Tag Archives: winnipeg art gallery

Farewell to the French Moderns

I gave my last two tours of the French Moderns exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery on Thursday and Friday.  The Thursday tour was for thirty three university students taking an art history course and the Friday tour was for eighteen grade three students from a private Winnipeg school.  The university students didn’t talk much.  They listened intently though and many were busy making notes since they had an assignment to do based on the tour.  The eight year olds were buzzing and full of queries, comments and ideas. They were so excited to be at the art gallery!

I have toured many different kinds of groups through the French Moderns exhibit since June, from three year olds to senior citizens. In the process I have come to know many of the people in the paintings as friends.  During my last two tours I bid a fond farewell to them. 

The solemn and charming siblings in The Elder Sister by William Bourguereau. 

The three amazingly strong and beautiful women in Jules Breton’s The End of the Working Day. The colorful Egyptian entrepreneur in Jean-Léon Gérôme’s The Carpet Merchant of Cairo. 

The perfectly posed and winesome Young Girl on A Bench by Édouard Manet.

The entrancing American philanthropist Florence Blumenthal in Giovanni Boldini’s Portrait of a Lady. 

The doting mother and her loving child in Berthe Morisot’s portrait of her cousin Mme Boursier and Her Daughter

The pensive and lovely Madame Léon Maître by Henri-Fantis Latour. 

The aloof distracted woman and the woman throughly engaged with her child In The Omnibus by Mary Cassatt. 

The hardy windblown French farmer in Shepherd Tending his Flock by Jean-Francois Millet.The mysterious veiled lady in Marie Laurencin’s Woman in Scarf.

When I go to the Winnipeg Art Gallery this morning for a meeting the process of taking down all these paintings of my friends will have begun.  I am going to miss them. 

Other posts……….

Japanese Art and the Impressionists

Tantalizing Tidbits

Without Him We Might Not Even Recognize the Name Monet


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Grandfather I Have Something To Tell You

“You never  kill an animal just for fun,” artist Michael Massie’s grandfather taught him when he was just a boy.  “You take its life only if you need it for food.”  
One day when Michael was twelve or thirteen he was camping with his grandfather, cousins and siblings.  While his grandfather went to get supplies the children were left alone for a time.  Michael  noticed a small bird called a Tom Tit, not much bigger than his thumb.  He grabbed his pellet gun and shot it. The other kids told him what he’d done was wrong.  Michael buried the little bird but never told his grandfather that he had killed it. He always felt badly about that. Making this sculpture was a kind of confession in stone thirty years later. Describing his art piece Michael says one hand is gloved to show how he covered up the truth the other is bare to say he is being open and confessing. He holds the little dead bird in his hand. 

When I take children on a tour of the current SakKijâjuk exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery this art piece is always their favourite!  They love the story that goes with it.  I heard it first from the exhibit curator Dr. Heather Igloliorte.  I like the idea of using a piece of art to reach across time and space to confess and apologize to someone you love. 

Other posts……………

Inuit Art Isn’t Just Soapstone Carvings

Stories in Stone

A Very Personal Story

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A Tale of Two Portraits

They dominate the room!   “Who are those people?”  That’s what visitors on my tours say immediately upon entering the third gallery of the French Moderns show currently at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. They are drawn to a pair of huge portraits, one of a man and one of a woman facing each other on the gallery’s walls.  

kees van dongen william davenportThe man is William S. Davenport. He was an American dental surgeon living and working in France in 1925 when his portrait was painted.  The tiny red mark on his suit lapel represents the French Legion of Honor he was awarded for his work in the American Ambulance Core during World War I as the assistant chief of the facial and jaw reconstructive surgery division. He served as a dentist to the Belgian royal family and was one of the first dentists to have his testimony in court accepted for using dental records to identify human remains. According to his obituary Mr. Davenport was also an artist himself and good friends with the American painter James Whistler. 

The artist who painted Mr. Davenport was Kees Van Dongen. He was born in Rotterdam where he worked in the family brewery, studying art in the evenings.  He moved to Paris in 1897 and remained there for most of his life. He was part of the Fauve art movement whose artists were known for the use of bright color hence the bright red and blue markings on Mr. Davenport’s face. Kees Van Dongen was really more famous for painting portraits of women than men and when he was in his eighties painted an iconic one of French actress Brigitte Bardot. bondini florence blumenthal

The woman is Florence Meyer Blumenthal.  Florence was also an American living in Paris.  She and her husband had one home in Paris, and another in the South of France but still maintained a home in New York as well.  Florence Blumenthal was also awarded the French Legion of Honor in her case for donating money to a Paris Children’s Hospital and establishing the Prix Blumenthal a grant awarded each year to a young French artist to aid them financially and to draw the United States and France closer together through the arts. Florence was a sister to the publisher of the Washington Post Eugene Meyer and an aunt to his daughter Kay Graham(think the movie The Post) who eventually became the paper’s publisher. Florence and her husband George donated millions of dollars to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York as well as to New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital in memory of their son George Jr.  who died as a young boy.  

