So much beauty out there

January 21, 2010

Culture Stuff

Wednesday evenings offers free admission to the two big cultural attractions in Toronto, the Royal Ontario Museum and the Art Gallery of Ontario. The museum only offers an hour, which really isn’t sufficient time to see everything, but I guess for locals that’s not an issue as they can always make more than one trip.

The general museum atmosphere is very much a “isn’t learning fun” one, with lots of interactivity and designs to make kids see how the exhibits relate to their daily life. In that respect it’s very well done, though as an adult I had more time for the Far Eastern Art which was presented in a more conventional museum atmosphere, presumably because they don’t think there’s any prospect of getting kids interested in it! The other thing I enjoyed was the amazingly beautiful collection of minerals there, though time didn’t really allow anything more than an appreciation of their appearance.

By contrast, the art gallery allows two and a half hours of free admission, which is more than enough time to see everything, particularly as the second floor is basically full of mediocre (and sometimes just plain bad) Canadian art. Paul-Emile Borduas was just about the only artist I liked.

Other than that, there’s a lot to enjoy. It’s a great building to start with, managing to combine modernity with a feeling of comfort. The collection of mainly European art is, understandably, a bit short of works for several periods/styles of painting and tries to make a virtue out of a necessity by taking a thematic approach instead. Some “themes”are pretty fluid, but it often works surprisingly well. The “herstory” room, primarily made up of portraits of women that span 200 years is really interesting.

Notable works:

Ribera’s – St Jerome. Now I love Ribera, and I like this piece, but the hands are really odd, It doesn’t fully come across in this link, but they look like baked apples or something.

Andre Derain- Still Life With Frying Pan

George Bellows – The Drunk. Gratuitous semi-nudity from the 1920s, posing as moral instruction.

Now for some blog interactivity. When I was young, I had a football management computer game (don’t all the best anecdotes start this way?) where the players abilities were described in words rather than, as is more normal, numbers. So you had to decide whether an “excellent” player was better than a “brilliant” one, or whether “decent” was worse than “good”. I was reminded of this when I saw all the categories by which the gallery listed its benefactors/founders. “First Founders” were top of the list, with mere “Founders” bottom. But in what order did these come in (I’ve alphabeticised them). A prize for anyone who gets it right, or is closest to doing so.

  • Distinguished
  • Grand
  • Landmark
  • Luminary
  • Milestone
  • Patron
  • Transforming
  • Visionary

Good luck.


  1. Hah! Ah yes, how to make the big-bucks types feel they stand out without putting down the smaller spenders. Or vice versa. Like writing report cards for grade school — diplomacy code.

    My guess (top is biggest):


    I dithered about Transforming, though – I could have put it above Landmark. Also the order of the top two. Is it better to shine like a star, or see a shining future? These distinctions are really important. Phew.

    Comment by emole — January 21, 2010 @ 11:05 pm | Reply

    • That’s a very good attempt. But not right, so I’ll leave it open for another day or so to see if anyone else can beat it.

      Comment by Josh — January 23, 2010 @ 1:17 am | Reply

      • Curses! Now I’ll have to go to the ROM just to look that up! ;)

        Comment by emole — January 23, 2010 @ 7:27 am | Reply

        • Well, to save you a useless visit:
          A) this is the AGO, not the ROM
          B) you seem to have won by default anyway.

          Not sure if anyone would have beaten your very accurate guess though, the correct order is:


          I shall have to start thinking what the prize will be.

          Comment by Josh — January 24, 2010 @ 1:32 am | Reply

  2. It’s pretty impossible isn’t it…

    Is that a discreet tip of the hat to my “same old scenes” lyric? If so thank you!

    Did you spot any of the pictures that adorn Spring Cottage?

    Comment by Ian — January 22, 2010 @ 10:14 am | Reply

    • Nothing’s impossible. Have a go.

      And yes, it was a homage to Same Old Scenes

      Comment by Josh — January 23, 2010 @ 1:15 am | Reply

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