Category Archives: winnipeg art gallery

Ten Things About Muriel

I’ve heard Muriel Richardson’s name hundreds of times but realized recently I didn’t really know very much about her.

Photo of Muriel Richardson from the Western Pictorial Index
I’ve been employed for eight years at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Our main auditorium is named after Muriel Richardson.

Muriel Richardson Auditorium at the Winnipeg Art Gallery

I’ve repeated Muriel’s name more times than I can count as I’ve directed guests to the auditorium named after her, or shown visitors the artwork in the auditorium’s foyer. But I’d never really stopped to think about who exactly Muriel was, and why the most frequently used room at the art gallery was named after her. So I decided to find out. I discovered that………..

1. Muriel was the first woman to run a large Canadian corporation. She took over the leadership of James Richardson and Sons Ltd. in 1939 following the death of her husband James Armstrong Richardson. She was fifty three years old at the time and continued to run the family company for the next twenty seven years.

2. According to an article in the Toronto Globe and Mail she was a trailblazer, pragmatic and full of common sense. She is credited with defining the essential character of both her family and the corporation.

3. She introduced a company pension plan and group insurance plan during her presidential tenure well before most other Canadian corporations had implemented such benefits for their employees. 

Photo of Muriel Richardson from the Richardson Wealth website

4. She believed that to those to whom much is given, much is also required. In keeping with this principle she established a charitable foundation for the family firm which continues to donate very generous sums each year to worthy causes usually in a discreet way.

5. She was born in Ontario as Annie Muriel Sprague in 1890 and moved to Winnipeg in 1919 after her marriage to James Richardson. According to the Dictionary of Canadian Biography she was not only James’ life partner but also his business confidante which meant she was familiar with the complexities of the family business when her husband died.

An artwork showing five generations of the Richardson Family from the Winnipeg First website.

6. Muriel had four children George, James, Kathleen and Agnes. Agnes was the first female chancellor of Queens University. James served as a member of Canada’s Parliament. Kathleen accumulated a lengthy list of awards and honours for her charitable work most notably in support of the arts. George was his mother’s ultimate successor in the family business.

7. Muriel’s grandson Hartley who currently heads the family corporation tells a story about his grandmother’s pivotal decision to take over leadership of the family company. In 1939 just after her husband’s death she was on her way to a meeting to discuss the future of James Richardson and Sons. As she stopped to glance in mirror just outside the meeting room she overheard the men inside discussing how this would no doubt be the end of the company. How could they proceed without a leader? In an instant Muriel decided she would be the new president. She walked into the boardroom and announced her decision.

8. Muriel served on the Queens University board of trustees for nearly thirty years and was the honorary chair of many civic, provincial and national charities. She was the board chair of the Winnipeg Foundation a registered charity established in 1921 dedicated to the social improvement of the city. According to a Winnipeg Art Gallery timeline, in 1967 Muriel purchased the land where the current Winnipeg Art Gallery is located in order to help the building of the new gallery along.

9. In a June 1957 article Macleans magazine dubbed Muriel the shy baroness of brokerage. She was the first woman inducted into the Canadian Business Hall of Fame.

10. Muriel died on January 8th 1973. She is buried in the St. John’s Cathedral Cemetery.

Portrait of Muriel Richardson from a private collection

In the future when I am in the Muriel Richardson Auditorium with Winnipeg Art Gallery guests, I will be sure to take a moment to show them a photo of Muriel and tell them something about the successful and accomplished woman for whom the auditorium is named.

Other posts………

Women Soldiers

Her Worship

As Important As Her Husband




Filed under History, Winnipeg, winnipeg art gallery

Missing the Winnipeg Art Gallery at Christmas

I worked at the Winnipeg Art Gallery for about eight years before the pandemic forced its closing. Many of the pieces of art at the gallery became like old friends to me. I was a tour guide and my knowledge of certain works in our collection was fairly intimate after I had talked about them with literally thousands of people of all ages. Some of the old friends I am missing particularly now during the Christmas season are………..

