The AGO’s new exhibition, “Mystical Landscapes: Masterpieces from Monet, van Gogh and more”, features close to 90 paintings and 20 works on paper by 36 different artists. There is a sizeable number of popular artists included with the aforementioned Claude Monet and Vincent van Gogh, including Paul Gauguin, Edvard Munch, Emily Carr, Lawren Harris, Georgia O’Keeffe, Egon Schiele, and Marc Chagall. Most of the artwork on display originates from 1880 to 1930.

Exhibition curator, Katharine Lochnan, gave an inspiring talk at the Media Preview where she spoke of her vision in bringing together these landscapes, and how they consider the intersection of art, nature, and mysticism. Disillusioned with traditional religious institutions, many artists across Europe and North America searched for an unmediated spiritual path through mystical experiences.

The exhibition opens with a crowd-pleasing triptych by Gauguin: “Vision of the Sermon (Jacob Wrestling with the Angel”, “The Yellow Christ”, and “Christ in the Garden of Olives”. This is closely followed by a fantastic van Gogh (The Olive Trees), which Lochnan describes in the audio guide as being ecstatic in its flowing turning lines and depiction of the olive orchard. That this piece is placed near Gauguin’s “Christ in the Garden of Olives” makes it even more interesting to contemplate.

Following are a number of Monet’s paintings, including his much beloved water lilies, here reminding us of its reference to the lotus plant often used in Buddhist imagery. The informative gallery notes bring attention to Monet’s fascination with Buddhism and the concept that all things are in a constant state of change. Monet’s “Grainstack” paintings in this part of the exhibition particularly caught my attention with their beautiful observation of light and sublime quality.

Also of note, is Emily Carr’s triptych towards the end of the exhibition (“Sky”, “Overhead”, and “Sea and Sky”). These works are oil on paper, and we get a remarkable sense of Carr’s spiritual experience in these immediate depictions of nature.

“These masterpieces convey experiences that cannot be put into words” says exhibition curator Katharine Lochnan. “They express the artists‘ mystical experiences of something greater than themselves, and allow AGO visitors to contemplate their own deeper realities.”

“Mystical Landscapes: Masterpieces from Monet, van Gogh and more” is on at the AGO from October 22 2016 and runs to January 29 2017, before opening at the Musee d’Orsay, Paris, in spring of 2017.

For more info about the exhibit visit www.ago.net/mystical-landscapes

Photos by Emma Lau

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