There are many experiences in the artistic sphere of Toronto that promise inspiration. The Art Gallery of Ontario’s Mystical Landscapes: Masterpieces from Monet, Van Gogh & More is among them.

The exhibition displays artwork from some of history’s most revolutionary painters, including the works of Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, and Georgia O’Keeffe. The AGO invites art-goers to indulge in the spiritual sensation the paintings from these artists supply. The Musée d’Orsay in Paris will also showcase the works later this year.

The experience of witnessing this exhibition is riveting. Some familiar names flash across the walls next to their respective paintings, such as Lawren Harris and Emily Carr. Yet, their images strikingly resemble some of their contemporaries.

One distinguishable dilemma evident in the artwork is the trouble of nationalism and identity, which aroused ties between religion, art, and spiritualism. On the surface, it may seem like the artists inspire the universe around them. However, it is the manifestation of the universe’s tragedies that provoke many of their contemplative works.

Certain works deeply engage the senses. It’s difficult to stand in a room full of Monet’s paintings and still find the will to subsist among them. Monet’s “Rouen Cathedral” series hung on the wall, not too far from several of his subversive “Water Lilies”—“Rouen Cathedral” and “Water Lilies” are two mysterious works that challenge the worlds in which they are depicted.

There’s a sense of impassioned overflow in the gallery. The vast amount of work by a number of prominent artists is almost an overwhelming experience. The works are subjected to the turmoil of their times, showing how the stroke of a paintbrush can contain these crises. For Monet, “Water Lilies” is an escape from modern life. For van Gogh, the depressive episodes in his personal life translated into his surreal impact on the art world—even if this impact was only recognized decades later.

Although the exhibition only hosted two of Georgia O’Keeffe’s works, the artist fit right into the theme of Mystical Landscapes. Her scenes of floral imagery are a reminder of her exploration of natural forms and bold independence.

The exhibition ends with van Gogh’s “Starry Night Over the Rhône.” This painting depicts a starry night sky and a landscape below. The stars and the lights on the shore reflect and blur in the water. One could protest that the serenity of the scene opposes Van Gogh’s later work, “The Starry Night.” “Starry Night Over the Rhône” ends the exhibition with grace.

The vision for Mystical Landscapes does not lie in the gallery itself, but rather, in each painting individually. The exhibition is overshadowed with mystery. It raises important issues between the late 19th century and the early 20th century, while also depicting personal conflict in each artist’s life.

Mystical Landscapes: Masterpieces from Monet, Van Gogh & More runs until January 29 at the AGO.

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