Canada has had a long struggle with identity, especially within its artwork. In the 1920s a group known as the Group of 7 formed in efforts to create a Canadian aesthetic. The group's inspiration was Tom Thomson who's painting "The Jack Pine" was an important work that at first defined the iconography of the group. However, Thomson died in 1917, before the Group of 7 was established, during a fishing trip within his canoe at Canoe Lake. It was thought to be a true Canadian death within the wilderness and he became a martyr of sorts for the others within the group. The group strove to differentiate themselves from European schools of painting and art in order to truly create a Canadian way of landscape. Their first exhibition in Paris was not well received. The members were Lawren Harris - who painted this work in the image, A.Y. Jackson, Frank Johnson, Arthur Lismer, J.E.H MacDonald, Frederick Varley and A.J. Casson. Often thought to be part of the Group of 7 is Emily Carr who painted west coast landscapes however she was only friends with Harris and decided to focus on painting the disappearing Indigenous cultures and their lifestyles.
This particular work by Harris was painted later in his career when he became more invested in Theosophy and Eastern philosophy. He often painted the great white north as white was the colour of purity and the ideal within Theosophy. It was thought that the north held a cosmic power to help purify the soul.
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First Thursdays and Yoga at the AGO
The AGO continues to awe and delight visitors but it’s their unusual events and activities that impress the locals.
The first event they have is yoga in the Galleria Italia. Taught by some of Toronto’s best yogis, this is a unique way to get a workout.
The second event the AGO hosts is First Thursdays, held on --you guessed it--- the first Thursday of every month. After hours, mix and mingle over music, art and a pop-up talk based on a different theme. Whether it’s Canadiana, or feminism, these events are a way to get local under a Toronto icon.
I went to Toronto for the first time in the fall of 2010. I expected it to be colder, but I wasn't exactly thrilled that Toronto's fall was like New York's winter. So I was happy to spend a good amount of time indoors in galleries and museums. AGO was one of them, and as a huge Frank Gehry fan I was even happier to spend an almost ridiculous amount of time staring at the AGO building.
Eventually, I walked toward the back and into the glorious Galleria Italia. All empty on a weekday, the play of wood and light was simply beautiful. It will make you smile, adore the sun, and just stay.
Frank Gehry’s buildings have reshaped the skylines of cities from Los Angeles to Bilbao in Spain, but it wasn’t until 2008 that he left his stamp on target=“_blank”>Toronto, where he was born and raised. His addition to the target=“_blank”>Art Gallery of Ontario, which includes a new curvilinear glass façade, was compared to “a crystal ship sailing through the city,” by the New York Times. Board the ship this summer and you’ll find visiting exhibitions of works by the Danish painter Vilhelm Hammershøi and the first Canadian retrospective of German photographer Thomas Ruff.
Architects, armchair or professional ones, may want to see some of the other notable contemporary buildings in the city including Daniel Libeskind’s addition to the Royal Ontario Museum target=“_blank”>Royal Ontario Museum and one of the largest and most important complexes by Mies van der Rohe, the Toronto-Dominion Centre.
Whether you are a culture vulture or night owl, Michael can customize his itinerary to Toronto at target=“_blank”>AFAR Journeys to suit your interests.