May 16, 2011 Kleinburg, ON —The McMichael Canadian Art Collection is pleased to announce the opening of the exhibition, Marc-Aurèle Fortin: The Experience of Colour, a truly colourful retreat to the land of la belle province. Produced by the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, the French-Canadian exhibition is on display at the McMichael from May 28 to September 11, 2011.

The bilingual exhibition is a tribute to the landscape artist Marc-Aurèle Fortin (1888-1970), who painted for four decades in the rising tide of Quebec and Canadian modernity. The 107 works testify to his prolific output, from the early paintings done in Chicago, in 1909 and 1910, to the Gaspé and Saguenay region landscapes captured in the late 1940s, before health problems forced him to stop working. While remaining faithful to figurative art as a painter, watercolourist, printmaker, and pastelist, he endlessly experimented with colour, the true focus of his inquiry. Fortin saw his art as “silent poetry”—his determination to make bright colours sing made him one of the most progressive painters of his generation in the 1920s.

Marc-Aurèle Fortin: The Experience of Colour, the first major museum exhibition devoted to the artist in more than 45 years, features Fortin’s paintings, prints, drawings, and watercolours produced between 1909 and 1949. Fortin indelibly marked the Quebec imagination with the compositions of stately elms and colourful rural scenes for which he is best known. The exhibition presents views of Sainte-Rose, Île d’Orléans and the Charlevoix, Gaspé, and Saguenay regions, depictions of the Quebec countryside of his day. It also includes a lesser-known but equally important aspect of his work: cityscapes. These urban views prove him a keen observer of the irreversible changes that modernity was bringing to Montreal in the 1920s and 30s.

Fortin’s career took off with the success of his views of Montreal and its harbour, and his depictions of large trees. These works earned him recognition in the art world, and this exhibition honours their outstanding quality, all illustrating steps on a remarkable artistic journey marked by experimentation and freedom.

The 300-page companion catalogue to Marc-Aurèle Fortin: The Experience of Colour sheds new light on the man, the artist, and his involvement in Quebec’s art community. Available in French and English versions, the catalogue is a co-edition of the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec and Éditions de l’Homme. The English version was specifically produced to accompany the McMichael’s exhibition and is available for purchase through the Gallery Shop. This major book reproduces more than 150 oils, watercolours, etchings, and pastels that proclaim the modernity of a virtuoso draftsman and colourist. Reflecting many years of research, the book probes the Fortin legend in different ways, placing the artist and his work in a broad historical context. Written by authorities in the art of this period—Richard Foisy, François-Marc Gagnon, Michèle Grandbois, Sarah Mainguy, and Esther Trépanier—it traces his biographical and aesthetic footsteps in detail and reveals the full import of his contribution to the history of Canadian art.

On Saturday, June 4, the McMichael will host an Art Encounter program titled, “The Paradox of Marc-Aurèle Fortin.” Dr. François-Marc Gagnon, professor emeritus at the Université de Montréal and director and chair of the Gail and Stephen A. Jarislowsky Institute for Studies in Canadian Art at Concordia University, will present this lecture focusing on an apparent discrepancy between the aesthetic traditionalism embraced by Fortin and his innovative treatment of forms. Dr. Gagnon will be introduced by Katerina Atanassova, the McMichael’s Chief Curator who will elaborate on the curatorial reasons for bringing this important exhibition to the McMichael. The lecture will take place from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., followed by a book-signing event with Dr. François-Marc Gagnon, co-author of the companion catalogue.


For further information or images, contact:

Michelle Kortinen, Communications Coordinator

McMichael Canadian Art Collection

905.893.1121 ext. 2210