Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Beaver Hall in Hamilton

As a bit of a respite from all my tax calculations, I went down to Hamilton on Sunday to see the Pacifica Quartet playing Beethoven.  (On the Hamilton Express bus in fact, which was pretty smooth after we got past the huge line of cars trying to get into the city for the Jays game.)  I had thought it was going to be 3 Beethoven string quartets, but, ultimately, they didn't have enough time for that.  They did one movement from one of the early quartets, and then Quartet #7 (Op. 59, no 1) and Quartet #14 (Op. 131) after the break.  It was pretty incredible.  Of the two, I did like #7 a bit more, I think because of a long section where the cello was plucking the strings.  At one point, the concert they were doing in London, Ont. a couple of days earlier was more different, but in the end, it was basically the same program, but #8 instead of #7.  For those in Chicago, they have a quite different concert coming up on April 24th, where they are doing Beethoven's Op. 131 with Mozart's Quartet in G Major, K. 387 and Shostakovich String Quartet #11.  That would be something worth checking out, and there are more details here.  I should say that they pretty much sold out the room in Hamilton, which is fairly impressive.  I have no idea if they advertised widely and tried to pull more people from Toronto, or if it is strictly a local crowd, but it was a good turnout for a great afternoon of music.

Since Chamber Music Hamilton puts on their shows in the Art Gallery of Hamilton, the tickets actually allow admission into the art gallery as well.  I got there in time to look around for close to 40 minutes, as well as looking at the main exhibit again during the intermission.

I had thought that the upstairs gallery would be more or less the same as during my visit about a year ago, but it was quite different.  This time around, the paintings were hung salon-style and they generally skewed a bit earlier, sort of ending with some of the Group of Seven painters, with a few exceptions.  Probably the biggest exception is that they had Alex Colville's Horse and Train back up on the wall.

Looking back at the previous visit, they had relatively little Lawren Harris upstairs.  While Ice House is part of the large Lawren Harris exhibit and should be moving from Boston to Toronto soon, I only remember seeing Hurdy Gurdy this time around.  They did not have In the Ward, Toronto (1919) or Icebergs and Mountains, Greenland (1930) upstairs (and it is unclear when they have had either on view, so I may write to ask if they will bring out these two to celebrate getting Ice House back in the fall).  They did have Harris's Waterfall, Algoma (1920) on view, which wasn't out on my previous trip.  They did have their key paintings by Tom Thomson and Emily Carr on view, so that was nice to see them again.  I do wish they had T.R. MacDonald's One A.M. on view, as I quite liked that from before.  On the other hand, they had a different painting by MacDonald called The Red Skirt.

T.R. MacDonald, The Red Skirt, 1939

The main reason to visit the AGH right now is to see the main exhibit on the first floor, which is a show on Canadian art linked with Beaver Hall.  It appears that all the paintings are from the 1920s and all are associated with Montreal in some way, though some of the painters left Quebec.  While there is a bit of sameness to the portraits after a while, many of the urban landscapes are quite nice.  I think my very favourite was Adrien Hébert's Saint Catherine Street, but I liked Saint Denis Street as well (in the Musée national des beaux-arts du Quebec).  It reminded me just a little of Caillebotte's Paris Street; Rainy Day in terms of the scale.

Adrien Hébert, Saint Catherine Street, 1926

Adrien Hébert, Saint Denis Street, 1927

Not every painting was of an urban scene.  There were also a series of paintings of nuns by Sarah Robertson.  This painting is from the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, though I must admit I don't recall seeing it on view on our last trip.  It's possible of course that I have simply forgotten it.

Sarah Robertson, Old Fort, Sulpician Seminary, c. 1931

I'll end this review of the show with more of a rural view by Anne Savage.*  This painting is also in the the Musée national des beaux-arts du Quebec, though it may or may not be commonly on view (when not on loan).  I haven't yet made it to Quebec City, but one of these days I am sure I will drop by and see what is going on in the museum.

Anne Savage, The Red House, Dorval, ca. 1928

The show runs through May 8, so there is still time to make a trip, and it is certainly worth seeing once.  There is an associated catalog, though the Gift Shop has currently run out of stock.  I put a hold on it through the Toronto Library, but it might be many months before it turns up.

Anyway, it was a nice interlude from a long day of going through tax forms...

* I didn't really think too much about it either way, but some of the critics are pleased with the gender balance in the show.  In addition to Savage and Robertson, there are quite fine paintings by Prudence Heward and Kathleen Morris, but I don't have any more space in this post for their work.

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