The Tobit Tapasteries which often hung in the Winnipeg Art Gallery lobby during the Christmas season. The work of a Flemish artist commissioned by King Henry VIII the woven wonders retell the story found in the Book of Tobit an apocryphal Scripture. At one point I knew every detail of the long and intricate and action-packed Tobit narrative as it is illustrated in the tapestries as well as the exciting story about how the tapestries were once stolen from the Winnipeg Art Gallery.  You can learn about that in a post I wrote about the tapestries five years ago called A Magic Fish, Seven Dead Husbands and Thieves That Weren’t That Bright. 

Early Snow by Tom Thompson

This painting by Tom Thompson showing a snowy scene in Ontario was one I often spent a long time looking at with gallery visitors.  I told them the story of Tom Thompson a talented and gifted man who died far too young but is credited with inspiring Canada’s famous Group of Seven artists to consider the joy of painting outdoors and the importance of capturing on canvas the rugged natural wonder of Canada’s stunning scenery. The texture, the colours, the movement and the mood of Early Snow perfectly convey Tom Thompson’s strong feelings about the beauty of Canada’s north in winter.

Adoration of the Magi by Jorg Stocker 

The Magi in this painting by German artist Jorg Stocker are different ages and each represents a different continent- Europe, Asia and Africa. Stocker also shows an earlier scene from the Magi narrative because, in the distance on the road, we see the journey of their entourage as it made its way to visit the Holy Family.

The painting was actually an early kind of advertisement because the people in the painting are dressed in the famous silk and wool products for which the city of Ulm was famous. Ulm was the artist Jorg Stocker’s hometown. The painting often sparked a discussion with my tour participants about how artists have reenvisioned this scene over the centuries to make it meaningful for people living in their time. 

Winter Camp by Mary Yuusipik Singaqti

In the haunting accompanying narrative for this piece by Mary Yuusipik, she describes the hard times she experienced during the 1950s as her family followed the caribou and set up winter camp in the isolated interior of the Back River area of Nunavut. Mary had two young children and miscarried a third as she walked. She buried that child in the snow and kept right on walking. Food was scarce and Mary worried constantly that someone in her family would get tuberculosis.   Artist Mary Yuusipik reminds me of the Mary in the nativity story who also experienced such a hard journey just before giving birth.

Friends Rejoicing by Daphne Odjig

This is absolutely one of my most beloved pieces of art in the WAG collection.  It is by the incredibly talented Daphne Odjig who is sometimes called The Grandmother of Indigenous Art because of the way she mentored and supported young Indigenous artists and inspired them with her energy. Her bright and colourful Friends Rejoicing fairly shouts with happiness.  Everyone is jubilant over the birth of a child. Some people appear to be singing their joy just as angels sang at the birth in Bethlehem. For me, Daphne’s painting sends the message that the birth of every child is a reason for happiness and hope. 

Hopefully, by next Christmas, I will be back at the Winnipeg Art Gallery giving tours, but until then the memory of these marvellous works of art will have to sustain me. 

Other posts………….

And Mary You’ve Seen Hard Times

Picasso’s Grandmother is Canadian

In the Footsteps of Tom Thompson

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Filed under Art, Holidays, winnipeg art gallery

An Inspiration For Our Time

Linda by Elizabeth Wyn Wood- 1932- Winnipeg Art Gallery Collection photo from the Instagram page of Winnipeg Art Gallery director Stephen Borys

Meet Linda. Standing over six and a half feet tall she is an imposing and powerful figure. Her feet are broad and bare but planted firmly apart. Her hands positioned behind her back are large and work-worn. Her hair looks like she may have cut it herself with a razor. Her dress is plain and simple and a slight softening at the waist could suggest she is pregnant although the rest of her body looks sturdy and lean. The lines around her eyes hint of weariness and worry but they stare straight forward. Up close you notice how her jaw juts in a determined way.

Prior to the pandemic, I worked at the Winnipeg Art Gallery as a guide and this was a favourite piece of mine. Linda was created by Canadian artist Elizabeth Wyn Wood in 1932 who said the woman in the sculpture represented the resolve and spirit people had during the Depression of the 1930s.

