The Mystical Landscape

Connecting with an order beyond physical appearances, going deeper than material realities to come closer to the mysteries of existence, experimenting with losing oneself in perfect unity with the cosmos: these quests are all characteristic of mysticism, the spiritual phenomenon that exists alongside all religions, in all continents. Why not, then, acknowledge its presence in Western Symbolist painting, which, at the close of the 19th century, precisely sought to elevate art to the medium of the ineffable, and the artist to the rank of initiate?

Organised in collaboration with the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, the exhibition aims to look at the mystical aspect of the Symbolist landscape. In the West, since the Renaissance, and even more so since the age of Romanticism, the landscape has been recognised as the pictorial genre that can give expression to inner feelings through form – a genre that conveys immediate spiritual experiences that cannot be put into words, yet is based on the representation of a natural environment that is stable, measurable and familiar. Elevation towards the infinite, the trials of the night, the quest for light, the individual’s search to become one with the whole, the experience of nature’s transcendental forces: these situations, both sensory and spiritual, sought out or felt as much by the painter of the Symbolist landscape as by the spectator of the work, are like the stages of the mystical journey.

The selection of works includes landscapes by Gauguin, Denis, Monet, Hodler, Klimt, Munch and van Gogh, as well as by the leading figures of the Canadian school of the 1920s and 1930s, such as Lawren Harris, Tom Thomson and Emily Carr. Thus a dialogue will be created between secular, Catholic and Protestant mystical traditions, and will include the relationship to the natural world before and after the cataclysm of the First World War.