits in Plasticine

children's art clay faceA popular new activity we have been trying at the Winnipeg Art Gallery on our school tours is portrait creation with plasticine.  It engages even the most reluctant visitors. I’ve found it works especially well with a series of portraits located quite close to one another in our Modernist Tradition gallery. I tell the kids they can try to recreate one of the portraits, combine features from several or create their own unique portrait. 

french professor by comfort Younger gallery visitors aren’t sure they would like to meet Professor Felix Walter whose portrait was done by Charles Fraser Comfort in 1933. They tell me the professor’s eyebrows are too bushy and his hands too bony. Older students however are intrigued by the professor.plasticence professor

Helen Esterman by Sir Jacob EpsteinThe kids invariably comment on Helen Esterman‘s long neck in this bronze portrait of her by Sir Jacob Epstein done in 1948.  plasticene portrait

rubber lips by janet werner

Junior highs seem especially enamored with Rubber Lips a 1997 work by Janet Werner. rubber lips clay model

farmer's daughter prudence hewardYounger students often identify most closely with The Farmer’s Daughter a portrait done by Prudence Heward in 1938. grade two farmer's daughterWe try to give time for some kind of art activity on every tour we do with students at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.  We want them to feel like they are artists too and can be creative just like the artists whose work they are seeing.  clay face junior highTheir plasticine masterpieces show just how creative so many of them are!!

Other posts………

I Love Art

Sunday Afternoon at the Winnipeg Art Gallery

What Talent


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Siloam Mission at the Winnipeg Art Gallery

touring people from sialom missionAs you can see from this photo I’m having a delightful time!  Recently I had the privilege of taking a group of people from Siloam Mission through the Winnipeg Art Gallery.  I usually give tours to school groups so I am always a little apprehensive when I’m asked to guide adults.  I needn’t have worried!  The experience with the Siloam community was great ! In this photo we are looking at a painting by the great Canadian artist Emily Carr. One of my tour participants knew so much about Emily and her work. I learned a lot from him. And there were other people on my tour who taught me things about Chagall and Rembrandt and Inuit whale bone sculptures and the art of scrimshaw. wanda koop with sialom mission peopleI had heard of Siloam and the work they do but I have never visited their location on Princess Street.  It was an eye-opening experience to meet and learn from the Siloam Mission folks.  In this photo we are looking at work by Winnipeg’s own Wanda Koop.  Wanda who has an important international presence in the art world hails from inner city Winnipeg and took her first art classes at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.  She won those lessons in a contest and it set her on the road to a remarkable career.  The Siloam visitors were so interested in her story. 

rachel with siloam group

Rachel Baerg the Head of Education at the Winnipeg Art Gallery led another tour group from Siloam

One of the reasons I love working at the Winnipeg Art Gallery is because it is a place that tries to be welcoming and invitational to everyone and as a result I get to meet so many interesting and amazing people.  I hope Siloam Mission will come back for another visit.  If they do I’ll be the first guide in line to offer to lead the tour. 

Note:  The photos in the post were taken by Al Foster and are used here with his kind permission.

Other posts………

What’s a Portscape?

The Dakota Boat

Whalebone Sculptures


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Art in Bloom- Women in Bloom

raeburn portrait of a ladyThe Winnipeg Art Gallery is awash with flowers this weekend. A special event called Art in Bloom has paired floral designers and their creations with works of art. I attended yesterday and there was almost too much beauty to take in so I decided to focus on artwork featuring women. What kind of floral art had been created to accompany their portraits?
raeburn portratit of a lady

Scottish artist Henry Raeburn’s  Portrait of a Woman is a painting I often stop at when I am giving art gallery tours and together with my visitors we try to figure out everything we can about the lovely woman pictured.  Who is she? What kind of family does she come from? What is she thinking and feeling? Why did she have her portrait painted?floral design for portrait of a lady

Floral designer Heather Page created this arrangement as a tribute to Henry Raeburn’s lovely lady. She decided a traditional bouquet would best compliment the classic style of the portrait. st. cecilia

This 1630 painting of  St. Cecilia the patron saint of music by Giuseppe Puglia shows a cherub interrupting St. Cecilia’s violin playing and pointing out something in a sheaf of music. Did the beloved saint who inspired so many composers miss a note or play a certain passage with exquisite beauty? Exquisite beauty probably best describes the arrangement of delicate pink roses Saint Cecilia inspired floral designer Mari Loewen to create. farmers daughter prudence heyward

The Farmer’s Daughter is by Prudence Heward a Canadian artist who sometimes exhibited with The Group of Seven. Floral designer Michele Pitre tried to imagine what the girl in the portrait was looking at and decided she might be staring off into a cool forest. So Michele created this natural arrangement complete with birch bark and woodland flowers and grasses. 

friends rejoicing daphne odjig

Daphne Odjig’s Friends Rejoicing is a recent gallery acquisition and I love its vibrant, joyful colors. The happy women in the painting are celebrating the birth of a child.  Floral interpreters Paul Jordan and Jordan Maegher are both in management positions at The Forks in Winnipeg. The Forks is a place of friendship, connection and the bright diversity of the prairies. They felt Daphne Odjig’s painting reflected those values as well. woman and interior by ivan eyre

I was delighted to discover this floral arrangement by Bernice Klassen. Bernice and I attended the same church  for many years and our sons were the same age. Bernice was drawn to the orange hues in Ivan Eyre’s Women and Interior because orange is the color of courage.  Elements in Bernice’s bold arrangement also echo the vase of flowers in the painting. in he orchardOne of my favorite combinations was this arrangement by floral designer Dorothy Vannan created for English artist Dorothea Sharp’s impressionist work  In the Orchard that features a woman picking fruit. 

