J.E.H. MacDonald? A Tangled Garden

December 16, 2023 - May 12, 2024

Unknown, Sketch after The Tangled Garden, n.d., oil on paperboard, Collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery

In 2015, the Vancouver Art Gallery announced the acquisition of ten previously unknown painted sketches attributed to J.E.H. MacDonald, one of Canada’s most celebrated painters and a founding member of the Group of Seven. Soon after, experts in the wider arts community began to publicly raise questions about the authenticity of the ten works. Experts took sides and the Gallery ultimately postponed a planned exhibition in order to investigate the works further. This included bringing in leading art historians, handwriting experts, and the scientific resources of the Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI).

J.E.H. MacDonald? A Tangled Garden will not only provide an answer regarding whether the ten sketches can be attributed to MacDonald, but will also allow visitors a rare and detailed look into how that conclusion was reached. Most notably, the Gallery will be working closely with the CCI to present their soon-to-be published findings. Visitors will be able to assess the key evidence and come to their own conclusions.

A significant installation of oil sketches by the Group of Seven drawn from our permanent collection will help to contextualize the contested works. Members of the Group often sketched in oil paint in the field, before returning to their studios to complete larger, finished paintings. These oil sketches, richly represented in the Gallery’s collection, are treasured for their freshness, energy and vibrant colours.

Organized by the Vancouver Art Gallery and curated by Richard Hill, Smith Jarislowsky Senior Curator of Canadian Art

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