Art Gallery to tour major exhibition in Germany

The U of L Art Gallery has sent Drawn from the Past: the portraits and practice of Nicholas de Grandmaison to the Niedersächsisches Landesmuseum in Hannover, Germany for an exhibition from April 24 to Aug. 2, 2009.

"We are delighted to send an exhibition to such a significant museum," says Dr. Josephine Mills, director/curator of the U of L Art Gallery, who will attend the opening on April 24. "The project is particularly exciting because this is the first time the U of L Art Gallery has toured an exhibition in Europe.

"The Niedersächsisches Landesmuseum has an extensive holding of art and cultural objects and by being on display in this excellent institution, work from the U of L Collection will reach a broad audience, including Hannover residents as well as tourists."

The de Grandmaison exhibition is part of a companion art exhibition associated with a large exhibition of Canadian aboriginal objects and artwork from the Canadian Museum of Civilization. Calgary's Glenbow Museum and Banff's Whyte Museum are also lending artworks for the companion exhibition. The goal of the art exhibitions is to expand on European interpretation of First Nations culture and the influence of First Nations people on European-trained artists working in Canada.

"This exhibition was selected from the University of Lethbridge's extensive holding of Nicholas de Grandmaison pastels and paintings as well as our holding of archival material," says Mills.

Drawn from the Past focuses on the artist's First Nations portraits and on the context of his life and career and includes work produced from 1930 through 1960. The archival material includes letters, personal photographs and audio recordings of songs and interviews recorded by de Grandmaison while meeting with his First Nations subjects. Unfinished studies and sketchbooks included with the exhibition provide audiences with a view into the artist's process.

Gordon Snyder, guest curator of the exhibition, selected a strong range of de Grandmaison's portraits of Aboriginal people.

"The artist's passion for depicting leaders and ordinary members of many different First Nations communities is clearly apparent in these powerful works," he says.

Born in 1892 into an aristocratic family in Russia, Nicholas de Grandmaison studied art, music, history, languages, cartography and topography. He immigrated to Canada from England in 1923 where he had gone after spending most of the First World War in a prisoner of war camp in Germany. Settling in Winnipeg, he saw Plains Indians for the first time and determined to paint their portraits.

"He realized their traditional way of life would soon diminish and he began painting the Plains Indians in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta – eventually capturing subjects from as far north as the Queen Charlotte Islands and south to the deserts of the Southwestern United States," says Snyder.

In addition to curating, Snyder also produced a book that explored the holdings at the University in relation to other work in public and private collections by this artist. The exhibition appeared at the U of L Art Gallery in fall 2007 and at the Art Gallery of Alberta in Edmonton in 2008.