A photo I took of Linda by Elizabeth Wyn Wood during the Defying Tradition exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery in 2018.

Recently Winnipeg Art Gallery director Stephen Borys featured a photo of Linda on his Instagram page and I thought it was an inspired choice. We are living in a time right now that requires plenty of the resolve and determination that Elizabeth Wyn Wood’s portrait of Linda displays. It reminds us that Canadians survived the Great Depression and emerged from it to build a brighter future for their families. The same outcome is possible as we face our current historic challenge.

Other posts……………..

Talk About Defying Convention

All in the Family

A Memorable Final Day


Filed under Art, COVID-19 Diary, winnipeg art gallery

The Important Thing About Easter

Easter Morning-La Petite Penitente, Brittany- by Mary Riter Hamilton- photographed at the Winnipeg Art Gallery

The important thing about Easter is it reminds us that life can always begin again. 

It is true that Easter is a time when many families get together to eat traditional food, and laugh about memories from their shared past, and catch up on what is going on in their lives  

But the important thing about Easter is it reminds us that life can always begin again. 

It is true that at Easter children dye eggs in a rainbow of color and wait excitedly for the Easter bunny to come and eat lots of rich chocolate treats

But the important thing about Easter is it reminds us that life can always begin again. 

It is true that Easter is a religious holiday when people of the Christian faith celebrate the inspiring life of Jesus and his tragic death and the story of how he miraculously reappeared to his friends

but the important thing about Easter is it reminds us that life can always begin again. 

It is true that this Easter we will not physically share a meal with our families.  Grandparents won’t be able to hug their grandkids after they find their Easter baskets. People of faith will not be able to meet in their houses of worship

but creation rich with the sight of budding trees and the honking sound of returning geese and the warm embrace of the spring sun will be a sign

that the important thing about Easter is it reminds us that life can always begin again. 

Friends Rejoicing by Daphne Odjig- photographed at the Winnipeg Art Gallery

With credit to The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown. 

Other posts…………

The Easters of My Childhood

Easter a Time of New Beginnings

Easter Story at the Winnipeg Art Gallery


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Filed under COVID-19 Diary, Holidays, winnipeg art gallery

Dave Makes a Mask And We Make a Movie

So yesterday, in the Globe and Mail, Dr Tam, Canada’s chief medical officer, and my husband’s hero, suggested it might be a good idea to wear a mask when you leave your home. Dr Tam said we shouldn’t use medical masks but make our own masks from things around the house.  Dave got right to work. Using the sleeve of one of his T-shirts and the elastic from an old pair of underwear he quickly fashioned a mask.  Later in the morning, he offered to let me use it when I went to the post office to mail my grandson’s birthday gift. I politely declined.

Monday night when we went for a walk along the river it was still jammed with ice.  Yesterday it was warmer and on our bike ride, we noticed the ice had broken loose and the river was flowing freely.

How can the Canada geese stand that icy water?

The Canada geese are returning in droves and without the usual traffic noise in the downtown area where we live their honking seems exceptionally loud. It is kind of reassuring to see the natural world moving in its usual cycles despite how unusual our current human situation is. 

Someone in our condo building is a budding artist and when we get in the elevator it’s a surprise to see what new artwork they may have posted there. It’s always related to the pandemic in some way.  I thought this one which appeared yesterday was quite clever.

This is our set where we spent more than three hours filming on Monday.  Our church is having online services and we were asked to contribute a Scripture reading and song for the Good Friday service. Since we didn’t think it was safe to meet at the church we decided to record ourselves at home, something that was a bit of a technical challenge for the two of us, but we figured it out. That’s the Scripture taped to the television.  My laptop sat on the pillows.  This set up allowed us to read the assigned verses looking up at the camera rather than down into a Bible. We also had to record a song. Since we lack the technical expertise to edit video we had to do an entire run-through of the Scripture reading and song without making too many mistakes. That was hard! I’m sure we made at least a dozen recordings before we figured out how to film ourselves properly and had a recording without too many errors.  COVID-19 is certainly ramping up my technology skills.  I’ve learned how to change views on Facetime calls and use a Google drive link to send large files.  I can enter a zoom meeting, participate in one, and even host a zoom session. And now I can make video recordings of myself on my computer. 

