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  • INK by Shawn Zheng

    Location: Saskatoon, SK

    Shu Cheng (Shawn) Zheng features his distinctive style of making marks in Chinese..
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  • North Shore Art Crawl

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    The North Shore Art Crawl is a free community arts event March 7+8,..
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  • Art exhibit at local funeral home is proof art isn’t dead!

    Location: Alexandria, ON

    • Friday, 21 Feb 6--9: Wine & cheese, entertainment by recording artist Katie..
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  • New Craft Coalition: Call to Artists

    Location: Calgary, AB

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  • TRAVEL EXHIBITION

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    John Mantha will be participating in a group show at Twist Gallery in..
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  • David Tycho: Urbania

    Location: Vancouver, BC

    Guest artist David Tycho will exhibit 10 paintings from his latest series. This series..
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  • ACAF (Accessible Art Fair) 2020

    Location: Brussels,

    ACAF (Accessible Art Fair) is back on October 15-18, 2020 for its 14th..
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  • Clarkson Society of Artists 2020 Show & Sale

    Location: Mississauga, ON

    The Clarkson Society of Artists invites you to attend their annual show &..
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  • Call for Artists: Urban Matrix

    Location: North Vancouver, BC

    North Van Arts is inviting artists to take part in an upcoming group..
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  • 9th Artist Spotlight Solo Art Competition

    Location: Palm Springs, CA

    Fusion Art is now accepting entries for the 9th Artist Spotlight Solo Art..
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  • Call for Art - 11th Annual

    Location: Palm Springs, CA

    Light Space & Time Online Art Gallery announces an art call for the..
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  • Call For Artists: The Other Art Fair Toronto

    Location: Toronto, ON

    The Other Art Fair are thrilled to present the newest edition of The..
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  • Poetic Notions

    Location: Montreal, QC

    Bringing together 30 artists and poets, curators & participants Holly Friesen and Carolyn..
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  • Call for Art - 4th Annual Colors Art Competition

    Location: Palm Springs, CA

    Fusion Art invites submissions for the 4th Annual Colors online art competition. For this..
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  • Marlene Kawalez and Corynn Kokolakis

    Location: Toronto, ON

    Presented by: Cedar Ridge Gallery. Part of the Cedar Ridge Gallery Contemporary Exhibition series. March..
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  • Jane Selbie and Joseph Farrugia

    Location: Toronto, ON

    Presented by: Cedar Ridge Gallery. Part of the Cedar Ridge Gallery Contemporary Exhibition series. February..
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  • Dianne Davis and the WAP Collective

    Location: Toronto, ON

    Presented by: Cedar Ridge Gallery. Part of the Cedar Ridge Gallery Contemporary Exhibition series. February..
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  • “Grey” International Call - Art & Literature Journal - Deadline February 28, 2020

    Location: Toronto, ON

    | Theme: Grey surrounds us, sometimes in surprising ways. In beach pebbles, a..
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  • on thin ice Polar Bear Art Exhibit

    Location: Toronto, ON

    On thin ice is a solo exhibit of polar bear portrait paintings by..
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  • Support the Worldwide Art Community | Participate in 6x6x2020

    Location: Rochester, ON

    Hello Artists in Canada, We want YOU to participate in 6x6x2020! Let your creative..
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  • Olivier Du Tre: New Works

    Location: CALGARY, AB

    January 7 to February 29, 2020 At HUB@302 302-1235 26 Ave SE, Calgary, AB..
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  • WAAH 124th Juried Exhibition at the Art Gallery of Hamilton

    Location: Hamilton, ON

    Who:  The Women’s Art Association of Hamilton (WAAH) at the Art Gallery of..
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  • The Indian Contemporary Art Competition

    Location: New York, NY, ON

    The Indian Contemporary Art Competition (ICAC) aims to discover and promote talented artists..
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  • The Loft On King Street

    Location: Toronto, ON

    The Loft On King Street is one of the most unique private event..
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  • Overzealous Fine Art Exhibition 2020 Call for Entry

    Location: Toronto (GTA), ON

    Submission Deadline: Sunday, March 1st, 2020 -- Exhibition Dates: March 30 – April 18,..
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  • VOYZX Exhibition of Contemporary Surrealism

    Location: Vancouver, BC

    VOYZX Exhibition of Contemporary Surrealism 2020 is an annual international art exhibition, dedicated..
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Masterworks of Nineteenth Century French Realism

