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Expanding Horizons: Painting and Photography of American and Canadian Landscape 1860-1918

June 18 - September 27, 2009


The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is going green. On the one hand, the Museum is presenting the exhibition Expanding Horizons: Painting and Photography of American and Canadian Landscape 1860-1918, from June 18 to September 27, 2009. The "environmentally friendly" design and catalogue provide a contemporary take on the subject. On the other hand, the Museum is hosting an exhibition simultaneously celebrating Frédéric Back, an activist-artist who, through his images and his films, has attempted to spread awareness about the intrinsic value of the natural beauty that surrounds us. Lastly, the Museum is taking this opportunity to announce its new policy of sustainable development.

The exhibition Expanding Horizons: Painting and Photography of American and Canadian Landscape 1860-1918 is the first exploration and analysis of this subject. The show examines American and Canadian landscape painting and photography in the years encompassing the American Civil War, the emergence of the Canadian Confederation and the close of World War I, an era of artistic and historical transformation coinciding with the westward expansion of Canada and the realization of the transcontinental political definition of both countries. Through the presentation and comparison of American and Canadian depictions of landscapes, the similar and differing intentions underlying their production, their complementary yet distinctive compositional structures and styles, and their prioritizations of subjects, the exhibition reveals much about both nations. Following its presentation in Montreal this summer, Expanding Horizons will travel to the Vancouver Art Gallery in October.

Close to 200 works by American and Canadian artists shed light on the national and regional identities of these two great countries, in which nature is ever-present. The generous co-operation of outstanding international public and private collections enabled the Museum to exhibit some of the most celebrated examples of landscape painting and photography ever produced by these two nations. American painting are represented by such artists as Bierstadt, Chase, Church, Cropsey, Duncanson, Eakins, Hartley, Hassam, Heade, Homer, Inness, Kensett, Moran, O'Keeffe, Remington, Sargent and Twachtman; and photography by Coburn, Curtis, Jackson, Muybridge, O'Sullivan, Stieglitz, Steichen, Strand and Watkins, among others. Outstanding paintings by Canadians, including works by Brymner, Carr, Cullen, Edson, Fraser, Gagnon, Harris, Jackson, Jacoby, Leduc, MacDonald, Milne, Morrice, Suzor-Coté, Thomson and Verner, as well as works by photographers, including Baltzly, Henderson and Notman, are also presented.

To better explore and analyze these distinctions, the exhibition has been divided into six thematic sections that, while inevitably maintaining a certain chronological flow, also serve to focus the viewer on the different attitudes towards the terms of encounter with nature in the two nations.

Nature Transcendent explores the spiritually infused idealization of landscape conjoined with meticulous detailing embraced by the Hudson River School and its followers.
The Stage of History and the Theatre of Myth explores the historical and mythic framework into which landscape was projected in the two countries and its concomitant depictions of Native peoples.
Man versus Nature investigates the manners in which the transformation, exploitation and destruction of nature were presented in the name of progress.
Nature Domesticated turns to the different vision of nature that evolved in North America as a consequence of its wide-open spaces and the importance of the city.
The Urban Landscape examines the rise of an alternative expression of the optimism and Providential destiny previously articulated by the evocation of Virgin Nature.
Return to Nature addresses the "rediscovery" of the transcendence of nature and its spiritual facets through landscapes by artists working within the stylistic terms of the twentieth century.

To read more about the themes of the exhibition, please click here. For related quotations please click here, and for a chronology, click here.

"Over and above art-historical research, how can we also integrate certain values that are common to us all? Each time we plan an exhibition, we are challenged by the absolutely essential issue of its relevance not only in scholarly, but also in wider, societal terms," declares the Museum's Director, Nathalie Bondil. "That is why I wanted to take a very environmentally friendly approach to the exhibition design and catalogue of this contemporary take on the subject of landscape, and asked Frédéric Back, a visionary who has always put his art at the service of the natural world, to act as spokesperson. The Museum, of course, intends this to be a long-term commitment involving every level of the institution."

In parallel with the exhibition Expanding Horizons, The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is presenting Frédéric Back: One with Nature from June 18 to September 27, 2009. The Museum has founded necessary to bring to light the unique work of this artist, an environmental activist before it became fashionable. This exhibition features two sketchbooks, fifty-four original drawings and nineteen original sequences of cels from the films The man Who Planted Trees and The Mighty River. Many works are being exhibited for the first time. Visitors will discover too L'horreur boréale (The Boreal Horror), created especially for the exhibition. Richard Gagnier Head of the Museum's Conservation Department, is the curator of the exhibition.



