York Region's Past
and Present at the Varley Art Gallery
The Varley Art
Gallery is currently hosting two exhibitions which together bring us
in touch with our artistic life past and present.
Circle: J.E.H. MacDonald and His Associates focuses on one of
the founders of the Group of Seven. Alongside is the 2006
Annual York Region Juried Exhibition, featuring thirty-two works by
York Region artists of today.
Let’s begin with
J.E.H. MacDonald and the Thornhill connection. MacDonald was a
gifted commercial artist making a very good living in Toronto but
who, just before World War I, gave up that financial security to
dedicate himself full time to painting.
MacDonald moved his
family to Thornhill, at that time a hamlet of 700 people.
Thornhill was a good choice as it offered the chance to be close to
nature and the settings that MacDonald wanted to capture.
There it would also be possible to avoid the high cost of homes in
the city and yet to be easily accessible to the provincial capital
through the new radial railway line that linked the city with the
small towns to the north. Many other artists followed
MacDonald’s example and either lived in Thornhill during this
period or visited frequently. Several of this circle became
prominent as members of the famous Group of Seven painters.
It is thus an exhibit
strongly steeped in time and place. Thornhill, although now
absorbed into the towns of Vaughan and Markham, still retains a link
to this important time in the history of Canadian art.
Among the paintings
of J.E.H. MacDonald that are collected here are several that are
among his greatest: Sunflowers, 1919; Arts and Letters
Club Farm York Mills, 1918; Parrot at Warren Road,
There are also old
favourites by several wonderful painters. Arthur Lismer’s
Afternoon Sunlight, Thornhill
Ontario (1916) is a delight. I
could not take my eyes off Across the Fields by Mary Wrinch.
Lawren S. Harris’ Farm Yard (c.1916) has the strong strokes
that became typical of the way these artists depicted the Canadian
There are also wood
engravings on paper by Frederick Haines, as well as his aquatint on
paper The Harvest Moon that I particularly enjoyed.
Farmhouse Near Bathurst Street
(1932) by Carl Schaefer is not to be missed as are Trilliums
and Blue Heron by Thoreau MacDonald, the son of J.E.H.
Circle is on at the Varley Art Gallery until January 14.
Don’t miss this opportunity to enjoy some of the finest Canadian
art and at the same time to connect with an important period in our
own local history.
The Varley Gallery is
also home to the thirty-two works of art that qualified for the 2006
York Region Juried Exhibition. The works on display are a
testament to the high calibre and great variety of artistic
expression to be found here in York Region today.
The three recipients
of the Juror’s Choice Awards are Peter Sibbald for his two
intriguing photographs capturing scenes in Newmarket and
Stouffville; Valerie Ashton for her serene and elegant pastel
Afternoon Break; and Richard Sears for his exquisite sculptural
also runs till January 14, 2007.
Grant Weaver takes in
the 2006 Annual York Region Juried Exhibition