The portrait of Florence Blumenthal was painted by Giovanni Boldini an Italian artist who moved to Paris in 1872 and was good friends with impressionist painter Edgar Degas. Interestingly like Mr. Davenport, the dentist, Boldini was also good friends with the  American artist James Whistler and Boldini’ s portrait of Whistler is a part of the Brooklyn Museum collection as are the portraits of Davenport and Blumenthal. In almost all his portraits of women Boldini has them pose in evening gowns.  According to an article in The Daily Art Magazine Boldini used swirling loose brushstrokes to have those gowns take on a life of their own.  His nickname was The Master of Swish

If you haven’t already been to see the French Moderns exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery you need to come.  These portraits are only two of the many intriguing artworks on display. 

Other posts…..

Who is She? 


Inuit Art Isn’t Just Soapstone Carvings

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Who Is She?

marie laurencin woman in scarf“Who is she?”  On Saturday after I gave my first tour of The French Moderns exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery a woman stayed behind to ask me about a painting that intrigued her.  It was called Femme au Foulard or Woman With A Scarf. She thought the woman in the painting looked sort of mysterious and melancholy. The gallery visitor had never heard of Marie Laurencin the artist and I had to confess I hadn’t either.  I thanked the woman for her interest and promised I’d find out more about Marie Laurencin.  


Marie Laurencin in 1912

I’ve since learned that Marie was a French artist who lived from 1883-1956.  She was an illegitimate child raised in Paris by her aloof and authoritarian mother and a mostly absentee father who was married to another woman. Like the great impressionist painter Renoir who got his start painting porcelain, Marie did porcelain painting in Sevres France before returning  to her Paris birthplace and studying oil painting.  


Group of Artists painted by Marie Laurencin in 1908 features Marie with artist Pablo Picasso to her left and writer Guillaume Apollinaire to her right. Picasso’s model and muse Fernande Olivier is leaning on her hand.

In Paris Marie met the painters Pablo Picasso and Henri Rousseau and began a six-year relationship with Guillaume Apollinaire a poet, playwright and short story writer and a great fan of the cubist art movement. Their relationship ended in 1913. Marie married a German baron in 1914. She would later divorce her alcoholic husband and never married again. 

alice in wonderland illustration by marie laurencin

Alice in Wonderland illustration by Marie Laurencin

Marie was a painter, printmaker and stage designer.  She illustrated the 1930 edition of Alice in Wonderland.

Portrait of author Somerset Maugham by Marie Laurencin

In 1936 she painted a portrait of her friend the British playwright Somerset Maugham who had a home on the French Riveria. She usually charged men double what she charged women for portraits but her Maugham portrait was a gift to him.  

Le Bal élégant, La Danse à la campagne by Marie Laurencin- 1913

Marie often exhibited with Cubist artists but her paintings weren’t typical of that art movement. Her work has been described as soft, pastel and feminine a real contrast to the vivid, geometrical work of many Cubists. A friend once said….. “there is something of a fairy wand in the brush of Marie Laurencin.” 


Tete de Jeune Fille or Head of a Young Girl by Marie Laurencin 1909

Interestingly in 1983 a hundred years after she was born the Musee’ Marie Laurencin opened in Nagano, Japan to display more than 600 pieces of Marie Laurencin’s work collected by Masahiro Takano. The museum has since been relocated to Tokyo. 


Ile de France 1940 by Marie Laurencin

There are only a handful of women whose work is displayed in The French Moderns exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. I knew about three of them, Mary Cassatt, Berthe Morisot and Gabriele Münter, but thanks to my inquisitive tour participant on Saturday I will now be able to tell future visitors I guide about a fourth woman artist Marie Laurencin.

Note: An excellent article in the Women in World History Biographical Encyclopedia provided a great deal of information about Marie Laurencin. 


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Inuit Art Isn’t Just Soapstone Carvings

Boa-Tea by Michael Massie

Boa- Tea by Michael Massie- 1996- The Rooms Provincial Art Gallery

In the early 1990s when a small photograph of a metal artwork created by Inuit artist Michael Massie appeared in  the journal Inuit Art Quarterly the magazine received a record number of letters from outraged readers claiming metal was an inauthentic Inuit art material.  Michael Massie has been a pioneer in changing people’s attitudes about what can be considered Inuit art. A variety of his work is currently on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. 

Dr.Heather Igloliorte

Dr. Heather Igloliorte the curator of SakKijâjuk . Behind her is a map of Nunatsiavut.

Last Saturday I took a tour of the beautiful new exhibit SakKijâjuk at the Winnipeg Art Gallery with its curator Dr. Heather Igloliorte.  She told us that if art is made by an Inuit person it is Inuit art.  

Sacrilege by Jason Shiwak- 2016 – pen and ink

The artwork in SakKijâjuk was created by artists living in the Inuit communities of northern Labrador in an area called Nunatsiavut.  These artists have had little opportunity in the past to exhibit or sell their work.  The word SakKijâjuk means ‘to be visible’ and the exhibit gives Nunatsiavut artists a chance to become just that.

Artist Gilbert Hay talks about his lithograph Inuksuk

I was fortunate last Saturday to hear a number of the artists talk about their work in  person. 

