OTTAWA, ON, March 10, 2021 — Beginning this Thursday, March 11, works by the artists of the celebrated Group of Seven—Lawren Harris, J. E. H. MacDonald, A. Y. Jackson, Arthur Lismer, F. H. Varley, Franklin Carmichael and Franz Johnston—as well as Emily Carr and Tom Thomson, among others—will be on view at the Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt, Germany, as part of the exhibition Magnetic North: Imagining Canada in Painting 1910–1940. The exhibition, which brings together 87 paintings and five films from several Canadian collections and institutions, will subsequently be hosted by the Kunsthal in Rotterdam, the Netherlands in fall 2021.
Magnetic North: Imagining Canada in Painting 1910–1940 is co-organized by the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, the Art Gallery of Ontario, and the National Gallery of Canada. This exhibition is provided within the context of Canada’s Guest of Honour presence at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2021. A richly illustrated catalogue is also available in English, French (available in Canada only), and German. With the support of the Department of Canadian Heritage, Canada’s presence as the guest of honour will be featured at the 2021 Frankfurt Book Fair, which runs from October 20 to 24, 2021.
National Gallery of Canada Director & CEO, Dr. Sasha Suda, PhD, Art History, said that “the presentation of the exhibition Magnetic North at the Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt and at Kunsthal in Rotterdam will provide incredible exposure for the finest masterpieces from some of Canada’s key museums and cultural institutions. This is a historic moment, as these prodigious works will be brought together for the very first time in Europe. Visitors will discover the remarkable talent of these artists, who created an unprecedented pictorial style for the representation of Canadian landscapes in the first decades of the 20th century. These significant artists have marked the history of art in Canada and their works are ambassadors par excellence for our country.”
The year 2020 marked the 100th anniversary of the group’s first exhibition in Canada. Visitors will be able to admire an impressive selection of paintings made between 1910 and 1940, a period of nation building and rapid industrial expansion. These paintings and sketches embody the dream of an independent dominion, a dream very much at odds, then and now, with Canada’s colonial history.
The exhibition will also comprise five films, including two by contemporary Indigenous artists: How a People Live, 2013, a documentary by filmmaker Lisa Jackson and Mobilize, 2015, a short film by artist Caroline Monnet.
In her one-hour film, Jackson tells—through interviews, archival films and photos dating back more than a century—the history of the Gwa’sala—’Nakwaxda’xw First Nation, relocated from their traditional territories on the coast of British Columbia by the Canadian government in 1964.
Addressing Indigenous identity and representation, and “reframing Canadian history through a contemporary lens,” Monnet takes the viewer on a journey from the Far North to the urban south, “capturing the perpetual negotiation between the traditional and the modern by a people moving ever forward.” The 3-minute film is made out of NFB archival footage.
“The opportunity to share the captivating works of The Group of Seven and their contemporaries with new audiences is exciting,” said Stephan Jost, the Michael and Sonja Koerner Director, and CEO of the AGO. “In paintings of sublime mountains and unspoiled nature, these artists created a romantic fiction of uninhabited wilderness. This exhibition boldly infuses these works with contemporary relevance, offering visitors the opportunity to see these modern paintings through the eyes of contemporary Indigenous artists.”
The Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Canadian Heritage, said: “We are excited to share these legendary Canadian works with our European friends in Germany and the Netherlands. This amazing exhibition is just the tip of the iceberg of the Canadian creativity on display during our year-long campaign that features our arts and culture across Germany as part of Canada’s role as Guest of Honour Country at the 2021 Frankfurt Book Fair. We invite you to join us!”
Dr. Philipp Demandt, director of the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, declared: “We thank our partners in Canada for the trust and enthusiasm they have shown for our idea to show the masterpieces of Canadian modernism in Germany for the first time. We are very pleased to be jointly presenting these magnificent paintings to our visitors at the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt and to be expanding reception of international modernism. For us, it is particularly important to also shed light on the current critical exploration of the popular Group of Seven. On this note, we are extremely grateful to the artists Caroline Monnet and Lisa Jackson for their key contributions to this exhibition.”
The works are drawn primarily from the collections of the National Gallery of Canada and the Art Gallery of Ontario, with 23 and 38 paintings respectively. The other works in the exhibition are from the Art Museum at the University of Toronto, Library and Archives Canada, the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, the Ottawa Art Gallery, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Museum London, the National Film Board of Canada, the Judith and Norman Alix Art Gallery, the Robert McLaughlin Gallery, the Vancouver Art Gallery, and Victoria University.