JUNE 17 – OCTOBER 16, 2022
The canoe has been termed the vessel that shaped Canada, and it was voted one of the Seven Wonders of Canada by the Canadian Broad Casting 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 Gardener.
The collection spans 200 years of painting in Canada and is the only comprehensive privately held collection focusing on canoes. 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.
Image: David Thauberger, Summer Drift, 2018, Acrylic on canvas, 36x46", On loan to the Whyte Museum