Giving folks from Siloam Mission a tour at the art gallery

I found out I’d been temporarily laid off from my job as a learning facilitator and tour guide at the Winnipeg Art Gallery this week and it made me sad but  I TOTALLY understand.

Photo of me doing art with children on the Winnipeg Art Gallery site

The gallery has been closed for weeks. Even when it opens again it will probably take a while before education, business and community groups will have the resources, impetus or time to book tours. Their institutions will be focused on beginning the process of recovering from the impact of the pandemic.  Although we have been temporarily laid off we were assured that when things return to some kind of normalcy the gallery will put us back to work. I am glad many staff members can continue to work. On the WAG website you can see the wonderful things they are doing to keep in touch with our members and visitors with a whole variety of interesting activities and information pieces. 

Guiding a group from Winnipeg’s Chinese community at the art gallery. I am in the back row just to the left of Picasso’s portrait. 

I absolutely love my job at the Winnipeg Art Gallery and I will treasure the fact that my last day of work before the gallery closed was such a memorable one.  

Kent Monkman’s The Scream which depicts indigenous children being rounded up and taken away to residential school

In my final months at the gallery, I was able to guide literally hundreds of children, adults and teens through the Kent Monkman exhibit, a groundbreaking collection of work that helped visitors see Canada’s history from an indigenous perspective. It was such an honour.

Doing a music activity with kids at the Winnipeg Art Gallery

I am incredibly grateful to the Winnipeg Art Gallery for giving me the privilege of working there.  I have learned so much. My work there has opened up new writing and speaking opportunities for me.  I have met such wonderful people. I hope to be back before too long. 

Literally thousands of people who work in the fields of art, music, theatre, literature and dance are losing their jobs.  The institutions and organizations they work for will need tremendous support both during and after the pandemic. We will all need to do what we can to continue to support them. 

Other posts………

Siloam Mission at the Winnipeg Art Gallery

Spring in Winnipeg’s Exchange District

My Movie Debut


Filed under COVID-19 Diary, winnipeg art gallery

Memorable Final Day

I’ve given my last tours of the amazing Kent Monkman exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. It’s still on view till February 23 but I am off on a trip and won’t return till after the exhibit is gone. Taking people through Monkman’s  Shame and Prejudice has been one of the highlights of my eight years of working at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. I think between touring groups for my job at the WAG and touring friends, family, acquaintances and people from my church, I have given more than thirty tours of the exhibit. My last day of work was certainly a memorable one for me.On my first tour, I was with a group of students from a rural high school.  They kept noticing details in the work I hadn’t seen before.  I’ll give you one example.  In his Res House installation Monkman addresses the issue of sports teams appropriating indigenous names and symbols by having the father figure wear a Chicago Black Hawks jersey. He has reimagined the hockey’s teams’ insignia using the face of Miss Chief.  Miss Chief is a trickster, two-spirited character who appears in many of  Monkman’s works. But what I had never noticed before was that Miss Chief’s initials were in her black hair.  One of the students pointed out the MC to me and there it was plain as day.  

Then at the end of the tour, an indigenous student approached me and asked to shake my hand.  He told me how much he had liked the tour and how impressed he was with Kent Monkman’s work. He told me he had been in the care of Child and Family Services since he was a baby and had been in dozens of different foster homes. We had a fairly long talk about some of his experiences, some of his hopes for the future, and how he had learned to become an advocate for himself.  It was such a valuable and important learning experience for me. 

I was sorry to have to break off our conversation because I had another tour waiting this time a group of government employees.  They were very engaged and appreciative and they filled me in on some additional information about the various pieces of art. For example, in the painting Luncheon in the Grass or  Dejeuner sur l’Herbe, which Kent says in a CBC interview addresses the issue of violence against indigenous women, one of my tour participants spotted the clerical collar on the dashboard of the expensive car in the painting. It also features a licence plate with a symbol of the early Christian church and rosary beads wrapped around the mirror. I had never noticed the clerical collar before.

