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Five Fresh Exhibitions You Don't Want to Miss at the Whyte This Summer

Updated: Aug 17, 2022


Currently at the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, a variety of new exhibitions are available to enjoy on your next trip to Banff this summer. A visit to the Whyte Museum is the perfect way to enjoy the local culture and history of this area, complementing other exciting events and activities here in Banff National Park. And with a convenient location downtown on Bear Street, you're within walking distance of Banff Ave, restaurants, and several local attractions - it's never too far to stop by!


The Whyte's current summer exhibitions range from traditional to contemporary, and you'll find art from creatives with a breadth of backgrounds, including Métis beadwork artists, a number of the founding members of the Royal Canadian Academy of the Arts (RCA), local multimedia artists, Treaty 7 artists, and even our very own founders, Peter Whyte and Catharine Robb Whyte. Some exhibitions are making a return appearance after an initial interruption by COVID-19 in the spring of 2020, and others are coming to the museum for the very first time.


Find out why you should check out Canoe, Breathe, About Face, Peter Whyte and Catharine Robb Whyte: Fan Favourites, and the Cave and Basin Mural Project this summer!


Canoe

Painting of red canoe on a lake in a mountain landscape.
David Thauberger R.C.A., Summer Drift, 2018 Acrylic on canvas, 36x46". Private collection.

Displayed in its entirety for the first time this summer at the Whyte, Canoe is a private collection that spans 200 years of painting in Canada and is the only comprehensive privately held collection focusing on canoes.


The canoe has been termed the vessel that shaped Canada, and it was voted one of the Seven Wonders of Canada by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) in a national competition in 2007. It has captured our imagination and allowed us to explore remote areas of the country with intimacy and wonder. The canoe is our enduring connection to Canada’s remarkable geography.


The collectors, Grit and Scott McCreath, have gathered works that articulate the history of Canada through depictions of Indigenous and settler populations in various landscapes. Through the works of art, the viewer learns of the historical structure and usage of Indigenous vessels and the role this plays in carrying cultural knowledge forward.


The McCreath canoe collection began innocently in 2006 as a birthday present from Grit to Scott with the purchase of an 1875 watercolour by Canadian artist Lucius O’Brien (1832 – 1899). Eventually, the concept of collecting specific to subject was discussed and Rod Green of Masters Gallery in Calgary became the leading locator of the historic and contemporary paintings. The McCreaths expanded the collection with three-dimensional pieces, one of which is a 14-foot canoe made of one continuous piece of birch bark in 2017 by Canmore resident Don Gardner.


The earliest work is an incredibly rare 1820 watercolour by John Halkett (1768 – 1852). The collection also includes artist-explorers of the 19th century, who were contracted by Sir William Van Horne to depict the construction of the CPR railway and expansion of western Canada. In 1880, a number of the artists were founding members of the prestigious peer-adjudicated organization the Royal Canadian Academy of the Arts (RCA). The 20th-century works are by creative, well-established artists from across Canada who are also celebrated as art educators, designers, and printmakers. The collection encompasses works from all provinces and territories except the Yukon and spans all three Canadian coasts.


The exhibition is supported by BMO Private Wealth and Grit and Scott McCreath and family. The Whyte Museum is most grateful to the McCreaths for lending us this important and remarkable evolving and expanding collection.


Check out the recent media coverage of Canoe:


Exhibit offers look at history of canoeing in Canada | Greg Colgan with Rocky Mountain Outlook


Breathe

Beadwork in the design of blueberries on moose hide mask. Made by Metis artist Nathalie Bertin.
Nathalie Bertin, Blueberries, 2020 Moose hide, beads, melton wool, cotton fabric, rabbit fur, leather. Collection of the artist.

In early March 2020, COVID-19 arrived in Canada, beginning a long period of isolation, closures, and distress. Shortly thereafter, the Whyte Museum closed its doors but stayed in touch with the community through online video presentations. Some visitors were able to view the first Breathe exhibition in person but the majority were restricted to our online interview with co-creators and Métis artists Nathalie Bertin and Lisa Sheppard.


The genesis for the exhibition first evolved within the first two weeks of the shutdown. Both Nathalie and Lisa noticed a distinct absence of beaded objects being made by traditional artisans. For them, it was curious as they assumed it was the exact time artists should be creating. Known as the Flower Beadwork People, the Métis put their distinct style of beading on a wide variety of objects and garments as a general practice. In speaking with their peers, Nathalie and Lisa learned that the pandemic had completely blocked the creativity of many. For some, it was a déja-vu to generations prior whose relatives were gravely impacted by infectious diseases. Very quickly Nathalie and Lisa invited Indigenous artists to create hand-crafted masks. Realizing the effect of the pandemic impacted all populations, they soon opened the call to anyone, in any traditional medium authentic to their own culture and artistic practice. Artists from Canada, the US, many parts of Europe, Australia, and New Zealand responded with the resulting success prompting a second circulating exhibition


Each traditionally crafted mask tells a unique story of the artists’ experience and shares a common message on the importance of breath. Constructed of diverse materials, these 90 contemporary artifacts record a significant historical moment in human history.


About Face

Paintings and prom dress as part of the exhibition About Face by Bev Tosh.
Paintings and prom dress as part of the exhibition About Face by Bev Tosh.

About Face features multimedia works from Calgary artist Bev Tosh, exploring waste left from the pandemic.


