Past Exhibitions

Legacies of Impressionism in Canada: Three Exhibitions

January 31 to April 19, 2009


Maurice Cullen
Brittany Farm, circa 1893
oil on canvas
Collection of Vancouver Art Gallery
Gift of Dr. Rodrigo A. Restrepo


One of Canadaís finest landscape painters, Maurice Cullen (1866-1934) was born in St. Johnís, Newfoundland and raised in Montreal. At the age of 22, Cullen travelled to Paris to study painting. He absorbed the Impressionists?devotion to the fleeting aspects of light and Claude Monetís gardens at Giverny.

Cullen brought his new approach back to Quebec in 1895. He was the first painter to imagine the Canadian landscape through compositions of pure, unblended colours. Cullen became particularly enamoured with, and famous for, depicting the play of light on snow. ďOne justification for living is the understanding and love of beauty,?he once said. Cullen went on to become an important teacher at the Art Association of Montreal and a member of the Canadian Art Club. His work influenced many of his contemporaries.

Cullenís art, its influence and the legacy of Impressionism in Canada is explored in three complementary exhibitions.

Maurice Cullen and His Circle
Maurice Cullen and His Circle presents nearly forty oil paintings from the collection of the National Gallery of Canada by Maurice Cullen and his contemporaries, James Wilson Morrice and William Brymner. Contrasted with the rural Canadian winter landscapes for which Cullen is so well known, these works reveal the complex relationships that figure in the urban and rural boundaries around such cities as Montreal and Quebec at the time. The exhibition also features works by artists whom Cullen is known to have influenced, including his stepson, Robert Pilot, and a future member of the Group of Seven, A. Y. Jackson.

Maurice Cullen: Intimist
Drawn from private holdings, Maurice Cullen: Intimist includes twelve exceptional canvases by Cullen which survey the whole of the artistís career. Paying particular attention to his more intimate paintings, these works provide a different perspective on his career. The Vancouver Art Gallery is extremely grateful for the loan of this significant group of paintings.

Exploring Light: Canadian Landscapes from the Permanent Collection
The third exhibition titled Exploring Light: Canadian Landscape Paintings from the Permanent Collection presents late 19th and early 20th century oils from the Vancouver Art Gallery collection. James Wilson Morrice and Maurice Cullen were among the first Canadian painters to bring the bright colours and fragmented brushwork of the Impressionists to Canada, in the 1890s. Both artists made the radical decision to apply these techniques to Canadian landscape paintings, producing images infused with light. Their legacy is seen in works by the Group of Seven and others in this exhibition who further used light as a metaphor for spiritual experience. A particular highlight is an important group of paintings by James Wilson Morrice, a generous gift of Maurice and Mary Margaret Young.

Together, these exhibitions give audiences a unique opportunity to view works by Maurice Cullen alongside works by some of his contemporaries as well as the future generation of artists that he inspired.

Maurice Cullen and His Circle is organized by the National Gallery of Canada and curated by Crystal S. Parsons.

Maurice Cullen: Intimist and Exploring Light: Canadian Landscape Paintings from the Permanent Collection are organized by the Vancouver Art Gallery and curated by Ian Thom, senior curator, historical.