Art on a Paper Ground
Over the centuries paper has been used by artists to accommodate swift notations, preparatory studies, and finished works of art. The selection of works on paper displayed here by 19th and 20th century European and Canadian artists reflects this range of use, as well as a diversity of styles and techniques. There is a particular emphasis on certain recurring subjects during these centuries, including landscape, the human figure, the emotional life of the artist, and the material and formal elements in the work of art itself.
The world, and people’s understanding of it, continued to change dramatically in the 19th century, as European exploration and colonization encircled the globe. Art played an instrumental role in embodying new Western outlooks on the world. Works by explorer-artists in the 19th century largely followed European pictorial conventions. They emphasized the exotic mystery often associated with these non-Western indigenous peoples, landscapes, and climates. At this time idealized views were often coupled with an undeniable concern for technical precision and naturalistic detail.
By the late-19th century and continuing through the 20th century, artwork on paper began to reflect a broader tension between the traditional representational, or mimetic, role of art and a particularly modern understanding that saw art as existing for its own sake, its value and importance independent from what it depicts. With the emergence of new techniques like collage, paper remained a crucial means for artists to explore aesthetic innovations.
While this gallery is currently dedicated to the display of works on paper, due to the inherent fragility of paper and its sensitivity to light and to fluctuations in temperature and humidity, the artworks will be rotated regularly, enabling us to highlight other pieces from the permanent collection.