The Art Gallery of Ontario launched two new ambitious exhibitions: Alex Colville and Michelangelo: Quest for Genius. We had the opportunity to discover the groundbreaking works of the influential Canadian artist, Colville, along with 30 rare drawings from the High Renaissance master, Michelangelo.
Earlier this summer, the AGO opened its definitive exhibition, Alex Colville, which explores the ongoing impact of the visionary, late Canadian painter. Curated by Andrew Hunter, this collection (nearly 100 pieces) marks the largest showcase of Colville’s work. The iconic and enigmatic paintings, Horse and Train (1953), Elm Tree at Horton Landing (1956), and Target Pistol and Man (1980) are among the gems for public view.
As a respected WWII veteran and war artist, Colville (1920 – 2013) drew his inspiration from the world around him, transforming seemingly mundane figures and events of everyday life into archetypes of the modern condition. Women appear as central figures in the landscape of his paintings. Most of the female body in Colville’s works is based on his beloved wife of 70 years, Rhoda Wright, who served as the artist’s unfaltering muse. Animals also played a leading role in Colville’s daily life, and hence in his art. The artist viewed animals as a symbol of innocence, though they can act as powerful warning beacons and signaling potential tragedy – most notable in Horse and Train. Much of Colville’s craft had a direct impact on contemporary filmmakers such as Stanley Kubrick, Wes Anderson, and the Coen Brothers. Much like the artist, the detail-obsessed Kubrick placed four of Colville’s paintings in critical scenes in The Shining. Can you spot them?
Let’s rewind back about 500 hundred years, at the height of the Italian Renaissance, you can find works at the gallery from the man who instilled the very definition of the archetypal Renaissance man. Apart from the Michelangelo that most people knew (the one who created the statue of David and the Sistine Chapel ceiling), the AGO brings forth the artist’s 30 rare sketches that not only personify his triumph, but also reveal his struggle, setbacks, and rejection – a fitting event to mark the 450th anniversary of his death. The majority of the pieces are from the Casa Buonarroti collection – Michelangelo’s mansion in Florence that was subsequently turned into a museum by his nephew.
Throughout Michelangelo’s formidable 77-year career, he worked as a painter, architect, sculptor, engineer, and even as a poet! His passion filled his desire to draw daily and constantly to perfect his skills. The artist even (illegally) dissected cadavers to help understand the realism of a human body. Conveniently, paper had become affordable for the first time during his generation. As a result, Michelangelo drew on any piece of paper at hand, on both sides, and even over older drawings. You can check out many example of this at the gallery. My personal favourite piece at the exhibit would have to be Cleopatra, where Michelangelo sketched the contorted face of the dying Cleopatra on the back – only a recent discovery revealed in 1988.
Using 3D computer animation and technology provided by LG Electronics, the exhibition also brings to life several of Michelangelo’s unfinished architectural designs.
Although most of his works were never completed, Michelangelo had left behind a lasting legacy. French sculptor Auguste Rodin regarded Michelangelo as his spiritual and artistic father. The exhibit also includes sculptures from Rodin, which pays homage to his idol, deemed to be Il Divino – “The Divine One”.
Both Alex Colville and Michelangelo relished lasting careers as artists. As Michelangelo once said, “Drawing is the root of all knowledge”, the exhibits highlight this notion and epitomize the two greats’ arduous lifetime search for perfection in their works.
Exhibition dates: August 23, 2014 – January 4, 2015
Michelangelo: Quest for Genius
Exhibition dates: October 18, 2014 – January 11, 2015