Art Gallery of Alberta

Icons of Modernism

Fernand Léger, The Mechanic, 1920, oil on canvas, Photo © NGC, © Estate of Fernand Léger / SODRAC (2011)

At the beginning of the 20th century, Paris, the unrivalled centre of the art world, witnessed the emergence of a new avant-garde in response to the rapid technological progress and the new realities of the mechanized age. Faster trains, airplanes and cars were quickening the pace of life. Innovations such as cinema, photography, the telegraph, and radio changed society and culture while new scientific ideas such as Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and Freud’s theories of the unconscious were radically transforming the understanding of reality.

Consequently, artists abandoned the conventional traditions of the Paris Salon and sought new forms that could express their experience of modernity. In 1905, rather than trying to represent the world naturalistically, Henri Matisse and his fellow Fauves started using intense colour as a means of expression. Soon after, the Cubists, notably Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, began actively deconstructing the world around them, to convey the vitality and complexity of life in the new century. A host of other modernist movements followed – Surrealism, Futurism, Suprematism, Constructivism and Dadaism – sweeping across Europe and shaping the history of art to the present day.

Piet Mondrian, Composition No. 12 with Blue, 1937-1942, Oil on canvas. Photo © NGC, © 2012 Mondrian/Holtzman Trust c/o HCR

Icons of Modernism focuses on the diversity, creativity and achievements of these artists by presenting a selection of paintings, sculptures, films and photographs from the collection of the National Gallery of Canada. The exhibition includes some 15 masterpieces by artists such as: Paul Cézanne, Pablo Picasso, Francis Picabia, Ferdinand Léger and Marcel Duchamp, amongst others.

Organized by the National Gallery of Canada

National Gallery of Canada at the Art Gallery of Alberta, with the support of Capital Powered Art; an exhibition series sponsored by Capital Power Corporation.


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Upcoming Programming

Art for Lunch >
February 16, 2012, 12:10 pm

Art for Lunch >
March 15, 2012, 12:10 pm

Steven Harris Lecture >
February 29, 2012, 7:00 pm
$15/$10 AGA Members

AGA Member’s Opening
February 10, 2012, 7:30 pm
Free for AGA Members