One man on that same tour was very inspired by the story of how as an elementary school student in Winnipeg, Kent Monkman had been part of a program that sponsored children to take art lessons at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.  The gentleman wanted to know more about similar current programs.  I had to cut off that interesting conversation because another tour awaited me. 

My third group of the day were university students.  We started in the room with Kent’s riveting and disturbing painting The Scream about children being forcibly taken from their families to attend residential schools.  Several of the young women in the group were in tears as we discussed the artwork, one indigenous student was weeping openly.  I stopped for a moment so she could collect herself before we went on to the next area of the exhibit.  This group had so many great comments, observations and insights.  

Another memorable thing about the day was that a warm and wonderful art teacher from Japan who is doing a study term in Canada and has been serving as an intern at the Winnipeg Art Gallery for many months now was shadowing me on my tours to prepare for giving a tour of the Kent Monkman exhibit in the Japanese language to some of her fellow students from Japan.  She drew a sketch of me during one of the tours.  

My feet were sore but my heart was full after giving three back to back tours of Kent Monkman’s Shame and Prejudice A Story of Resilience.  I couldn’t have asked for a better way to end my experience with the groundbreaking exhibit.   

Other posts………

A Different Kind of Nativity Scene

The Scream


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Filed under Art, winnipeg art gallery

Books and Brushes – Please Join Me!

If you’ve been at McNally Robinson Booksellers recently you will have seen this attractive display of Margaret Atwood’s books. The display is advertising Books and Brushes a feature we run several times a year at the Winnipeg Art Gallery in cooperation with McNallys. Books and Brushes is a book club and an art gallery tour combined. On February 4th at 11:30 at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, we will be discussing Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments which won the 2019 Booker Prize. 
I’ve been reading The Testaments and looking for artwork currently on view at the WAG that might connect with the novel. It hasn’t been hard to find lots of interesting pieces that relate to scenes in the book.

I’ll try to pique your interest in joining us by showing you four of the art pieces we will take a look at.

Afternoon Tea or The Gossips by John Everett Millais- 1889

Esther and Ahasuerus by Melchior Lorck- 1560

Tree Movement by Emily Carr 1937-1938

Delilah by Kent Monkman and Chris Chapman-2017

We will be looking at lots of other art pieces too and of course, having a lively discussion about the novel.  If you’d like to join us you can get all the details and register here.  Hope to see you next week. 

Other posts……………

Esther and Ahasuerus- A Storyboard in a Painting

Emily Carr- Talk About Defying Convention

The Family of Jesus Portrayed in a Controversial Way

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Filed under Art, Books, winnipeg art gallery

A Different Kind of Nativity Scene

This afternoon I will be giving a group from my church a tour of the Kent Monkman exhibit Shame and Prejudice at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. One of the installations we will spend time looking at is a nativity scene that is part of an area of the exhibit called The Res House. In one of his lectures Kent Monkman explains how in this artwork he has set the birth of Jesus in a house on one of Canada’s First Nations’ reservations. Kent clearly shows the less than ideal condition of the housing. One of the first things you notice is that the Mary, Joseph and Jesus figures all have the same face and it is the face of artist Kent Monkman.  Kent explains that he was visiting the Natural History Museum in New York when he realized they had used one male face on all the indigenous mannequins in every single diorama, no matter what First Nation they belonged to, or even whether they were male or female.  So Kent thought “well, then I’m just going to put my head on everybody now.”

The baby is lying on a Hudson’s Bay blanket. The arrival of fur trading companies like the Hudson’s Bay in Canada changed the lives of Canada’s indigenous people forever. 

There is Coke in the baby’s bottle.  Could that be because the container of milk on the shelf costs nearly $20 on some reserves? Kent has food on the shelves in the house with their real prices.

In the background you can see a child being taken away to residential school.  Will that be the eventual fate of the new baby? 