Baskets by Drusilla Rich, Garmel Rich and George Rich

The variety of work in the exhibit is dizzying and delightful.  There are beautiful baskets, mitts and moccasins.

Northern Lights by Doris Saunders- 1996- Embroidery

You can see dolls, coats, photographs, embroidery, lithographs, and wood carvings. 

A Whale Drifted Into Harbor by James Anderson-1996- Slide Transparency

There are slides, collages, drawings made with felt tipped pens and others with colored pencils. 

Nanuk with Seal by Dinah Anderson- 2000- Italian marble and steatite

There are carvings but they are made not only from soapstone or serpentinite but with granite and ivory and marble as well. 

Kamek by Inez Shiwak and Jane Shiwak -2009- beaver fur, moose hide, wool, beads

Inuit art may not be what you thought it was.  Come to the Winnipeg Art Gallery and find out all the exciting things it can be!

Other posts……….

Inuit Fashion Show

Cut in Stone

Stitching a Story


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A Serendipitous Coincidence

manitoba history journalI have a book review in the latest edition of The Manitoba Historical Society Journal and the magazine couldn’t have come out at a more serendipitous time. no man's land

The book I was asked to review was No Man’s Land- The Life and Art of Mary Riter Hamilton, by Kathryn A. Young and Sarah McKinnon.  Mary Riter Hamilton a Canadian artist working in the first half of the 1900s led a fascinating life and was instrumental in helping to establish an art gallery in Winnipeg in 1912. 

easter morning by mary riter hamilton

Easter Morning-La Petite Penitente by Mary Riter Hamilton- c. 1900

The serendipitous thing is that an artwork by Mary Riter Hamilton, painted when she was studying in Europe at the turn of the century, is part of a new show that just opened at the Winnipeg Art Gallery called Defying Convention. That means I will have the perfect opportunity to share everything I learned about Mary’s interesting life story while writing my book review, with the people I take on tours at the gallery. 

What a wonderful coincidence!

Other posts……….

Talk About Defying Convention

Women Painting Men

A Serendipitous Sail


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Stories in Stone

The skylight area of the Winnipeg Art Gallery is currently home to eight stunning pieces by Inuit sculptor Abraham Anghik Ruben all made from Brazilian soapstone. 

Raven Creation by Abraham Anghik Ruben

Many of the Ruben sculptures depict Inuit legends and stories. On his website Ruben writes: “I have chosen to be a story teller for my people through the medium of sculpture. . . . I no longer speak my mother tongue, yet I need to do my part in carrying on the stories and cultural myths, legends and spiritual legacy of our people.” With his art Ruben is carrying on in the tradition of his mother Bertha Thrasher who he describes as a story teller and a keeper of traditions.  

Sedna the Enchantress by Abraham Anghik Ruben

The story of Sedna is told in the piece Sedna The Enchantress.  Sedna was a young Inuit woman whose father put her in a boat to try to help her escape from her husband who had turned out to be someone different than she thought when she married him.  When the vengeful husband tries to sink their boat the father cuts off all his daughter’s fingers and pushes her into the sea in order to save his own life.  Sedna becomes a mermaid and the ends of her fingers turn into all the creatures that live in the ocean.  

Raven Creation Myth by Abraham Anghik Ruben

The story of The Raven is illustrated in three pieces in the current Ruben display.  The Raven created the world from a snowball that formed on his wing. The snowball grew and grew. As Raven landed on the snowball his beak moved back to reveal a human head and his wings moved back to reveal feet and hands.

Raven Creation Myth by Abraham Anghik Ruben

Raven formed the plants and trees from bits of clay.  A pea pod plant burst open and people came out. Raven made animals from clay.  One that didn’t turn out as Raven planned was a large serpent and Raven killed it to protect his human creations. He threw stars into the sky to remind human beings that he was their creator and protector. 

First Flight- Abraham Anghik Ruben

Two contrasting pieces in the exhibit depict a shaman.  In one the shaman is joyfully turning into a bird

Silent Drum by Abraham Anghik Ruben

and in the other the shaman has died and has been buried in a shallow grave.

Shaman and Bear Spirits by Abraham Anghik Ruben

In an interview given for a  2013 article in the Arctic Journal Ruben says both his grandparents and great grandparents were keepers of the shaman tradition. ”The shaman is an intermediary between the physical and spiritual world. But also carries on oral traditions, myths and legend,” Ruben explains. 

Shaman’s Transformation by Abraham Anghik Ruben

Ruben traveled by dog team as a child with his parents hunting polar bears, caribou and beluga whales.  In 1957 when he was seven years old he was sent to residential school and remained there for almost a decade. It was an experience Ruben describes as “the dark night of my soul.”

Raven Spirit Protector by Abraham Anghik Ruben

After leaving school he went to the University of Alaska and studied at the Native Art Center there.  He has gone on to become one of Canada’s most successful and well-known Inuit sculptors. 

His work is displayed next to that of Norvel Morriseau at the Winnipeg Art Gallery in an exhibit entitled Shaman Stories. 

Other posts……..

Oviloo Tunille

Bright Bold and Beautiful




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