At the Gallery : Mystical Landscapes Exhibition at the AGO


There are some esteemed guests here in Toronto right now, in that some special paintings from around the world are currently hanging at the AGO. The show is called “Mystical Landscapes” and it’s here until January 29th, 2017. [EDIT: the show has been extended to February 12, 2017]

Taking over five years to come together, this exhibition includes works from great masters we know and love, Van Gogh, Monet and Gauguin, and many we’ve never heard of because the paintings have never before left the countries of their origin. In all, 37 artists from 14 countries are represented, in 90 paintings and 20 drawings, created over the 50 year span from 1880 to 1930. Each reflects the artist’s desire to capture the spiritual presence they sensed out of doors — in woods, on mountain tops and in the night sky.

Conceived and organized by the AGO’s senior curator of international exhibitions, Katharine Lochnan, together with several guest curators and in partnership with The Musée d’Orsay in Paris, this wonderful show invites guests to reflect on the role of nature and spirituality in their own lives.


↑ Curator Katharine Lochnan ↑

The show is generously spaced throughout a pathway of large connected rooms on the second floor of the gallery, allowing for an uncluttered peaceful viewing experience.

The work is divided into seven sections and there is a handheld monitor/radio thing, so you can hear stories and facts about what you’re looking at.

The first section includes three pieces by Paul Gauguin, painted in succession in 1888 and 1889. It is believed that the three were meant to be a triptych, hung together side by side, and this is the very first time ever that they have ever been brought together and shown the way the artist intended them to be seen.



↑ Paul Gaugin, Vision After the Sermon. ↑


↑ “Gothic Landscape”, one of a few Paul Serusier pieces. He was a member of the same group of painters as Gaugin. ↑


↑ Here is another Serusier “Farewell to Gaugin” ↑


↑ “Woman Asleep in the Enchanted Forest” by Maurice Denis. ↑


↑ “The Olive Trees” by Vincent Van Gogh.  It was painted in the gardens surrounding the asylum where he lived at his own request, from May 1898 to May 1899. ↑


Next is a section featuring eight pieces by Monet, including a couple from his famous water lily series, which he painted while contemplating his own water garden in northern France. Monet was drawn to Buddhism and water lilies are of the same family as lotus plants, which represent the path from ignorance to enlightenment.




In the corner of this area is a door leading to a separate room furnished with comfortable sofas and intended to encourage quiet meditation. The walls are lined with many pieces by French painter Charles-Marie Dulak (1866-1898), who was diagnosed with deadly lead poisoning, and chose to spend the remainder of his life creating devotional works of art. He joined a Franciscan friary where he lived and painted until his death at the age of only 32.





The next section is dominated by three large paintings in tones of cobalt, by Swedish artist Eugene Jansson. If I understood correctly, these are three of four paintings in a series, however the fourth couldn’t be brought to Canada without changing a certain law about artworks leaving Sweden.



This section also contains stunning drawings by an artist from Belgium named Fernand Khnopff (1858-1921). Aside from being amazed at his pieces on display, I was also taken by this artist’s work in general. I encourage you to plug his name into Google Images and see what I mean. I, for one, have found a new name to add to my list of favourites.



In the next area are paintings created during the first world war, depicting the dark passages of a mystical journey.


↑ This Marc Chagall, “Over Vitebsk”, is part of the AGO’s permanent collection, given by a generous family in 1970. ↑



↑ “Verdun” by Felix Vallotton

You leave the dark side to enter the light, where Edvard Munch’s “The Sun” takes pride of place …



Here are also several works by Canadian Emily Carr


Canadian artists are well represented in this show. Here is one by Group of Seven painter, Tom Thompson


The next picture is of a striking painting by Lawren Harris.

Readers might recall the AGO had a show dedicated to Harris this past summer, (which I wrote about here ) . This one wasn’t included in that previous exhibition, though, so I was glad to see it here. It usually resides in Canada’s National Gallery in Ottawa …



The final section included works that symbolized the heavens and spiritual forces beyond those on earth. These paintings were hung against a black background, making them seem to almost glow.


↑ “Crystal Castle at Sea” by Wenzel Hablik of the Czech Republic. ↑


↑ “Me and the Moon” by American Arthur Dove. ↑


Next is Van Gogh’s second painting in the show, “Starry Night Over the Rhone at Arles”. This was painted in 1888, two years before his death by unfortunate suicide at the age of 37. Apparently Van Gogh really enjoyed being out at night and would light his way with candles hanging from the brim of his straw hat …



Again, Mystical Landscapes will be on display at the AGO until January 29th, 2017. [EDIT: the show has been extended to February 12, 2017] . It is a ticketed and timed show, with tickets available via the AGO site or at the ticket desk located in the lobby of the gallery. (Note, if you’re on a budget, ticket prices for the show are reduced on Wednesday evenings, when general admission to the gallery is free.)

If you’re in Toronto this winter, I hope you make it to this beautiful show.

Following its stay here, it has only one other destination, The Musée d’Orsay in Paris. Well, all except for the middle painting in Gauguin’s triptych, so seeing the paintings hung together in Toronto is a once in a lifetime experience.


Thanks very much for reading,
xo loulou

Follow-up, in response to Helia’s question : This painting is called “Jotunheim” by Jens Ferdinand Willumsen from Denmark. It was created in 1892-1893 with wood, painted zinc and enamel on copper.