The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, in association with the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, is presenting a survey exhibition on the Montreal artist Marion Wagschal from April 9 to August 9, 2015.

Featuring close to thirty paintings produced between 1971 and 2014, it presents an overview of the career of this bold painter who had a predilection for portraiture and allegorical forms of representation at a time when figurative painting was largely eschewed in favour of abstraction. This will be her first monograph exhibition at a Quebec museum.

I like the idea of juxtaposing, to any genre or historical style, something that doesn’t belong – an irritant. I began some of these non-figurative works to free up the drawing and decision-making process from too many explicit reference points.

– Marion Wagschal, in an interview with Stéphane Aquin and Marie-Eve Beaupré (Marion Wagschal, Montreal: Battat Contemporary, 2015, p. 25).

Throughout her remarkable career, she has been developing a type of realism that draws on various sources, from the Middle Ages to the contemporary era, with a strong penchant for the nineteenth-century Romantic painters. She invokes Corot, Delacroix, Géricault, Goya and Manet, updating their pictorial tradition and questioning her own place as a painter within a predominantly male history of art.

Born in Port of Spain, Trinidad, Marion Wagschal came to Canada in 1951. She completed her undergraduate and graduate degrees at Concordia University. She recently retired after a long career as a professor with the Department of Painting and Drawing in Concordia University’s Fine Arts Faculty, where she taught for 37 years. While teaching at Concordia, she introduced the innovative studio/seminar course Women and Painting.

Certain themes emerged: the environment, identity and personal experience.

– Marion Wagschal, in an interview with Stéphane Aquin and Marie-Eve Beaupré (Marion Wagschal, Montreal: Battat Contemporary, 2015, p. 25).

Artists and Children, a new acquisition at the MMFA

The exhibition is an opportunity for the Museum to display this recent acquisition for the first time. The large-scale canvas Artists and Children (1988) shows two artists with their four children. Shamelessly lounging in a double bed with a tea tray and a few toys, they are simply enjoying being together. Wagschal explains that the embroidery, gradually built up in interlacing coloured threads and apparent everywhere in the decoration of the furniture and the quilts, suggests a metaphorical dimension to this picture of family life. At the bottom left of the painting, a small Mayan carving, a symbol of fertility, is outlined in bright red. The meticulous arrangement of the figures forms a contrast with their expressionless faces. The subject of family is a key theme for the artist, who uses it to explore the multiple dimensions of identity.


Banner : Marion Wagschal. Burning Spoons (detail)1994. Oil on linen. Collection of Hydro-Québec.

Marion Wagschal. Tales from the Schwarzwald as told by my mother(detail)1980-2013. Acrylic on canvas. Halifax, Collection of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.

Marion Wagschal. Cyclops (detail)1978. Oil on canvas. Private collection.

Marion Wagschal, Artists and Children, 1988. Oil on linen, metal leaf and metallic paint. MMFA, purchase, the Canada Council for the Arts’ Acquisition Assistance Program and the Museum Campaign 1988-1993 Fund