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Photo by Chris Radojewski

National Gallery of Canada unveils early works of French artists

AFTER THE STRESS of assignments and midterms, it may not be a bad idea chilling out by National Gallery of Canada’s new exhibit Drawn to Art running until Jan. 2. It turns out that many of France’s famous artists, whose works are presented in the exhibit, endured the same stress we feel while attending the French Academy in Rome back in the 18th century.

The famed school of art was similar to a current university experience for serious young artists back in the 1700s. Much of the work produced there was sent back to France and some of it was evaluated by the King of France. Not only is this exhibit a great opportunity for students to see art produced by people who were students at the time, but it is beneficial for those currently studying art and art history.

“It’s a full class of art history in itself. Any student in art history [or] art would love the show,” explains Sonia Couturier, the exhibition’s curator. “For anyone studying [these subjects], I think it is a great experience because visitors will see works that have never [before] travelled outside France or outside Europe and arranged in a comprehensive manner.”

The display, which has a second continuation of the show in France, boasts paintings from North America and Europe.

“It’s a great collection of 15 paintings and more than 80 drawings … You are seeing works by the artists who [were] about to become extremely important. [These include] artists like Hubert Robert [and] Jacques Louis David, before they become the artists we know now,” says Couturier.

The show is about more than just visual art. Visitors can also attend talks, lectures, and meetings with the curator to further their grasp of the exhibit.

This particular showcase is quite impressive with the number of works and type of artists it displays, and Couturier believes it’s important to keep in mind how much effort and time went into its creation.

“I think it is important to remember that such exhibitions take years to organize. This one took up to seven years, but the long ones take at least five years going through different phases,” she says.

“Starting with an idea that we research, we proceed to make a wish list and then formal requests for loans. [Visitors] see only the final result, but if they keep in mind all the different stages we go through, I think they will appreciate it even more.”

The red chalk sketches, detailed etchings, and paintings are magnificent regardless of the name printed on the placard beside the piece. This particular exhibition is a significant feat, adding to the gallery’s international reputation.

“It is pretty important for future exhibitions because we are organizing an international exhibition [with] a lot of negotiations between [other] institutions. The fact that we have works coming from abroad is exceptional,” says Couturier.

Check out Drawn to Art at the National Gallery of Canada, running from now until Jan. 2, 2012. For more information visit

—Chris Radojewski