A Question of Geography

Stephen Borys, Director and CEO. exhibition curator

One last selection criterion for 100 Masters that had to be addressed was geography, and, more specifically, the alignment of certain artists with the regions in which they have lived and worked, and consequently, where their work has been collected. As I travelled across the country, colleagues often recommended works by the artists from that particular region such as Christopher Pratt and Mary Pratt in St. John’s; Joseph Légaré and Jean-Paul Lemieux in Quebec City; Paul Peel and Greg Curnoe in London; Henry Glyde in Calgary; William Kurelek in Edmonton; Emily Carr and Lawrence Paul in Vancouver; and E. J. Hughes in Victoria. In many instances, the sense of place and belonging with these artists and their work superseded the first inclination to downplay geography. Some lenders felt strongly that their selections should correspond with the artists connected to their region and collections while others focused on a different set of criteria. The geographical factor, particularly in a country as large as Canada, is difficult to avoid when one is gathering artworks from across the nation. In the vaults of the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, looking at dozens of paintings by Paul-Émile Borduas and Charles Gagnon; at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, considering the Group of Seven and their circle; studying Lionel LeMoine Fitzgerald and Wanda Koop at the Winnipeg Art Gallery; or surveying the work of Jeff Wall and Emily Carr at the Vancouver Art Gallery, it is difficult not to be swayed by place. There are, of course, a few exceptions to this pattern—the Jack Shadbolt from Charlottetown and a Claude Tousignant from Edmonton—which only served to enrich the dynamic mosaic evolving as the checklist took shape.

Lionel LeMoine Fitzgerald, Canadian, 1890-1956, Poplar Woods, 1929. Oil on canvas, 71.8 cm x 91.5 cm
Winnipeg Art Gallery, Winnipeg. Acquired in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Arnold O. Brigden, G-75-66


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