Montreal sites, from fine art to exotic insects
In my week in Montreal all by myself, I took every advantage to be an arts and culture tourist and get out and see things thanks to my trusty transit pass!
My mother used to bring us to Redpath Museum on the McGill Campus when we were small to see the wondrous objects in this small natural history collection. It was just as lovely as I remembered it with a bit of everything: taxidermy specimens, dinosaur skeletons, sparkling collection of seashells, minerals, Egyptian mummies, shrunken heads, fossils, even an undulating boa skeleton on top of tall display box, a surprise treat seen from overhead.
Museum of Fine Arts, some lovely gems from all periods. I don’t remember seeing any of these before and perhaps I’ve only seen blockbuster shows here on my very few visits back to Montreal since I left in 1976.
I missed their Decorative Arts section on my first visit and had to go back a second time but their permanent collection is open free to the public so I could just hop in and see that section only with its great crafts items and product design. Thanks Janna for sending me back for that!
Decorative Arts are interesting because they show us the humblest and the finest examples of things we all use in our everyday lives like tables, chairs, lamps, plates and they range from serenely simple to encrusted and exotic.
These in particular were some incredible ceramics objects of a quality that made me gasp. British Coalport Factory bone porcelain vases from 1830. I’ve never seen anything quite like these. Fabulous! The beauty of the design, color and craftsmanship was jaw dropping.
Seeing these chairs and modern textiles made me realize just how trendy and avant-garde my fashion designer parents were. Our house had furniture like this and lots of original artwork on the walls, even if some of the “original” Van Goghs were painted by my father, complete with deep brush strokes in the thick oil paint. Our home in fact looked very much like a museum with from pieces from very modern to very antique scattered here and there.
Little Chinese funerary figurine from around AC 725, which looks like a combination of many of the female costumes of the Star Wars movies. Museums are great inspiration for designers for movies and animation.
I’ve visited countless small to enormous churches and cathedrals in many countries but somehow had never visited the famous St. Joseph’s Oratory right here. This basilica is fairly modern, built in the Art Deco style, very simple, not ornate at all in keeping with Brother André’s very humble personal style. Brother André was canonized in 2010 to ecstatic Montreal and Quebec review. It was a bit of a puzzle box with lovely separate compartments. The main cathedral part was open and simple. The candle offering area was very unique and darkly sparkling with lines of red jars of candles laid out in a modern way. A lovely little area showed us wax figures of Brother Andre’s very humble living quarters and a small gallery exhibited very contemporary modern art made by Quebec religious members. Very impressive.
A beautiful gallery of nativity scenes from many countries portrayed different cultural approaches to presenting the birth scene including this life size work above which was originally displayed out in the Montreal wintery landscape when it was created in the 1950’s. The artwork reflects the decidedly white faces of the 1950’s before the influx of the many Caribbean and African cultures which make the city a richer, more culturally diverse today. The walls art dates from the mid 1950’s and shows us typical Montreal faces and clothes.
The Insectarium is a world class unique museum and discovery center dedicated to insects. Some are live but most are pinned in educational collections and glow like the most valuable and precious diamonds and jewels. For anyone looking for beauty in nature, this is a goldmine of symmetry, patterns, color and perfection, whether they came about due to Divine Design or natural selection. These wondrous creatures are studied by animators, designers, scientists and artists like this below which really looks like a shiny green beetle in a way!
I played back and forth between my regular camera and my Hipstamatic iPhone app, depending in the effect I was aiming for. Because I try to work only from my own photographs, I take lots for my own personal reference library and some may surface and resurface into artworks over time.
Old Montreal now has a Costume and Textile Museum, very small but elegant and perfectly displayed with good information. I wish them a long success.
Went along with Ann-Marie to her son’s unique Fine Arts Core Education school. The FACE school art fair set up like a Science fair. Each student presented a little French explanation about a famous artist or art movement. One charming little girl was Emily Carr complete with small toy monkey around her neck. I was very impressed with the displays and the excellent French and English which each child recited. Even Ann-Marie’s son who has only been in Quebec and speaking French since last October was very impressive. They take half their classes in English and half in French, not such a stretch for native Montrealers but uni-lingual imports have a challenge jumping into the deep end! Bravo!
My days were full, often doing two museums or sites and maybe one meeting with old or new friends each day. I had arranged studio visits to five of my Montreal figurative artists. Read more about each of them by hopping on the links to the FigurativeArtist blog.
Kai McCall figurative art, glamorous gals playing around with rifles
Gianni Guiliano horses and riders reminiscent of the Marlboro Man
Elaine Despins serene figurative paintings like falling into deep pools
Lina Vandal colorful abstract backgrounds with figurative image transfer on top
Marina Dieul portraits of people and animals in a Renaissance style
Claire Desjardins colorful abstract paintings
As I don’t get to practice my French much in BC, I’ve recently switched to reading novels in French and hit a great second hand book store Mona Lisait recommended by my friend’s daughter. Luckily for me, no other customers were around when I was there and the very helpful and charming owner personally helped my pluck out good reads of good value. I came away with about 30 novels that should keep me and my brain going for a good long time. When no customers are around, she practices on her guitar. A real jewel, the store and the owner.
I had a great week of exploring, learning and visiting. It is a very rare treat for me to travel alone and have only myself to please. I can count the times that has happened over the years on one badly mangled hand so thanks Montreal, I had a great time! Thanks to my Airbnb hosts Ruth and Guido who made my stay a comfortable and inexpensive one at under $30 a night for a bedroom in their shared flat in the Little Italy area.
After a week of art and culture, it was time to take the bus out to West Island and get ready for a weekend of hilarity and shared reminiscing of my Beaconsfield High School Reunion, a homecoming for the entire school, not just our year which had about 300 grads itself. More to come on that…