History, it has often been said, is a tale told by winners. Of course, these days, we’re more sensitive to airing many sides of many stories but, nevertheless, history still is more a point of view than it is a factual reflection of the full complexity of actual events.
Art history, too, then, must reflect various points of view as much as it does any objective listing of facts. The subjective, that is, the opinion of the historian and the context of the society within which the historian works, is inescapable. Thus Canadian art history has, for the past several decades at least, reflected a particular point of view about art in this country, one, frankly, solidly based in Ontario and Quebec. The importance of the Group of Seven or the Painters 11, of Les Automatistes or Les Plasticiens, is not in doubt. But other parts of the country have histories too. Our stories have been under-told.
Nova Scotia’s art history dates back at least as far as that of Quebec, and predates the art history (at least in terms of European forms) of any other part of the country. The re-hang of the Third Floor of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, the largest permanent collection exhibition in our Gallery in several years, presents an in-depth history of Canadian art with a distinct Nova Scotian accent.
Our take on Canada’s art history, A View from the Atlantic, features the highlights of our collection, works by such acclaimed Canadian artists as: JW Morrice, Cornelius Krieghoff, Arthur Lismer, A.Y. Jackson, Emily Carr, Jacques Hurtubise, Jean Paul Riopelle, Alex Colville, Mary Pratt, Tom Forestall and Gary Neill Kennedy. Throughout our historical tour, which stretches from pre-contact work by First Nations artists to contemporary art, Canada’s visual culture is presented from an Eastern perspective.
History is a living, breathing story when well told. In A View from the Atlantic, who we are, where we’ve come from, and even where we are going, is on display for diverse audiences to enjoy, to discuss, to interpret, even to dispute. Every visitor is invited to build their own point of view, and is provided with support material and ongoing public programs that will ensure a lively and informative experience. The art of Nova Scotia, of Atlantic Canada, belongs in Canada’s history: A View from the Atlantic.
Image: John O'Brien, The
ARAB, Brigantine, and MILO, Brig, off Halifax Harbour, (detail), 1856, oil on canvas, 58.5 x 78.9 cm, 1999.25