Blood, Sweat and Art
September 11, 2008
Even the en masse rise of depression and stress is comparable to the physical toil workers faced during the industrial revolution. And once again we can turn to the humble peasant that Camille Pissarro first turned his easels towards more than 100 years ago.
“In the 20th century you can certainly talk about [labour history], but in the 19th century there aren’t these great events, so the visual documents are even more important to talk about cultural concepts of labour at the time.”
Drawing on the bounty that is the Art Gallery of Hamilton’s Tannenbaum collection, Dr. Cable compiled a collection of diverse works from European, American and Canadian artists. Beyond the historical teachings of the work, the collection presents the diversity of artistic expression and meaning. One of his favourite works, Louis Mettling’s “The Peasant,” is a perfect example of the complexity of the works.
“It’s a very striking image, because she’s also possibly threatening. I don’t know if he intended her to look that way. When you look at the painting it’s hard to decide exactly what he was after, but also it’s just a beautiful painting in terms of the realism and the sort of non-idealization taking place.”
And for an exhibition intended to impress and educate its viewers, it had the same effect on Dr. Cable. A long time student of 19th century European art and its preoccupation with the peasant, Dr. Cable figured he knew the ins and outs of the subject. The idealized versions of the peasant were interesting, said critical theory, because it was sort of an escape from the growing realities and class conflict in urbanization. But collecting a wider survey of the theme he was reminded about what really makes these works special.
“I realized that sometimes we are tempted too much to criticize these idealized views as just escapes from reality, because I don’t think it applies in the same way in Canadian art in of the late 19th century…[Peasants] are also very heroic in many cases in terms of the artist’s intentions. They aren’t just escapism from reality. They’re also very beautiful”
Blood, Sweat and Tears: Labour in Art will be on display from Sat September 13 – Sun January 4, 2009 at the Art Gallery of Hamilton.
Pages: 1 2