Initiated and coproduced by the MMFA, ONCE UPON A TIME… THE WESTERN is the first exhibition to consider the Western and its attendant myths in the context of painting, photography, literature and film from the mid-1800s to the present, in the United States and in Canada. It establishes a dialogue between film and the fine arts through 450 paintings, sculptures, installations photos and numerous film excerpts. Visitors will discover the complexity of the genre through the exploration of themes associated with debates that are still topical today, such as armed violence, roles in “traditional” genres and interracial relations. Structured around the genre’s settings, casting and actions, it takes as its starting point the emergence of large-scale landscape paintings of the West, the mass production of dime novels and illustrated magazines, and Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show, drivers of American mythology. It examines the evolution of the film genre, from the short silent films to John Ford classics, Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns and contemporary films by Quentin Tarantino, Ang Lee, and Joel and Ethan Coen. There will be also be a focus on the work of contemporary and indigenous artists who openly question the genre’s fictions and its codes.
The exhibition is presented with the collaboration of Wells Fargo, Moira and Alfredo Romano, Stingray, France and Raymond Royer, as well as Marcel Elefant and George Lengvari. The Museum thanks the Terra Foundation for American Art for its invaluable support, as well as Air Canada, the Angel Circle, Bell Media, La Presse and the Montreal Gazette for their vital contribution. The exhibition also received support from the Department of Canadian Heritage through the Canada Travelling Exhibitions Indemnification Program.
The exhibition is organized by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and the Denver Art Museum.
Albert Bierstadt, Emigrants Crossing the Plains , 1867. Oklahoma City, National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, Gift of Jasper D. Ackerman,Image courtesy of the Dickinson Research Center.