The first Inuit artworks were acquired in 1953 by the Museum’s curator; F. Cleveland Morgan. A dynamic acquisition programme through purchases and gifts of works has contributed to the growth of this collection. A testament to Inuit artistic practices, including those of today, this gallery highlights, on the top level of the Claire and Marc Bourgie Pavilion, the Inuit perspective, images, transformations and legends.
Founding Identities (1700s–1870s)
On the Pavilion third leve, this gallery is dedicated to the dawn of Canadian art in New France. It features two cabinets showcasing the ecclesiastical and secular silver of the era. Aboriginal art, early and contemporary, is also incorporated to highlight the critical and introspective viewpoints of the First Nations regarding their contact with European Canadians.
The Era of Annual Exhibitions (1880s–1920s)
This section illustrates the proliferation of cultural exchanges with Europe and the establishment of annual exhibitions of Canadian art. The Art Association of Montreal, the precursor to the Museum, played a central role in the emergence of a local professional art scene. It presented the first “Annual Exhibition” of Canadian art, the Spring Exhibition, in 1880. This level also showcases the Museum’s large inventories of works by Ozias Leduc, James Wilson Morrice and Alfred Laliberté.
Towards Modernism (1920s–1930s)
This level brings together the various approaches to visual art by advocates of modernism striving to define a national artistic identity, notably Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven (Lawren Harris and A. Y. Jackson, etc.) in Toronto and the affirmation of form over content with the Beaver Hall Group (Prudence Heward and Lilias Torrance Newton, etc.) and the Contemporary Arts Society in Montreal.
The Age of the Manifesto (1940s–1960s)
This gallery traces the advent of Quebec artistic modernism as represented by its main protagonists, including Alfred Pellan, Paul-Émile Borduas and Jean-Paul Riopelle. An entire exhibition space is relegated entirely to the latter.
Expanding Fields (1960s–1970s)
Located on the Pavilion’s Level S2, this spectacular, 45-metre long gallery celebrates the expansion of Montreal and Canadian painting with large-format canvases and sculptures by Claude Tousignant, Guido Molinari, Jean-Paul Riopelle, Michael Snow and Serge Lemoyne, among others.