Sometimes there is more to art than meets the eye, even in landscapes. A picture of a green valley is not only about a valley if the artist intended it as an allegory. In art, allegories express a truth about life or human nature through symbols. As an allegory, a green valley might represent many ideas, such as prosperity or optimism for the future.

Allegorical landscapes are one way that artists express nationalism. The meanings behind such artworks tell fascinating stories about the culture and identity of the countries they depict.
Sometimes there is more to art than meets the eye, even in landscapes. A picture of a green valley is not only about a valley if the artist intended it as an allegory. In art, allegories express a truth about life or human nature through symbols. As an allegory, a green valley might represent many ideas, such as prosperity or optimism for the future.

Allegorical landscapes are one way that artists express nationalism. The meanings behind such artworks tell fascinating stories about the culture and identity of the countries they depict.

© CHIN 2001. All Rights Reserved

St. Croix Rider

St. Croix Rider

Alex Colville (1920 - )
Collection of The Winnipeg Art Gallery; Acquired with funds from Dr. R.T. Ross and from The Winnipeg Art Gallery Foundation Inc.
1997
CANADA
acrylic polymer emulsion on board
© The Winnipeg Art Gallery


The water’s edge is a powerful symbol, with the ebb and flow of the tides bearing metaphysical meaning. Here the monumentality of the Nova Scotia coast is embodied by a lone figure on horseback in an immense landscape. The rider seems contained by the fence and the horizon, but at the same time the lines of the landscape appear to pull her to the water. She seems poised at the edge of the world, looking beyond the painting’s edge to things we cannot see.
The water’s edge is a powerful symbol, with the ebb and flow of the tides bearing metaphysical meaning. Here the monumentality of the Nova Scotia coast is embodied by a lone figure on horseback in an immense landscape. The rider seems contained by the fence and the horizon, but at the same time the lines of the landscape appear to pull her to the water. She seems poised at the edge of the world, looking beyond the painting’s edge to things we cannot see.

© CHIN 2001. All Rights Reserved

The Industry of Canadian Beavers

The Industry of Canadian Beavers

Unknown
Collection of The Winnipeg Art Gallery
c. 1799
CANADA
etching and engraving on paper
23.20 X 23.20 cm
© The Winnipeg Art Gallery


This imaginary scene at Niagara Falls is typical of depictions by European artists who had never visited the New World and had not seen actual beavers. Working from second-hand descriptions, the artist depicts strange creatures that walk on hind legs and organize work activities like humans. At that time, beaver pelts were highly desired in Europe and therefore the basis for the New World economy. Understanding the beaver’s significance, the artist represents them as icons of nation-building. The beaver in a monumental landscape becomes a symbol of the hard-working European pioneer and suggestive of the resources and natural harmony found in Canada.
This imaginary scene at Niagara Falls is typical of depictions by European artists who had never visited the New World and had not seen actual beavers. Working from second-hand descriptions, the artist depicts strange creatures that walk on hind legs and organize work activities like humans. At that time, beaver pelts were highly desired in Europe and therefore the basis for the New World economy. Understanding the beaver’s significance, the artist represents them as icons of nation-building. The beaver in a monumental landscape becomes a symbol of the hard-working European pioneer and suggestive of the resources and natural harmony found in Canada.

© CHIN 2001. All Rights Reserved

La chasse-galerie

La chasse-galerie

Fernand Thifault (? - ?)
Canadian Museum of Civilization
c. 1977
CANADA
house paint on canvas
© Canadian Museum of Civilization


The "chasse galerie" is a traditional Quebec tale—and artist’s subject—whose crux is landscape. A logging crew working in the woods long to go home to celebrate New Year’s Eve. They make a pact with the Devil for a round trip in a flying canoe. On their return, one of the men breaks the spell by touching the crucifix on one of the village church steeples they fly over. The canoe crashes into the trees. The artist here has personalized his depiction of the narrative and its eerie landscape by giving the figures the faces of people in his community.
The "chasse galerie" is a traditional Quebec tale—and artist’s subject—whose crux is landscape. A logging crew working in the woods long to go home to celebrate New Year’s Eve. They make a pact with the Devil for a round trip in a flying canoe. On their return, one of the men breaks the spell by touching the crucifix on one of the village church steeples they fly over. The canoe crashes into the trees. The artist here has personalized his depiction of the narrative and its eerie landscape by giving the figures the faces of people in his community.

