Lowrie Warrener: Northern Night (detail) ca. 1928, oil on canvas, Collection of the National Gallery of Canada, Gift of Rachel Warrener, Toronto, 1986.

Kathleen Munn and Lowrie Warrener: The Logic of Nature, the Romance of Space


September 30, 2011 to January 8, 2012

The work of Kathleen Munn and Lowrie Warrener represents some of the earliest abstract art in Canada as it first emerged during the 1920s and 30s. Munn, a New York-trained and Toronto-based artist, exhibited regularly from 1909 until the late 1930s. Sarnia-born Warrener also worked in Toronto during the 1920s and 30s; they both contributed paintings to the official Group of Seven exhibition held in 1928 and were included in that year’s influential Yearbook of the Arts compiled by renowned artist and writer Bertram Brooker.

This exhibition investigates these artists in relation to dominant artistic and philosophical movements of the period to provide a fuller, often alternative perspective on Canadian art. Munn’s great knowledge of theory led her to radically reinterpret traditional subjects such as religious and pastoral scenes into fractured, daring designs. She combined the mystical aspects of modernism with her own spiritual beliefs, culminating in her greatest series on the Passion of Christ. Warrener was a protégé of the Group of Seven, yet his landscape imagery is his own, projecting the lyrical stylization and bright cloisonnism of European art onto the Canadian wilderness. He also extended the search for ‘national’ cultural identity into the field of theatre, producing innovative stage designs and writing an avant-garde play with celebrated dramatist Herman Voaden.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a publication that contextualizes Canadian modernism from an interdisciplinary perspective.