Selected from the Confederation Centre Art Gallery’s collection of Canadian art, this exhibition is focused primarily on landscape-based work by artists who have travelled extensively domestically and internationally. These diverse works date from the 1830s through to 2010 and range from traditional en plein air paintings of scenery, to highly representational photographs, to video and conceptual projects that respond to place and our cultural interventions in those environments.
Included are multiple works by the 19th century immigrant watercolourist, George Ackermann (who had also worked in the family publishing company, Ackermann & Co., London—the publisher of the Quebec views by W.P. Cockburn); a topographical watercolour of Quebec City with ships at anchor and the Niagara Falls subjects, all by unknown artists; the watercolours along the St. Lawrence River by M.A. Fortin; the Kathleen Daly painting of Canmore, Alberta; the George Pepper paintings from trips to Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia and the Nass River in British Columbia, and two oil sketches by J.W. Morrice, painted on small cigar box lids, that capture moody impressions of Italy and France. However, the core of the exhibition is formed by nearly two dozen, small, oil on panel, landscape paintings by Robert Harris. These atmospheric views have an exquisite colour palette and clearly reflect his varied impressions of the British Isles, France, Switzerland, New England and Canada. Many of these Harris panels were acquired as gifts from the late Mary Beth Harris, whose generosity enriched the collection enormously. Another Harris oil sketch, North Bridge and Waverly Station, Edinburgh, 1901, was a gift from Mary Beth Harris’s mother, Frieda Harris, to Dr. Moncrieff Williamson, the first director of the Confederation Centre Art Gallery, on the publication of his book Robert Harris: An Unconventional Biography. After Williamson’s death in 1996, his family donated this painting to the Gallery in his memory.
Exhibiting the Harris landscapes along with paintings by A.Y. Jackson, one of the best known of the Group of Seven painters; Judith Scherer’s choreographed video, Tread Lightly, set in Gros Morne National Park; a drawing from Allan MacKay’s Swiss Series; Stacey Spiegel’s abstract monoprints of swirling bodies of water that incorporate sections of printing plates for maps or charts; Bill Vazan’s conceptual landscape project, Cross Canada Line, 1969, or the photographs of Thaddeus Holownia or Edward Burtynsky, provides an opportunity to see shared interests in landscape and place over several generations of artists and the many methods of engagement with such a vast subject available in the collection. Now five decades in the making, this public collection is a growing and tangible embodiment of our mission to research and interpret the work of this country’s visual artists.
Kevin Rice, Director,
Confederation Centre Art Gallery