05 February 2011

Art Gallery of Ontario: first impressions

It's hard to do justice to a gallery or museum on a first visit - there's always far too much to see and my legs always give up before I feel I've done the place justice. My overall impression of the AGO was positive, and my response to the physical space that was the Galleria Italia (below) was one of 'Wow!'.

I had time to visit the current exhibition on the Maharajas (worth seeing for the amazing restored Cartier diamond and ruby necklace towards the end, alone (the photo in that article doesn't do it justice)), the Canadian artists section, most of the European section on level 2 and the ship models in the basement. These are watched over by a splendid lion figurehead. Which I wasn't allowed to photograph and which isn't online anywhere, so you'll just have to imagine it. You can see highlights of the Canadian Collection on the gallery's website. It's a shame that you can't click from one image to the next, rather than having to go back to the list all the time, but at least you can see some of the artworks without having to visit Toronto.

My favourite piece of art in the Canadian section was Franklin Carmichael's Cranberry Lake (1931) - the way he's captured the sun on the water and the eerie shapes of the dead trees in the foreground. In the European section the image which caught my attention the most was James Tissot's The Shop Girl
- I love the tangle of ribbons on the counter. I was also fascinated by the carved items in the Thomson Collection - some of them quite macabre, such as the rosary pendant showing a skull being eaten by worms and lizards. The incredibly intricate wooden carvings in prayer beads were also amazing - such detailed work in such a tiny space.

I paid a visit to the basement café, which was rather a disappointment after the rest of the gallery. Like having a cup of tea in someone's basement, in fact. I think they could have made it a more interesting space. But, perhaps, as so often happens, the money ran out before the basement could be properly finished. ;-)

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