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Sunday, 13 August 2017

Beyond Airbrushed from Art History: Mystical Landscapes

Continuing the current trend of exhibitions which explore aspects of the spirituality of modern art (such as Divine Beauty: From Van Gogh to Chagall and Fontana and still small voice: British biblical art in a secular age), Mystical Landscapes: Masterpieces from Monet, Van Gogh and more was organized by the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto in partnership with the Musée d'Orsay in Paris to explore the mystical experiences of 37 artists from 14 countries, including Emily Carr, Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, Piet Mondrian, Claude Monet, Edvard Munch, Georgia O'Keeffe and James McNeill Whistler.

The years between 1880 and 1930 were marked by rampant materialism and rapid urbanization. Disillusioned with traditional religious institutions, many European, Scandinavian and North American artists searched for an unmediated spiritual path through mystical experiences.

Seeking an order beyond physical appearances, going beyond physical realities to come closer to the mysteries of existence, experimenting with the suppression of the self in an indissoluble union with the cosmos. It was the mystical experience above all else that inspired the Symbolist artists of the late 19th century who, reacting against the cult of science and naturalism, chose to evoke emotion and mystery.

The landscape, therefore, seemed to these artists to offer the best setting for their quest, the perfect place for contemplation and the expression of inner feelings.

Contemplation, the ordeal of the night or of war, the fusion of the individual with the cosmos, and the experience of the transcendental forces of nature, were stages in the mystical journey on which this exhibition invited viewers to take.

Highlights in the exhibitions included Vincent van Gogh's Starry Night over the Rhone at Arles from 1888, which prompted him to write about feeling “a tremendous need of —shall I say the word— I go outside at night to paint the stars”; Paul Gauguin's vivid Vision of the Sermon (Jacob Wrestling with the Angel) from 1888, painted during his sojourn in rural Brittany; Claude Monet's Water Lilies (Nymphéas) from 1907, which he painted after hours of Zen-like meditation beside his Japanese water garden; Edvard Munch's The Sun, created to inspire students in the wake of his well-publicized nervous breakdown between 1910-1913; Georgia O'Keeffe's Series I - from the Plains from 1919, which shows the terrifying power of an approaching thunderstorm in Texas; and a series of mystical lithographs by the recently rediscovered French artist Charles Marie Dulac, which illustrates St. Francis of Assisi's Canticle of Creation.

Click here for the detailed presentation of this exhibition on the website of the Musée d'Orsay.


Scott Walker - It's Raining Today.

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