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Flora and Fauna: 400 years of artists inspired by nature at the National Gallery of Canada
James Griffiths, John H. Griffiths, Pansies, after 1836. Pen, ink, watercolour and graphite on wove paper, 15.8 x 18.9 cm. National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa.
Photo © NGC

OTTAWA.- Nature has been an enduring subject for artists for millennia and across all cultures. From the bulls painted in the Lascaux caves and Palace of Knossos, to the garden frescoes at Pompeii, Dutch still lifes, 19th-century botanical studies and 21st-century land art projects, nature has been either a simple fact of life or a source of curiosity, consolation and spiritual regeneration. Artists have persisted in expressing nature’s complexity in forms that are intimate or epic, analytical or expressive. The National Gallery of Canada presents, until September 9, 2012, Flora and Fauna: 400 Years of Artists Inspired by Nature, an exhibition that features more than 100 works dating from the 16th to the 21st centuries, it explores the myriad ways in which artists respond to the natural world.

"The Gallery's collection is filled with outstanding works that visitors rarely have the chance to see for a whole set of reasons," says NGC director Marc Mayer. "Both art and nature lovers will enjoy a leisurely walk through this superb exhibition."

Flora and Fauna looks at how painters, printmakers, photographers, sculptors and craftspeople have been inspired by nature over the centuries. This is an exceptionally varied installation in terms of medium, scale and style. It includes drawings, prints, paintings, photographs, sculptures and ceramic works, ranging from the quiet and contemplative to the bold and the audacious. All the works except four are drawn from the collections of the National Gallery. Many great Canadian and international artists are represented, including Lorraine Gilbert, Aganetha and Richard Dyck, Geoffrey James, Bertram Brooker, David Milne, Lucian Freud, M.C. Escher, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Frederick Evans, Camille Corot, and Rembrandt.

Flora and Fauna : sneak peak
The earliest work on view in Flora and Fauna is a 16th-century Indian watercolour depicting the Mughal ruler Babur supervising the planting of a garden. Also included are some of Wenzel Hollar’s 17th-century insect prints, which are intricate studies. The photographs of German modernist Karl Blossfeldt show us a single plant specimen with leaves about to unfurl, while the contemporary Canadian artist Adriene Veninger has photographed curled plants in a state of desiccation. There is also an etching by Lucian Freud, an artist known for his paintings of the human subject, who created highly detailed nature studies when he felt the need to withdraw from working with people. The exhibition also offers many other fascinating works that will be a pleasure for visitors to discover or rediscover.

Flora and Fauna in the Byward Market
During the exhibition, works by the renowned Ottawa-based landscape photographer and artist Lorraine Gilbert will be featured in the Byward Market. Her large format digital photographs, created through skilful montages of hundreds of images captured over several months, will be shown in the Beaux-Arts Court, at the corner of St. Patrick and Sussex between St. Patrick and Murray, and the Tin House Court, between Murray and Clarence.

Ann Thomas is curator of photographs at the National Gallery of Canada. She has organized numerous exhibitions and installations in this capacity and is the author of several catalogues and publications such as Lisette Model (1990), No Man’s Land: Lynne Cohen Photographs (2001), and Modernist Photographs from the National Gallery of Canada (2007), 19th-Century French Photographs (2010), and Made in America 1900-1950: Photographs from the National Gallery of Canada (2011). She is the curator, author and editor of Beauty of Another Order: Photography in Science (1996) She has also co-authored a number of publications. Among various current projects, she is most excited about this continuing series of exhibitions with accompanying catalogues from the National Gallery’s collection of photographs, and an independent research project on photography and art in the post-electrification era.

Andrea Kunard is associate curator of photographs at the National Gallery of Canada. Since 1998, has presented a number of important exhibitions, including Shifting Sites (2000), Susan McEachern: Structures of Meaning (2004), Michael Semak (2005), The Painted Photograph (2006), Jin-Me Yoon: Unbidden (2006), Cheryl Sourkes: Public Camera (2007), Steeling the Gaze (2008), Scott McFarland: A Cultivated View (2009), and contributed to the Canadian Biennial. It Is What It Is: Recent Acquisitions of New Canadian Art (2010). She has taught the history of photography, Canadian art and cultural theory at Carleton and Queen's University. In addition, she has recently published The Cultural Work of Photography in Canada (2011) through McGill Queen’s University Press and articles on contemporary and historical photography in a variety of publications including The Journal of Canadian Art History, the International Journal of Canadian Studies, Early Popular Visual Culture, Muse, C Magazine, and ETC Montréal.

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