There is bottled water in the house- a reference to the fact that there is still a boil water advisory in some Canadian communities and people have to drink bottled water because their water source isn’t clean or safe. 

Joseph is wearing a Chicago Black Hawks jersey and it can start a discussion about how professional sports teams have appropriated indigenous names and symbols.  Kent has replaced the face of the man on the jersey with his alter ego, trickster character Miss Chief who appears in many of Kent’s pieces in the Shame and Prejudice exhibit. 

The Mary figure is holding a rosary in her hand.  Instead of Jesus on the cross, there is a beaver. Beavers with praying hands look heavenward on the top frame of the exhibit which features Latin words that mean Love Conquers All.  

Adoration of the Magi by Jorg Stocker 1510

The placement of this installation is also interesting because just behind it in an adjoining gallery is another nativity scene that is very different from the one Kent has created.  

There are so many details in Kent’s nativity scene to notice and discuss. I think the tour I give my church will be the 15th one of the Monkman exhibit I have led and each time I learn something new from the visitors I show Kent’s work.  I am excited about what the people from my church may find this afternoon. 

Other posts………….


The Scream


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Filed under Art, Holidays, winnipeg art gallery

Three Women – Love This Piece

One of my favourite sculptures at the Winnipeg Art Gallery is this one of three ordinary village women in rural Quebec. I think they are either going home from the market with their bags and baskets full of produce or maybe they are going off to the market with things they plan to sell there. They walk with purpose, perhaps into the wind, managing their loads with their strong arms.  The sculpture is called Femmes de Caughnawaga and was made in 1924.  From the way their robes are wrapped around them I like to think it is a chilly autumn day.  Maybe they are hurrying home down a country road to make supper for their families. 

Marc- Aurele de Foy Suzor – Cote in his studio- photo from the McCord Museum

The sculpture was made by Marc-Aurèle de Foy Suzor-Coté a Canadian who travelled to France in the 1890s and studied art in Paris. He returned to Canada in 1907 and used his paintings and sculptures to show the people and landscape of Quebec’s Eastern Townships. The women in this sculpture are from his village. 

Crouching Venus by Pietro Barzanti 1890 is in the same gallery as Femmes de Caughnawaga. 

Three other sculptures in the gallery where Femmes de Caughnawaga is displayed are of idealized women from Greek and Roman mythology.  The sculpture of ordinary Canadian women going about their daily routines in rural Quebec offers a refreshing contrast. 

Look for them the next time you are at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. 

Other posts………..

So Tiny

What’s an Amauti

Talk About Defying Convention

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Filed under Art, winnipeg art gallery


prayer installationA new exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery by artist James Webb is called Prayer.  The installation is an ongoing project that began in Cape Town South Africa in 2000.  The 10th version currently at the Winnipeg Art Gallery was created in the city of Chicago.  The exhibit consists of dozens and dozens of recordings of prayers spoken by people of many different religious affiliations. There are prayers said by Catholics, Lutherans,  Occultists, Episcopalians, Hindus, Bahai, Presbyterians, Mormons and Methodists.  There are prayers spoken in Buddhist temples, Jewish synagogues, Muslim mosques and evangelical churches. 

james webb prayerVisitors can take off their shoes and walk down the red carpet listening to the prayers arising from all the different speakers or they can sit down in front of one speaker and listen to the variety of prayers emanating from it.

prayer james webbJames Webb is a musician and visual artist from South Africa and has a degree in comparative religions.  As he moves his project to one city after another Webb creates a collaborative community of people from many different faiths and provides a sort of spiritual and religious landscape of that city.  As I experienced the Chicago version of Prayer I thought how interesting it would be to create a similar installation with people from the city of Winnipeg.  

Prayer will be in Winnipeg till May.  Be sure to stop in and experience it on your next visit to the Winnipeg Art Gallery. 

Other posts………..

A Prayer For a Golf Tournament

An Artist’s Prayer

A Prayer for the New Year

Two Artists on Prayer


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Filed under Art, Religion, winnipeg art gallery