Rembrandt van Rijn, A Woman at her Toilet (Heroine from the Old Testament). c.1632 –1633. Oil on canvas. National Gallery of Canada. Ottawa, ON. Purchased 1953, 6089. Photo © NGC
From its establishment in 1912 as the first civic art gallery in Canada to its role a century later as one of the leading visual arts institutions in the country, the history of the Winnipeg Art Gallery is inextricably linked to the principle that the cause of art is the cause of the people. The WAG is a product of the people and art that fill its spaces and make possible its reach into the community. The year 2012 marked the WAG’s centennial, and with it the opportunity to organize an exhibition that celebrates not just the Gallery’s rich art holdings, but those from across the nation. The result is 100 Masters: Only in Canada, a truly historic assembly of one hundred works of art from twenty-eight museums in Canada and two in the United States, along with ten pieces from the WAG’s permanent collection. The selection of the artwork is divided evenly between Canadian and non-Canadian works; among the loans there are fifty Canadian works and a combination of fifty European and American works spanning six centuries, from 1500 to 2010.
Among the works included in the exhibition are major paintings by Rembrandt van Rijn, Claude Lorrain, François Boucher,Thomas Gainsborough, Giovanni Paolo Panini, Maxfield Parrish, Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Andy Warhol, Gerhard Richter, and sculptures by Auguste Rodin, Alexander Calder, Richard Long, Carl Andre, and Mungo Martin. Canadian artists include Cornelius Krieghoff, Paul Kane, Antoine Plamondon, Paul Peel, James Wilson Morrice, Tom Thomson, Lawren Harris, Emily Carr, Jean-Paul Riopelle, Alex Colville, Mary Pratt, Jeff Wall, Jane Ash Poitras, Bill Reid, and Wanda Koop.
Curated by WAG director and CEO Dr. Stephen Borys, 100 Masters: Only in Canada enables us to focus on the individual work, obliging us to look again and enjoy. Despite the layers of art history and connoisseurship that may connect us to or separate us from the artwork, there always remains a way to access the physical work. There is no substitute for that experience of standing in front of the painting or sculpture, and it is in this way that 100 Masters delivers. With the gathering of more than one hundred paintings, sculptures, and decorative art pieces, spanning centuries and schools, the inclination to compare or contrast is easily displaced by the opportunity to reconnect with the singular object and its intrinsic values. As the WAG turns one hundred years, thirty museums from east to west have lent some of their finest works to mark this historic event—and we are invited back to the place where the object leads our exploration.