Travel from Toronto to Paris with Monet, van Gogh and the Group of Seven on the AGO Mystical Landscapes Tour

by | Nov 10, 2016 | Canada, Toronto to Paris with Monet and VanGogh | 6 comments

Follow the Group of Seven at the AGO, the Art Gallery of Ontario


A couple of weeks ago on a glorious autumn day, I drove north from Toronto to follow the trail of the Group of Seven. They painted the Canadian landscape in bold strokes and brilliant colours. You can revisit that autumn day in the post about my adventure. This week, I took a shorter trip to follow the trail of the Group of Seven … I walked downtown to the AGO to see its new exhibit:

Mystical Landscapes: Masterpieces from Monet, Van Gogh and more

Organized in partnership with the renowned Musée d’Orsay in Paris, Mystical Landscapes: Masterpieces from Monet, Van Gogh and more breaks new art historical ground, exploring the mystical experiences of 37 artists from 14 countries, including Emily Carr, Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, Piet Mondrian, Claude Monet, Edvard Munch, Georgia O’Keeffe and James McNeill Whistler


Sometimes, you don’t have to travel to see the world. Sometimes, the world comes to you. If you want to see this exhibit, you can go to Paris in the spring (great idea!) or you can come to Toronto now (also a great idea). The exhibit runs in Toronto until January 29, 2017. It then moves to the Musée d’Orsay in Paris and runs from March 14 to June 25. Many fabulous works from the Group of Seven are included in the Mystical Landscapes tour.


The Group of Seven is going to Paris … with Monet, van Gogh, Mondrian, O’Keeffe, Whistler … and all the other fabulous artists in the Mystical Landscapes Tour!


The theme song for the Mystical Landscapes tour should be the Beatles, Magical Mystery Tour

The Magical Mystery Tour

Is waiting to take you away

Waiting to take you away

The AGO is one of the largest art galleries in North America

This spiral staircase was designed by Frank Gehry


Frank Gehry was commissioned to expand and revitalize the AGO in 2004.

Gehry was born in Toronto and grew up in the AGO neighbourhood. He had an international reputation when he transformed the AGO with his “relaxed architectural masterpiece.” (The Toronto Star) Surprisingly, this was Gehry’s first work in Canada.

The architecture critic for The New York Times wrote that Gehry’s transformation of the AGO “is a masterly example of how to breathe life into a staid old structure.”

Gehry is probably best known for his Guggenheim Museum design in Bilbao, Spain, done in titanium. His creation was hailed by New Yorker Magazine as a “masterpiece of the twentieth century.”

Although Gehry lives in California, he is true to his Canadian roots with his love of hockey. He designed the trophy for the World Cup of Hockey, won by Team Canada this year.! Yeahhh Team Canada!

You can see the heads of a couple of kids peeking over the top of the railing in this photo. Many schools have arranged class trips to see the Mystical Landscapes exhibit.

The kids were having a great time when I was there. If you want to avoid the crush of kids, plan an afternoon visit.


This is a beautiful staircase but it reminds me of my results when I try to pipe icing on cupcakes.

The Galleria Italia is 590 feet long


The glass and wood façade designed by Gehry is reminiscent of a crystal ship. The Galleria was financed by a consortium of 26 Italian-Canadian families.

Monet and Me

Large posters line the hallways outside the Mystical Landscapes exhibit.

This is a photo of Monet at his home in Giverny, outside Paris, where he constructed his Japanese water garden so that he could create his famous water lily masterpieces.

I set up my camera on a ledge across from the poster, set the timer and jumped into my photo with Monet.

You can see my photos of Monet’s home and gardens in an earlier post: Experience Monet in Givery and Paris.

This is Claude Monet’s Water Lilies (Nymphéas)


This is one of Monet’s water lily masterpieces created at Giverny. This painting is on loan from the Musée Marmottan Monet in Paris. The Marmottan could spare this piece for the Mystical Landscapes exhibit. The Marmottan has the largest collection of Monet in the world.

I have not been to the Marmottan. It is on my ‘must see’ list for a future Paris trip.

Photos are not permitted in the Mystical Landscapes exhibit so I downloaded this image from the Marmottan gallery.

My major criticism of the exhibit is the lack of take-away souvenirs. If photos are not permitted, I usually like to buy a booklet with photos of special exhibits. The only book about the exhibit is a hard-covered 400-page tome. Too much information!

Van Gogh’s Starry Night Over the Rhône at Arles is the star of the show


This is what van Gogh wrote in a letter to his brother, Theo:

When I have a terrible need of – shall I say the word – religion. Then I go out and paint the stars.


Starry Night is near the end of the tour. I love this painting. It is on loan from the Musée d’Orsay. This is my photo of Starry Night that I took at the Musée d’Orsay when we were there last spring. The painting is part of the regular collection at Musée d’Orsay. Photos are permitted in the regular collection at both Musée d’Orsay and the AGO.

You can see more photos from my visit to Musée d’Orsay in an earlier post: Plan your Sightseeing Tour of Paris.

If you were the curator for this show, what Canadian paintings would you hang beside Monet’s Water Lily and Van Gogh’s Starry Night?

Tom Thomson’s The West Wind is going to Paris with Monet’s Water Lily and van Gogh’s Starry Night


The West Wind is an iconic Canadian image.

This was Tom Thomson’s final painting before his mysterious death in Algonquin Park. Arthur Lismer, also of the Group of Seven, said that the tree in The West Wind is symbolic of Canada’s national character.

This is not my photo, as I adhered to the ‘no photos’ rule!

Autumn Forest by Lawren Harris is going to Paris


Autumn Forest is a large triptych that has joined the Mystical Landscapes exhibit from the regular collection at the AGO.

There are many more fabulous pieces from the Group of Seven that are included in the Mystical Landscapes tour.

They are ALL going to Paris. I wish I were going with them!

In total, there are 90 paintings in the Mystical Landscapes exhibit. I have mentioned only 4 paintings here. You will have to go yourself to see the other 86.

This is a Lawren Harris painting in the regular collection. It is not going to Paris


The AGO has dozens of paintings from the Group of Seven. There is one room devoted just to Harris; another for Tom Thomson. Harris explained his passion for painting this way:

I’m trying to get up to the summit of my soul and work there – there where the universe sings

Do we all strive to find the summit of our souls – where the universe sings? The Group of Seven collection at the AGO is fabulous.

We are fortunate to have this outstanding collection of Canadian art. Ken Thomson was a major collector of Canadian art and a major benefactor of the AGO. He donated 2,000 works of art to the AGO. He was the richest person in Canada when he died in 2006. If you come to Toronto, add a visit to the AGO to your ‘must see’ list.


Lawren Harris painting Mountain Forms sells for record $11.2M at auction

Group of Seven founder’s work is now the most expensive Canadian artwork ever sold at auction

CBC News

You can read more about the auction that shattered the record for Canadian art in my post: Follow the Trail of the Group of Seven


OCAD University is adjacent to the AGO


OCAD is Canada’s largest and oldest school for art and design. The Centre for Design is housed in this checkerboard box, four stories off the ground. It is supported by multi-coloured pillars.

This design has won many awards…. but not in my books. I would feel very uncomfortable four stories off the ground, supported by a handful of pick-up sticks. Pick-up sticks is a game we played when I was a kid. Each player must remove a stick from a haphazard bundle of sticks without toppling the pile. I always toppled the pile and I am afraid that the same thing would happen if I were inside that box.

This brings us to the end of our brief tour of Mystical Landscapes. See it for yourself in Toronto or Paris.

Follow the trail of the Group of Seven to the McMichael Art Gallery outside Toronto and the AGO in Toronto. Then join them in Paris with Monet and van Gogh.

Rose Ann MacGillivray

Rose Ann MacGillivray

World Heritage Traveller at
I love visiting World Heritage Sites, celebrating the world’s most fascinating places and cultures, and most of all, having fun on a trip. Join me on the road to fun and fascinating places. Thanks for reading – and remember to add your e-mail below for updates!
Rose Ann MacGillivray