By James Adams
Van Gogh: Up Close
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
May 25-Sept. 3
Hard to believe but this exhibition of more than 40 works by the prolific, tormented Dutch artist (1853-1890) is the first significant showcase of van Goghs in Canada in 25 years. Years in the preparation, the show features paintings lent from many private and public collections, including six from Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum. Ottawa is its only Canadian stop, having had its premiere earlier this year at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. As the title intimates, the exhibition concentrates on the intensity van Gogh brought to representing the natural world and is complemented by a presentation of works (Japanese woodblock prints and photographs, among them) that influenced his practice ( gallery.ca).
Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris
Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto
Until Aug. 26
A genuine blockbuster, this exhibition of close to 150 paintings, sculpture, drawings and prints spans the Spaniard’s entire career, from the late 19th century to his death in 1973, and requires nine rooms to do so. These are Picasso’s Picassos, the stuff he kept from the marketplace for his own inspiration and delectation, so it’s a heady mix of the familiar (including the van Gogh-influenced Self-Portrait with Straw Hat and Two Women Running on the Beach) and the little-seen. With Matisse and Duchamp, Picasso is regarded as the pre-eminent artist of the 20th century; this survey shows you why ( ago.net).
Canadian War Museum, Ottawa
June 13-Jan. 6, 2013
Perhaps you’ve noticed that this year is the bicentennial of the start of the War of 1812. Certainly the federal government is hoping you’ve noticed: It has allocated almost $30-million toward 1812-themed promotions and programs. A key player in the commemoration is the CWM, which will be exhibiting more than 160 artifacts from Canadian sources as well as from the Smithsonian Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the British Museum in London. Among the treasures: the Treaty of Ghent, which officially ended the conflict in December, 1814, and the red tunic Sir Isaac Brock was wearing at the fateful Battle of Queenston Heights in October, 1812 ( warmuseum.ca).
Charlie Russell and the First Calgary Stampede
The Glenbow Museum, Calgary
June 2-July 29
Hey, buckaroos and buckarettes! It’s the 100th anniversary of the Calgary Stampede this summer and as a first, the Glenbow is reuniting 17 of the famous 20 canvases that legendary Western artist Charlie Russell (1864-1926) exhibited, to much oohing and ahhing, at the inaugural Stampede. After Frederic Remington, Russell today is regarded as the greatest illustrator of the Old West, his paintings of cowboys, Indians and sagebrush as much a linchpin of the ethos of the Stampede as the white, wide-brimmed Stetson. They’re also much sought-after by collectors: Last year a Russell watercolour of two cowboys wrangling a mountain lion sold for $1.5-million (U.S.) at auction ( glenbow.org).
Beyond Pop: Tom Wesselmann
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal
May 19-Oct. 7
Ohio-born Tom Wesselmann was among that first generation of American Pop artists that included Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, James Rosenquist and Claes Oldenburg. But it’s fair to say his protean output – paintings, sculpture and prints, drawings, collages and mixed-media pieces – has not received the attention or appreciation his peers have enjoyed. The MMFA is setting matters to right with this ambitious retrospective it plans to tour worldwide after its Montreal premiere. Among the highlights is a generous sample of works from the epic “Great American Nudes” series Wesselmann started in 1961 ( mbam.qc.ca).
Skin: The Seduction of Surface
Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Halifax
May 19-Sept. 8