Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Along the Footpath of Peace

To be glad of life because it gives you a chance to love, and to work, and to play, and to look up at the stars; to be satisfied with your possessions but not contented with yourself until you have made the best use of them; to despise nothing in the world except falsehood and meanness, and to fear nothing except cowardice; to be governed by your admirations rather than by your disgusts; to covet nothing that is your neighbor's except his kindness of heart and gentleness of manners; to think seldom of your enemies, often of your friends and every day of Christ and to spend as much time as you can with body and with Spirit in God's out-of-doors. These are little guide posts on the Foot Path of Peace.
Henry van Dyke, American author (1852-1933) in "The Footpath of Peace"(1901)

Walking amidst pines, breathing in the fragrant air, and lunching under a natural arbour, everything was at peace on the spacious grounds of the McMichael gallery. I can imagine that Tom Thomson (1877-1917), one of Canada's foremost artists, would have been quite pleased to have his masterpieces displayed here. At the core of the gallery is the former fieldstone and log home of Robert and Signe McMichael and the art that graced their walls.

"In 1965, following lengthy negotiations with the Province of Ontario, the McMichaels gave their home, property and collection of 177 paintings to the government, which agreed to ensure that the buildings and grounds would be maintained and that the spirit of the collection would be retained for all time." (The Canadian Encyclopedia) Probably only a few years later, I visited the gallery with my parents. Perhaps, at the time, it seemed that I was unappreciative of visiting the only art gallery dedicated solely to Canadian art, but that summer trip did plant seeds in my nascent mind and some four decades later I was eager to re-visit the gallery and stand before the paintings that can take my breath away. The morale of the story? Parents: don't give up hope. ;-)

Unfortunately, photography is not allowed in the gallery. I did, however, come away with a few reproductions, including Thomson's ink on paper "Decorative Landscape: Quotation from the Footpath of Peace by Henry Van Dyke":

The art of Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven captures the spirit of the Canadian landscape and, in so doing, it also captures the Canadian identity. A print of A.J. Casson's "White Pine" found itself in the highly unlikely place of Luxor, Egypt; yet somehow it seemed perfectly at home there, as did I. It's an image that embodies the isolation, cold, and force of the Canadian landscape and yet it brought me much comfort to gaze on it from across the living room.

The gallery is located in the town of Kleinburg that dates its founding to 1847. Some of the buildings, such as the Murray-Diceman house (c. 1830), pre-date the arrival of John Kline and are beautifully adapted as shops for a little retail pleasure to round out the day.

I was impressed by Starbucks' low-key street presence that maintains the integrity of the town's streetscape. It was a lovely day and well worth repeat visits. I will certainly enjoy another chance to walk along the peaceful footpaths through fragrant pine woods.

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