National Gallery of Canada
The National Gallery of Canada is one of Canada’s premier art galleries with an extensive, varied collection of paintings, drawings, sculptures, and photographs.
Although its focus is on Canadian art, it holds works by many noted American and European artists.
In 2005, a sculpture of a giant spider, Louise Bourgeois’s Maman, was installed in the plaza in front of the Gallery.
A Virtual Tour of the National Gallery of Canada
- “Northern River” by Tom Thomson
- “The Jack Pine” by Tom Thomson
- “Winter Landscape” by Cornelius Krieghoff
- “The Blizzard” by Cornelius Krieghoff
- “The Toll Gate” by Cornelius Krieghoff
- “A North View of Fort Frederick” by Thomas Davies
- “Death of General Wolfe” by Benjamin West
- “Waterloo Bridge: the Sun in the Fog” by Claude Monet
- “Northern Lights” by Tom Thomson
- “Sunset” by Tom Thomson
- “Sky (The Light that Never Was)” by Tom Thomson
“Northern River” by Tom Thomson was inspired by a sketch he completed in the winter of 1914 – 15. It is dominated by the foreground of dark trees, which partially obscures the view of the winding river flowing into the background.
It depicts a river in Algonquin Park, located between Georgian Bay and the Ottawa River in Ontario, Canada.
The painting was completed in Thomson’s home base in Toronto and was produced as he was entering the peak of his art career and is considered one of his most notable works.
“The Jack Pine” by Tom Thomson is a representation of the most broadly distributed pine species in Canada. The painting depicts a jack pine as a decorative and abstracted pattern. Its shape is boldly simplified against the sunset.
Thomson’s stylization demonstrates his command of decorative effects, developed during his years as a graphic designer. The sky and lake are painted in long horizontal brushstrokes that show, along with its nearly square format.
The pine, with its branches bowed, rises from a rocky foreground. Thomson made the tree appear larger by lowering the hills on the far side of the lake.
“Winter Landscape” by Cornelius Krieghoff portrays a Canadia landscape of the mid-1850s.
Krieghoff was skillful in painting the splendors of the Canadian landscapes as well as capturing the hardship of life for the people living at the edge of Canada’s new frontiers.
“The Toll Gate” by Cornelius Krieghoff portrays a Canadia winter landscape of the mid-1850s. Krieghoff was skillful in painting the splendors of the Canadian scenes as well as capturing the hardship of life for the people living at the edge of Canada’s new frontiers.
Krieghoff painted in several variants of the scene in this painting, where frontier people would “Running the Toll.” At the back of the sled is a passenger thumbing his nose at the toll collector.
“A North View of Fort Frederick” by Thomas Davies has the full title of “A North View of Fort Frederick Built by Order of the Honourable Colonel Robert Monckton, on the Entrance of the St. John’s River in the Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia”.
Most of Thomas Davies’s watercolors had similar long descriptive titles.
In this watercolor, we can see Fort Frederick, which was a British fort in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada. It was built during the St. John River Campaign of the French and Indian War.
Establishing Fort Frederick allowed the British to cut off the communications and supplies to the villages on the St. John River. Davies’ style combines the precision of a military artist’s accuracy with the skills of naturalists in capturing the natural environment.
“Death of General Wolfe” by Benjamin West depicts the death of British General James Wolfe at the 1759 Battle of Quebec during the French and Indian War.
This painting captures a pivotal event in the Seven Years’ War that decided the fate of France’s colonies in North America.
General Wolfe commanded the British Army and successfully held the British line against the French and won the battle. Unfortunately, General Wolfe was killed by musket wounds.
In death, General Wolfe gained fame as a national hero and became an icon of the Seven Years’ War and British dominance in North America.
This image was so popular that West made an identical painting of the same scene for George III of the United Kingdom, one year after this painting. In total, four other additional versions of the Death of General Wolfe were also produced by West.
Waterloo Bridge: the Sun in the Fog by Claude Monet was one of the nearly a hundred views he produced of the Thames River in London.
He painted the “Waterloo Bridge Series” and “Charing Cross Bridge” from his room in the Savoy Hotel and the Houses of Parliament from Saint Thomas’s Hospital.
The artist continued to refine the paintings and wrote to his dealer Durand-Ruel: “I cannot send you a single canvas of London … It is indispensable to have them all before me and to tell the truth; not one is definitely finished. I develop them all together.”
Monet continued to work on all of his London paintings back in his studio in Giverny. He refused to send any of them to his dealer until he was satisfied with them as an ensemble.
“Northern Lights” by Tom Thomson depicts an aurora, also referred to as northern lights. It is a natural light display in the Earth’s sky, predominantly seen in the high-latitude regions around the Arctic and Antarctic.
Thomson produced roughly two dozen nocturnes. Thomson often spent his nights lying in his canoe in the middle of the lake, stargazing.
Besides capturing the nighttime sky, he also captured silhouettes of spruce, birch trees, and the northern lights, painting five different sketches of the aurora.
Thomson would stand and study the aurora for an extended period before going back into his cabin to paint by lamplight.
He sometimes completed nocturnes this way, going back and forth between painting indoors and looking at the subject outside until he completed the sketch.
“Sunset” by Tom Thomson was painted at the water level in a canoe. It illustrates his excited brushstrokes as he captured the lake’s reflection.
The painting was executed over a grey-green ground, adding depth to both the light of the sky and the reflecting water.
The 1915 volcanic eruption of Lassen Peak in California provided dramatic sunrises and sunsets in the northern hemisphere for the year.
“Sketch for Morning Cloud” by Tom Thomson depicts the morning clouds over the wilderness the artists loved. Thomson learned of the Algonquin Park from fellow artist Tom McLean.
In 1912, aged 34, he first visited the Park, venturing through the area on a canoe trip, and discovered Canoe Lake Station and camping nearby on Smoke Lake.
He returned as often as he could to the lake views to sketch his sky landscapes during different seasons and light conditions.
National Gallery of Canada
- Name: National Gallery of Canada
- City: Ottawa
- Established: 1880
- Type: Art Gallery
- Location: 380 Sussex Drive, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
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“Walk a mile in my moccasins to learn where they pinch.”
– Canadian Proverb
Photo Credit: By Tullia (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons