Maurice Cullen and his Circle

2010-10-13, from Musée des beaux-arts de Sherbrooke

The Musée des beaux-arts de Sherbrooke presents, from Saturday 16 October, Maurice Cullen and His Circle, an exhibition organised by the National Gallery of Canada, that was seen in Vancouver, Saint-John (Newfoundland), Charlottetown and Kleinburg (Ontario) before stopping at  Musée des beaux-arts de Sherbrooke, the only Quebec venue. On show until 9 January 2011, the vernissage will be held on Saturday 23 October at 5 p.m.

 

James Wilson Morrice called him the artist who “gets at the guts of things.” Clarence Gagnon thought he was “far ahead of his time in this country.” “When I was discouraged,” said Albert Robinson, “I went to his studio and came away inspired.” A.Y. Jackson, speaking on behalf of the Group of Seven, stated simply, “To us he was a hero.” The exhibition Maurice Cullen and His Circle, organized and toured by the National Gallery of Canada, will give audiences across Canada a unique opportunity to view works by Maurice Cullen (1866–1934) together with those of some of his contemporaries and the future generation of artists he inspired. Comprising nearly forty oil paintings selected from the National Gallery of Canada’s permanent collection of Canadian Art, the exhibition will examine works by Cullen alongside those of his contemporaries including such artists as James Wilson Morrice andWilliam Brymner. The show will also feature works by artists whom Cullen was known to have influenced, including his stepson Robert Pilot and then future member of the Group of Seven A.Y. Jackson.

 

Born in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Maurice Cullen spent most of his adult life in Quebec, where he began his artistic studies. In 1889 he was one of many aspiring young Canadian artists who left to study in Paris. He took up painting at the Académie Julian, where he may have first met Brymner and Morrice. The three men become lifelong friends and colleagues. The artists painted in parts of Canada and Europe, applying what they had learned from Impressionism in Paris to their own renderings of landscapes of Europe, North Africa and Canada. They captured not only the fleeting qualities of light and colour but also the fleeting moments of a changing world – from the quiet, leisurely paces of the rural areas to the busy market places of the cities. This exhibition will present many of the canvases that Cullen and members of his circle painted, both abroad and at home. Contrasted with the rural Canadian winter landscapes for which he is so well known, these works also reveal the complex relationships that figure in the urban and rural boundaries around such cities as Montreal and Quebec at the time. Many of the works selected for this show have not been exhibited publicly for almost two decades. Curated by Crystal Susan Parsons, winner of the National Gallery’s 2006 Guest Curator Programme, Maurice Cullen and His Circle will be accompanied by an exhibition catalogue.

 

Biographical notes : Working around the turn of the twentieth century, Maurice Cullen, William Brymner, James Wilson Morrice and Edmund Morris were colleagues, professional associates and good friends. There are many parallels in the artistic careers of these four painters. They were first steered towards alternate careers by well-meaning family members, but all pursued a career in art nurtured by the rich cultural environment of Paris.

 

Maurice Cullen (1866-1934) was born in St. John’s, Newfoundland, and moved to Montreal with his family when he was very young. It was in Montreal that Cullen began his career, not as an artist but as a sales clerk for the wholesale importers Gault Brothers & Co. At this time, he began to take drawing lessons in the evenings and studied under the renowned sculptor Louis-Philippe Hébert. A small inheritance, received after his mother passed away, finally released him from the sales counter to pursue art full-time. He arrived in Paris in 1888.

 

The slightly older William Brymner (1855-1925) was born in Greenock, Scotland, and came to Canada with his family in 1857. Having worked as a draughtsman in the office of the Dominion Chief Architect in Ottawa, Brymner first went to Paris to study architecture but like Cullen, who had originally intended to study sculpture, he switched to painting shortly after his arrival in 1878.

 

Born into an affluent Montreal family, James Wilson Morrice (1865-1924) first studied law in Toronto where he was received at the Ontario Bar in 1889. He immediately abandoned law for painting and set off for London and Paris. As he later wrote to Edmund Morris: ‘what prevents me going back to the Ontario Bar is the love I have of paint – the privilege of gloating over things.’

 

The youngest of the circle was Edmund Morris (1871-1913). Born in Perth, Ontario, he spent his early childhood in Fort Garry (Winnipeg), where his father, Alexander Morris, was Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba and the Northwest Territories from 1872 to 1877. At first, his father tried to encourage him to pursue a potentially more lucrative career in architecture. However, following his father’s death in 1889, Edmund Morris entered the studio of the Toronto painter William Cruikshank. The following year, he left for New York to study at the Art Students League before he too left for Paris in 1893.

 


Source:

Lise Boyer
Communications
819 821-2115
lboyer@mbas.qc.ca 
www.mbas.qc.ca


 
 

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