In keeping with the exhibition's theme of celebrating nature, the Museum is making a green shift for the design and catalogue of the exhibition by following the principles of eco-design.

Eco-design is a contemporary practice that takes into account the re-use capacity and composition of materials, with a bias towards local products. In order to implement this innovative initiative, the Museum has been collaborating with a number of professionals. For the exhibition design, two companies have accepted the challenge: architecture firm Atelier Big City in Montreal and molo design studio in Vancouver. The design concept emphasizes recyclable or reusable materials, and the construction methods are mostly mechanical. The exhibition's rest areas have been furnished with paper softseating, paper benches made out of 50% recycled content. Their organic and harmonious geometrical forms echo the design of the exhibition by creating actual interior landscapes.

To learn more about the exhibition's Eco-design, please click here.



Under the general editorship of Hilliard T. Goldfarb, a catalogue has been published by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts' Publishing Department, co-published and distributed internationally by Somogy Éditions d'art. This major 320-page publication, with 220 illustrations, includes essays by the members of the academic committee and constitutes a major contribution to the understanding of this period and its landscape art. The catalogue is available in separate English and French editions.

Two partners have been entrusted with various aspects of the catalogue: orangetango is responsible for the graphic design and Transcontinental Litho Acme for the printing. The catalogue mock-up has been printed on two different types of paper: for the text, rough paper composed of 100% post-consumer fibres, and for the reproduction of the works, a less absorbent paper composed of 30% post-consumer fibres. The printing involved aluminum printing plates, vegetable inks and FSC-certified paper; as many elements as possible surrounding the production of this publication is conform to the strictest regulations of good environmental management.

Please click here to read an excerpt from the exhibition's catalogue by Nathalie Bondil, Director and Chief Curator, The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

For more about historical context, excerpted from the Introduction to the catalogue, please click here.

List of authors:

Philip Brookman
Director of Curatorial Affairs
Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington
Brian Foss
Associate Dean Academic and Students Affairs
Faculty of Fine Arts, Université Concordia, Montréal
François-Marc Gagnon
The Jarislowsky Institute for Studies in Canadian Art, Université Concordia, Montréal
Hilliard T. Goldfarb
Associate Chief Curator
The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
Richard Hill
Assistant Professor
Art History and Visual Arts Department, York University, Toronto
Lynda Jessup
Associate Professor,
Department of Art, Queen's University, Kingston
T. J. Jackson Lears
Rutgers History Department, Rutgers University, New Brunswick (New Jersey)
Rosalind Pepall
Senior Curator of Decorative Arts
The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
Ian Thom
Senior Curator of Canadian Art
Vancouver Art Gallery


Preliminary texts
- Hilliard T. Goldfarb, Crossed Destinies: Manifesting the Paths of Nationhood in the United States and Canada through Landscapes, 1860-1918 (2700 words)
- Jackson Lears, Flexible Frontiers: Expansion, Contraction, Regeneration (5700 words)
Section 1 - Nature Transcendent
- Rosalind Pepall, The Most Northerly Horizon (3800 words)
- François-Marc Gagnon, The Forest, Niagara and the Sublime (3000 words)
- Works with entries
Section 2 - The Stage of History and the Theatre of Myth
- Lynda Jessup, Looking at Landscape in the Age of Environmentalism (3800 words)
- Richard Hill, Too Silent to be Real (3400 words)
- Works with entries
Section 3 - Man Vs. Nature
- Ian Thom, Painting and Photography in British Columbia, 1871-1916: Some Observations (3300 words)
- Works with entries
Section 4 - Nature Domesticated
- Brian Foss, Word and Image: North American Landscape in Nineteenth-century Illustrated Publications (3500 words)
- Hilliard T. Goldfarb, John Singer Sargent's Adventurous Summer in the Canadian Rockies: The Visit to the Yoho Valley in 1916 (3800 words)
- Works with entries
Section 5 - Urban Landscape
- Philip Brookman, "To Pavements and Homesteads Here"-Landscape, Photography, and the Transcendence of Time and Space (3900 words)
- Works with entries
Section 6 - The Return to Nature
- Introductory text (350 words)
- Works with entries
End matter
- Chronology
- Biographies of artists
- Lists of works / figures
- Bibliography



Hilliard T. Goldfarb, Associate Chief Curator at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, is the curator of the exhibition. He has been supported by an academic committee of specialists, including Philip Brookman, Curator of Photography and Media Arts, Corcoran Gallery of Art; Brian Foss, professor, Concordia University, Montreal; François-Marc Gagnon, professor, Director, Gail and Stephen A. Jarislowsky Institute for Studies in Canadian Art, Concordia University; Lynda Jessup, professor, Queen's University, Kingston; Jackson Lears, professor, Rutgers University, New Jersey; Ian Thom, Senior Curator, Historical, Vancouver Art Gallery.