© CHIN 2001. All Rights Reserved

Farmer’s Daughter

Farmer’s Daughter

E. Prudence Heward (1896 - 1947)
Collection of The Winnipeg Art Gallery; Gift from the Prudence Heward Estate
1938
CANADA
oil on canvas
66.60 X 66.50 cm
© The Winnipeg Art Gallery


Prudence Heward captures the tension and economic uncertainty of the 1930s in this image of a farm girl set against a backdrop of rolling fields. Using vibrant colours and exaggerated brushstrokes in the landscape, Heward conveys some of the insecurity and volatility of that period. The young, rosy-cheeked subject stares out defiantly, underlining the fine balance between her emotional vulnerability and the impression of physical strength. Her eyes reveal the blend of trepidation and determination that characterized the mood of the Depression era when most farmers struggled to keep their land and way of life intact.
Prudence Heward captures the tension and economic uncertainty of the 1930s in this image of a farm girl set against a backdrop of rolling fields. Using vibrant colours and exaggerated brushstrokes in the landscape, Heward conveys some of the insecurity and volatility of that period. The young, rosy-cheeked subject stares out defiantly, underlining the fine balance between her emotional vulnerability and the impression of physical strength. Her eyes reveal the blend of trepidation and determination that characterized the mood of the Depression era when most farmers struggled to keep their land and way of life intact.

© CHIN 2001. All Rights Reserved

Bunk Mat

Bunk Mat

Unknown
G. Ferguson Collection, Canadian Museum of Civilization
c. 1900
CANADA
painted canvas
© Canadian Museum of Civilization


Painted sailcloth mats were taken by sailors on voyages to brighten the deck beside their bunks. This one shows a schooner leaving the land behind. A lighthouse, symbol to sailors of safety and home, keeps watch, while a line of waves, forming a link from ship to land, crash against the shore. Above this scene are clasped two hands, one male, with a ring on the fourth finger, the other female. This is a landscape of love and obligation, making tangible for a sailor the bond of affection that links him to his wife ashore.
Painted sailcloth mats were taken by sailors on voyages to brighten the deck beside their bunks. This one shows a schooner leaving the land behind. A lighthouse, symbol to sailors of safety and home, keeps watch, while a line of waves, forming a link from ship to land, crash against the shore. Above this scene are clasped two hands, one male, with a ring on the fourth finger, the other female. This is a landscape of love and obligation, making tangible for a sailor the bond of affection that links him to his wife ashore.

© CHIN 2001. All Rights Reserved

Wolf

Wolf

Esther Warkov (1941 - )
Collection of The Winnipeg Art Gallery; Gift of The Winnipeg Art Gallery Fantasy Auction and Dinner Committee
1993
CANADA
pastel, conte, charcoal, graphite and paper on paper
63.00 X 73.20 X 6.50 cm
© The Winnipeg Art Gallery


Wolf is a sculptural drawing, executed on hand-coloured shaped paper. Literally emerging from a cityscape brimming with elements of urban and domestic life, the wolf appears to occupy real physical space. Isolated and in profile under a crescent moon, the wolf stands as the archetypal free spirit inhabiting the environment outside cities. The artist uses the howling wolf to explore the tension between the natural world and the urban one, which grows over and obliterates most signs of the landscape’s original physical state. Here, the wolf embodies freedom from the confines of the urban world, and indeed from the drawing itself.
Wolf is a sculptural drawing, executed on hand-coloured shaped paper. Literally emerging from a cityscape brimming with elements of urban and domestic life, the wolf appears to occupy real physical space. Isolated and in profile under a crescent moon, the wolf stands as the archetypal free spirit inhabiting the environment outside cities. The artist uses the howling wolf to explore the tension between the natural world and the urban one, which grows over and obliterates most signs of the landscape’s original physical state. Here, the wolf embodies freedom from the confines of the urban world, and indeed from the drawing itself.

© CHIN 2001. All Rights Reserved

Learning Objectives

The learner will:

  • Be conscious of the emotional impact that is caused and shaped by a work of art
  • Define allegory, and give examples from landscape art
  • Describe how allegory in landscape reveal aspects of culture and national identity
  • Be aware of the commonality of themes in landscape art among the three North American countries

Teachers' Centre Home Page | Find Learning Resources & Lesson Plans