Pieces include a prom dress using the distinctive blue and white disposable face masks. These masks also appear in self-portrait paintings, as well as a depiction of the Mona Lisa in a piece entitled “Panda Mona.”


Bev writes, “As a child, I recall the shock of the ground suddenly lurching and shifting under my feet while walking to school.


The global pandemic shook my world no less than that earthquake of my youth. Like an aftershock, it caused a sudden 'About Face' - or reversal of direction - in my artwork. The title is intended to be both literal and figurative.


When facial expression is obscured, what’s left? I probed my own masked reflection in a mirror (I was required to enter my studio masked) in a series of 'blind contour' self-portraits in ink on paper. These distorted drawings led to other masked self-portraits, both playful and serious.


Disposable masks, lost or tossed, were simply gone with the wind; snagged by fences and washed into storm drains. This new detritus of our times suggested to me the old classic movie, 'Gone with the Wind,’ and the ballgowns of southern belles, the antithesis of contemporary work-from-home-wear."


Bev Tosh is a contemporary artist and a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. She received her Masters of Fine Art in Painting from the University of Calgary, graduated with distinction from the Alberta College of Art and Design, and was awarded a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Fine Art (U of S).


Bev has lectured and taught art at several Canadian colleges and universities. As a practicing artist, Tosh has exhibited widely both nationally and internationally.


Cave and Basin Mural Project Featuring Treaty 7 Artists


Mural paintings in progress at the Cave and Basin National Historic Site. Photo by Josh Segelski.

Since a time beyond memory, the Cave and Basin, Banff, and surrounding areas have been a place for gathering, healing, trade, travel, cultural exchange, economic activity, spiritual practice, and ceremony in connection with the land.


Over thousands of years to the present, many different peoples have lived in and visited this place, making it what it is today—a landscape multi-layered with stories, languages, memories, and perspectives.


This year, the Peter and Catharine Whyte Foundation and Cave and Basin National Historic Site partnered to honour the rich Indigenous history and contemporary significance of this special and sacred space through the arts. Featured mural Artists include Nathan Meguinis (Tsuut'ina), Gordon Wesley (Îyârhe Nakoda), Ina Old Shoes (Blackfoot) and Mentor AJA Louden.


Visit the Cave and Basin National Historic Site to see this mural project, on for the summer of 2022! Learn more about the artists and their work here.


Peter Whyte and Catharine Robb Whyte: Fan Favourites

Painting of Banff townsite in Banff National Park by Peter Whyte.
PETER WHYTE (1905 – 1966, CANADIAN) n.d. oil on canvas 26.5 x 34.0 cm Collection of the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies Gift of Dorothy H. Wardle, Sidney, 1976 WyP.02.080

This exhibition delves into the artistic practice of our founders Peter Whyte and Catharine Robb Whyte whose love of the outdoors provided endless possibilities to paint a variety of subjects all within close proximity to their Bow River log home.


The Whyte’s personal artistic styles were influenced in part by Peter’s earlier awareness of artists Belmore Browne and Aldro T. Hibbard; Catharine’s family's philanthropic artistic connections, and the education they both received at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. During their tenure, the customary 19th and early 20th-century academic instruction required students to “paint what they saw” along with prescribed artistic rules. The training was in-depth, requiring discipline, patience, and stamina. These qualities proved useful when confronted by the enormity of the mountain vistas, the rapidly changing light, and frequent changing climatic conditions.


Together, and often painting in close proximity to each other, Peter and Catharine produced hundreds of 8” x 10” oil sketches with many functioning as colour notes for larger canvases. Depending on the weather patterns of the day, these small works were completed within a time frame of twenty minutes to two hours.


As well as small sketches, Peter completed large-scale studio works. However, Catharine’s only large canvas #19 titled Larches is relatively small in comparison. Equally as gifted a painter as her husband, one can only speculate that her wifely duties, disciplined correspondence, and endearing desire to promote Peter kept her occupied. Indeed, once the new upstairs home studio was completed in 1939 with a distant proximity to her office and the kitchen, Catharine did not attempt large-scale canvases.


Of interest are the frames on the small paintings which are replications of Peter Whyte’s hand-carved one adorning canvas #40 titled Bow Lake. It was an early practice for artists to construct and decorate their own frames and a skill Peter learned from artist Aldro T. Hibbard, who was both a visitor to Banff in 1925 and 1926 as well as an alumni of the School of the Museum of Fine Art, Boston. The small speckled replicas were made by master framer Jarvis Hall of Norberg Hall Art Gallery, Calgary.


In a 1979 interview for Canadian Collector Magazine with Joan Murray, Catharine recalled: “My husband was quite influenced by Belmore Browne (1880-1954) and Carl Rungius (1869-1959). We both were a bit. There was quite a group of us in Banff: Belmore Browne, Charlie Beil, Nick de Grandmaison, Walter Phillips. And so many visiting artists too: Fred Brigden, A.C. Leighton, Charlie Comfort, H.G. Glyde, George Pepper, Kay Pepper were all here at one time or another, either painting or teaching at the BSFA. Of course we also knew J.E.H. MacDonald, Lawren Harris, Arthur Lismer, and A.Y. Jackson…”


Available in our shop is Artistry Revealed: Peter Whyte, Catharine Robb Whyte and Their Contemporaries which provides an in-depth understanding of their artistic careers.


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