Expanding Horizons has aroused a great deal of scholarly interest. A number of renowned U.S. and Canadian art historians and specialists have accepted our invitation to participate in a major symposium to be held September 18, 2009, from 9.30 a.m. to 4 p.m., in the Museum's Maxwell Cummings Auditorium, under the direction of Hilliard T. Goldfarb, Associated Chief Curator at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and chief curator of the exhibition. A round-table discussion will close the symposium, to which everyone is invited.

Speakers will examine the symposium's overall theme -- National Schools: Myth or Reality? -- from a variety of viewpoints.

T. J. Jackson Lears
Board of Governors Professor of History, Rutgers University
"Nations: Rethinking the Sublime in North American Landscape Art"
Nearly half a century ago, the historian Perry Miller dubbed the United States "nature's nation," arguing that a sense of boundless natural abundance lay at the heart of the American ethos. Subsequent research has suggested that Canadians shared this quasi-religious attachment to the land and that landscape artists on both sides of the border expressed their aspirations for transcendence through the traditional aesthetic of the sublime. But what happened when the sublime wilderness yielded to the industrial cityscape? This talk will posit some answers to that question.
Brian Foss
Professor of Art History, Faculty of Fine Arts, Concordia University
"The Picturesque: Ideals and Practice in the New World"
The grandiose rhetoric of the Sublime, associated with the vast potential and promise of North America's rugged scenery and hardy populations, was a mainstay of nineteenth-century Canadian and American landscape representation. At the same time, however, the pre-eminently British tradition of Picturesque scenery-an aesthetic in which nature was made predictable and safe by being subjected to certain rules of visual presentation-thrived throughout the century in North American art, literature and tourism. The Picturesque offered a means of using European visual conventions to deal with both the often intimidating geographical challenges of North America and the ways in which rapid industrialization was remaking the continent. How American and Canadian artists adopted and amended the Picturesque in the visual staging of their respective countries will be considered during this presentation.
François-Marc Gagnon
Director, The Jarislowsky Institute for Studies in Canadian Art, Concordia University
"Paysage et idéologie. Une perspective canadienne"
While aiming for the greatest "realism" possible, Canadian landscape painters and photographers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries-the period covered in Expanding Horizons-more or less consciously reflected the ideologies of their time: the transcendency of Nature, but also its exploitation, viewed as it was as an inexhaustible source of energy; Nature as a sublime spectacle, but also an obstacle to progress. This presentation will probe a number of Canadian examples.
Erica Hirshler
Croll Senior Curator of Paintings, Art of the Americas, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
"Revendiquer le territoire: l'impressionnisme en terre yankee"
In 1885, as he prepared to leave Paris, the American painter John Twachtman wrote to his friend and fellow artist J. Alden Weir, "If I must go home soon I hardly know what will take [the] place of my weekly visit to the Louvre . . . perhaps patriotism." Twachtman's statement was perhaps more meaningful than he realized. This paper will explore how Impressionist paintings created by artists from the United States who had trained in France came to be regarded as distinctively American.
Laurier Lacroix
Professor, Department of Art History, Université du Québec à Montréal
"L'américanité des artistes canadiens-français (1880-1915)"
Painters and photographers from the United States who stayed any length of time in Canada generally brought their attitudes to landscape along with them, considering that of their northern neighbour as a natural extension of their own country. For their part, French-Canadian artists developed a rather different perspective in relation to the nation to the south, regarding it as a place where they could find training -- or a market. Using such figures as Napoléon Bourassa, Ozias Leduc and Suzor-Coté as examples, the presentation will examine how French-Canadian artists constructed their relationship to the North American identity.
Phillip Prodger
Curator and Department Head of Photography, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts
"A Comparative Study of the Documentary Photography of First Nations by Edward Curtis and the Work of Robert Flaherty (Director of Nanook of the North)"
Richard Hill
Department of Visual Arts, York University, Toronto
"An Exploration of North American Aboriginal Concepts of Landscape"

Complete details concerning the symposium will be available on the Museum's Web site (mmfa.qc.ca/symposium) beginning August 15, as well as in its Cultural Activities brochure, to be issued in early September.



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