By Robert Amos December 14, 2004

} Masterworks of Nineteenth Century French Realism By Robert Amos Masterworks of Nineteenth Century French Realism from the National Gallery of Canada is the latest in a string of very popular "blockbuster" shows to arrive at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria (1040 Moss Street, 384-4101, 2 December 2 - February 20, 2005). Pierre Theberge, director of the National Gallery of Canada, describes it as a "prequel", following the Impressionist Masterworks (seen in Vancouver) and the Post-Impressionist Masterworks (seen in Victoria three years ago). Masterworks they are - among the sixteen paintings is Camille Corot's dazzling Bridge at Narni (1827); Honore Daumier's Third Class Carriage (1863), said to be his finest painting; Edgar Degas's haunting and unfinished Woman with an Umbrella (1876); and The Letter by James Tissot (1878), an intriguing canvas which I will address at length next week. The Letter by James Tissot So what's the story? European art had, until the 19th century, been a commodity purchased by churches and governments, to decorate their halls and propagate their myths and messages. During those times, artists of promise were trained up in guilds and, later, in schools called academies. There, they learned how to achieve what was expected by their patrons. At annual exhibitions properly trained Academy artists could display their abilities before their betters from the church and state, hoping for possible commissions. The resulting academic work did not represent the inner feelings of the artists, but portrayed subjects drawn from the Bible, classical mythology and ancient history. These paintings was impeccibly smooth, and breathed an atmosphere typically airless. Entirely painted in the studio, academic paintings appeared to be inhabited by artists' models wearing "antique" costumes and assuming histrionic poses. The pictures were intended to present a model of moral behaviour. In France in the 19th century, a movement called Realism intended the overthrow of this system. Beauty would no longer be measured against the eternal standard of Antiquity, but was defined by what fed the passions of contemporary Parisians - crowded street scenes, cabarets, cafes, circuses, dance halls, or the interiors of bourgeois salons. It would be painted by the people, for the people, with a freshness and immediacy they would recognize as of their own times. The 19th century was a time of turmoil in France, a time of the Citizen King, the 1848 Revolution, the Franco-Prussian War and the Commune of 1871. Contemporary life had became more interesting than the past. Many artists became involved in political actions, striving to change the direction of the Academy and even taking to the barricades, to prison or to exile. As the new middle class rose to a sense of its own power, the artists discovered this new world of patrons. The nouveaux riches patrons wanted paintings to hang in their homes, not for the walls of the church or state. This great shift repositioned the artist in society. No longer was he a hired decorator. He was now an individual - a citizen, a thinking person. Courbet explained that "art is entirely individual and is, for each artist, simply the ability that issues from his own inspiration and his own studies of tradition." From now on, each artist's experience and message was foremost. Bridge at Narni by Camille Corot The change from Academy to Realism took many forms. Moving away from myths and Bible stories, some artists sought exotic new locales. Jean-Leon Gerome's Camels at the Watering Place (1857) is derived from his studies in Egypt. More artists chose France herself as the subject, ennobling the timeless activities of the peasant - Jean-Francois Millet's The Pig Killers (1867-70) shows a grisly farm scene composed as if it was a classical freize. Gustave Courbet's view of The Cliffs at Etretat (1866) is a straightforward landscape study of a popular scene on the French coast. Such landscapes seem commonplace to us, but at the time such a painting seemed to lack subject matter. Furthermore, it was obviously painted to some extent in the open air. Eugene Boudin was influenced by Courbet's courageous practice. "His approach is broad, and perhaps," he wrote in his journal, "I could adapt this to my own work, yet at the same time I find it very coarse and his attention to detail very summary and rather styleless". Boudin built on Courbet's inspiration. He went on to be the father of Impressionism and the original inspiration of Claude Monet. Boudin's Port of Rotterdam (1880) is a painting by an artist who has left the studio behind. Another plein-air painter who worked on the French coast was Johan Barthold Jonkind. His sunny Entrance to the Harbour of Honfleur (1864) shows a well-known setting, the modern shipping rendered with the sparkling clarity appropriate to a day at the seashore. As the bourgeois replaced the church and state as patrons, it was only natural that portraiture would take a much more important position in the artists' production. Jean-Leon Gerome's Portrait of a Woman (1850) presents a well-dressed woman painted with the gloss of the Academic style. Yet, in the modern way, the emphasis is on her character rather than the hieratic details of her costume. Cezanne's Portrait of Gustave Boyer (1870-71) is not a painting of a pope or a king. It is a painting of the artist's friend. As ever with Cezanne, his struggle to express form eclipses any interest he might have had in a smooth finish. Perhaps the highlight of the show is a canvas from Edgar Degas titled Woman with an Umbrella (1876). Inscribed on a tinted background, the summary sketching of the sitter's coat and arms would not begin to pass muster at the Academy. Probably this is an unfinished painting. The sitter's head is not flattering, and rendered with economy of means. Yet it makes a soul connection with the viewer - her forthright gaze meets our eyes. Even now, 130 years later, we confront our contemporary. Woman with Umbrella by Edgar Degas Each of the sixteen paintings bears consideration. One still life by Henri Fantin-Latour shows Roses(1885) of wonderful freshness, the perfect enhancement to a lovely home. Another still life, a bowl of blotchy and blemished apples by Gustave Courbet (1871), was painted while the artist was imprisoned for subversive activity connected with the downfall of the Commune in 1871. Though he was allowed paint and canvas in his cell, he had no model, so he painted fruit and flowers. The political tone of the times is perfectly evident in Honore Daumier's masterpiece, The Third-Class Carriage (ca. 1863-65). Remember, travel by rail was a remarkable subject for an artist at the time. The social dimensions implied by every one of the travellers is made more complex when one considers the drama imposed by the "class" ticketing system. The artist, during the 19th century, left his humble position as decorator-for-hire and came to be respected as an individual, a poet painting signs of the times. The unfolding of Realism is the birth of the Modern, a saga whose evolution has been the main story of art history ever since. ___________________________________________ Copyright © 2004Robert Amos Robert Amos is an artist and art writer who lives in Victoria, B.C.. He can be contacted by e-mail and you can view his paintings at www.robertamos.com