WAG LOBBYThe weather is going to be cold and wintry this weekend but you can escape at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.  There’s coffee in the lobby to warm your body and in the galleries you will find lots of lovely flowers and beautiful art to warm your soul. 

Other posts………..

Flowers of Costa Rica

Flowers of Jamaica

Trilliums- Food For the Soul

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The Easter Story at the Winnipeg Art Gallery

Two paintings displayed side by side at the Winnipeg Art Gallery have an Easter message for me. And Peter followed afar off by William Ashby McCloy

The first one is And Peter Followed From Afar Off  by American painter William Ashby McCloy.  It is a Good Friday scene.  Jesus is hanging upside down on a cross shaped like an X.  Over to the right you can see Jesus’ disciple Peter who denounced Jesus three times.  The cock that crowed after the three betrayals is pictured. So are the people Peter spoke with denying he had any connections to Jesus.  Could the man in front be Judas who betrayed Jesus for money? Artist McCloy gives us a grey, sad canvas full of rejection, violence and guilt. friends rejoicing by daphne odjig

Right beside the crucifixion painting is this vibrant and heart lifting canvas by the famous First Nations artist Daphne Odjig.  It is called Friends Rejoicing.  A group of women are celebrating the birth of a child. Easter is a time of rebirth and new beginnings and Daphne’s painting fairly bursts with the joy of a new beginning and the happiness it brings to a community of people. For me it beautifully captures the spirit of Easter Sunday a day to celebrate the resurrection of hope. 

I have no idea why the curator chose to place these two paintings side by side, but I love their juxtaposition.  One of our former guides at the WAG Perry Nodelman gave a talk at the University of Valencia in Spain in March.  He said that in an art gallery…..

…..where pictures are hung, how the floor plan of the galleries invites viewers to move through them— makes each picture part of a larger text, a larger story…

The way these two paintings are placed in the gallery makes them part of the Easter story for me. 

Other posts……….

Easter Retrospective

Blood Upon the Rose

A Storyboard in a Painting

Whale Bone Sculptures


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Hopeful Diversity- An Elementary School Class So Different From Mine

kornelson school steinbach grade three class mrs. kihn

My grade three class at the Kornelson School in Steinbach

I was guiding a group of students from a school in my hometown through the Winnipeg Art Gallery recently. At one point during the tour I watched the children busy making clay sculptures. Suddenly it struck me how very different this class looked than the classes I’d been part of in that same community as a child. Check out the photo above of my grade three class taken on the steps of Steinbach’s Kornelson School in 1960. All forty students in the photo are white. I can still remember the surnames of almost every child in my class. Virtually ever one was of Mennonite heritage.

The group I was touring at the art gallery fifty years later was incredibly more diverse.  The children came from a wide variety of racial, cultural and religious backgrounds.

I’m glad the community I grew up in has become much less homogenous in some important ways. Children are receiving a more realistic, balanced view of the world right in their own classrooms as they interact with youngsters who come from very different backgrounds than their own. That gives me hope for the future of our country and our world.

Other posts……..

Kornelson School

The Children Are Watching and Listening

Skin Color


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Cossack Connection

William Kurelek’s painting Zaporozhian Cossacks has been added to one of the collections on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. The title Zaporozhian Cossacks immediately connected with me personally. We stayed in the city of Zaporozhia in Ukraine during the week we were exploring the places where our grandparents had lived before coming to Canada as refugees.

Posing on a cossack horse in front of the historic oak tree near Zaporizhia Ukraine.

We also took photos at a giant oak tree that was a gathering place for cossacks in the Zaporozhia area hundreds of years ago. 

In his painting William Kurelek tells the story of a Zaporozhian cossack named Taras Bulba.   While a student in Kiev Taras’s son Andriy falls in love with the daughter of a Polish noble.  Andriy returns home and his father orders him to take part in a military campaign against the Poles.  During the battle Andriy discovers the girl he loves is among the Poles starving to death inside a city the cossacks have surrounded. Andriy smuggles food in to her.  His father kills him for his treasonous act. 

I think the man in the colorful clothes at the centre of the painting is Taras.  I am speculating Tarus is talking to a man named Yankel who was the informer that told Taras of his son’s betrayal. But he could also be talking to his own son Andriy who is begging for mercy. I think these are the cossacks dancing and singing on one side of the paintingwhile on the other side in the background we see the starving Poles inside the besieged city.  Could that be Andriy’s executioner in the left foreground wielding a sword?  I was particularly drawn to the group of men to the right of the executioner. They seem unperturbed by the chaos around them as they play music and pet a dog. I wish I could talk to William Kurelek about the painting and ask him what he has depicted in its various sections.  But as I always tell the children I guide at the gallery each viewer finds their own story in a piece of art. That’s what makes visiting an art gallery so interesting. 

Like me artist William Kurelek was from a Canadian Ukrainian immigrant family. Kurelek lived on a farm near Stonewall Manitoba as a child and when he was a teenager his family moved to Winnipeg where William studied art at the University of Manitoba. Later he took classes at a fine arts school in Mexico where he was influenced by muralists like Diego Rivera. He painted  Zaporzhian Cossacks as a tribute to his father in 1952 just before William moved to England.  William is probably best known to Canadians for his illustrations of the books A Prairie Boy’s Winter and A Prairie Boy’s Summer. 

Other posts…….

Another Chortitza Oak

The Dark Side of William Kurelek

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