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Illuminations: Italian Baroque Masterworks in Canadian Collections

Art Gallery of Hamilton, The Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Collection, 2002. Photo credit:  Roy and Carole Timm. 

Italian Baroque Art is most often associated with dynamic movement, overwhelmingly-rich colors and compositions, and the creation of new pictorial subjects. The style known as Baroque (c. 1590-1715) was centered in Rome, Naples, and Bologna and subsequently spread to other international cities, including Madrid, Paris, London, and Amsterdam.

Illuminations is the first comprehensive exhibition examining the breadth of Italian Baroque painting in Canadian public collections. The exhibition explores how light and shadow were central to the creation of dynamic and theatrical pictures. The selected paintings are examined by investigating the artists’ chiaroscuro – the pictorial effects created by light and shade. In contrasting Mattia Preti’s and Jusepe Ribera’s deeply shaded pictures with Luca Giordano’s and Nicolas Poussin’s luminous works, the exhibition reveals how light was strategically used to signify demeanour, emotion or religious symbolism.

Through a comparison of religious, mythological, and popular imagery, Illuminations simultaneously explores how Baroque audiences were confronted with paintings that broke with tradition by manipulating the conventional use of light. In addition to painting monumental religious imagery, artists also depicted large and theatrically-lit gambling scenes and street concerts. Such paintings emphasize the conflicting aspects of seventeenth-century life, including those between the secular and religious, public and private, and decorous and profane.

Featuring many of Canada’s foremost Baroque pictures, the exhibition examines a culture – similar to our own – that was captivated by theatrical display.

Illuminations: Italian Baroque Masterworks in Canadian Collections was co-curated by Dr. Benedict Leca, former Director, Curatorial Affairs, Art Gallery of Hamilton and Dr. Devin Therien, and organized by the Art Gallery of Hamilton. The exhibition is presented at the Art Gallery of Alberta with the support of Capital Powered Art, an exhibition series sponsored by Capital Power Corporation.

This project is generously funded by the Canadian Government through the Department of Canadian Heritage Museum's Assistance Program. 

Organized by
  • Art Gallery of Alberta


Monday: closed
Tuesday: closed
Wednesday: closed
Thursday: 11am-7pm
Friday: 11am-5pm
Saturday: 11am-5pm
Sunday: closed


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Edmonton, Alberta
Canada T5J 2C1