The National Gallery of Canada presents two exhibitions of outstanding works from its own collections

Ottawa - May 19, 2011

The National Gallery of Canada (NGC) is offering its visitors two exhibitions, Theatre and the Circus in the Art of Laura Knight and Studies of Hands, featuring rarely shown works from the Gallery's collection. The exhibitions are presented side by side in the Prints, Drawings and Photographs Galleries until August 21.

"Our national collection is brimming with treasures that we can’t always display," NGC director Marc Mayer pointed out. "These two exhibitions allow our visitors to see its quality and scope."

Studies of Hands
In his essay An Apology for Raymond Sebond, 16th-Century French writer and philosopher Michel de Montaigne wrote: "And what about our hands? With them we request, promise, summon, dismiss, menace, pray, supplicate, refuse, question, show astonishment, count, confess, repent, fear, show shame, doubt, teach, command, incite, encourage, make oaths, bear witness, make accusations, condemn, give absolution, insult, despise, defy, provoke, flatter, applaud, bless, humiliate, mock, reconcile, advise, exalt, welcome, rejoice, lament, show sadness, grieve, despair; astonish, cry out, keep silent and what not else with a variety and multiplicity rivaling the tongue. "

Since the time of the first cave paintings, artists have used the hands as a favourite subject to practise anatomical drawing and study the play of light. Hands have also taken the place of the face as portraits. This installation presents a selection of images of hands from the Photographs Collection, the collections of Prints and Drawings, Canadian Art and International Contemporary Art. There are more than 60 works by Canadian and international artists, including Frank Carmichael, M.C.Escher, Loni Leibermann, Lisette Model, August Sander, Gary Schneider, Joyce Wieland and the School of Giulio Romano.

Theatre and the Circus in the Art of Laura Knight
In 1922, British painter Laura Knight turned to printmaking after a wrist fracture prevented her from holding a palette. At the time, it was difficult to find the proper equipment for etching and aquatint, so she polished pitted steel sheets for her plates and borrowed a rusty old press from a friend. Her subject matter ranges from the circus to cabarets and ballet, all rendered with a deeply compassionate vision. Knight’s portrayal of the world of performance is intimate and sympathetic. Her portraits of actors, dancers and singers are evocative images of the human condition. The Laura Knight works are drawn from the gift of her work made by G. Fredric Bolling and Valerie A. Withington through the American Friends of Canada (now the Council for Canadian American Relations). The exhibition, that comprises 70 works, also includes a selection of works from Watteau to Chagall, which examine the relationship between performer and spectator.

John Collins, curator of Theatre and the Circus in the Art of Laura Knight , and Assistant Curator, Prints and Drawings at the Gallery, has written an article on Laura Knight’s fascination for spectacle in the Summer 2011 issue of the Gallery's magazine, Vernissage. This issue will be available as of June 1 for $5.95, at newsstands and the NGC Bookstore, and online at

Meet the experts
On Saturday 20 August at 2 pm, visit Theatre and the Circus in the Art of Laura Knight with the collectors G. Fredric Bolling and Valerie A. Withington. Their gift of the Laura Knight works was made through the American Friends of Canada (now the Council for Canadian-American Relations).

Tickets are $9 for adults, $7 for seniors and full-time students, $4 for youths aged 12 to 19 years, and $18 for families (two adults and three children). Admission is free of charge for children under 12 and for Members of the Gallery, and on Thursdays from 5 pm to 8 pm. This includes admission to the NGC Collection.

Opening Hours
1 May – 30 September: Open daily from 10 am to 5 pm, Thursday to 8 pm.

About the National Gallery of Canada
The National Gallery of Canada is home to the most important collections of historical and contemporary Canadian art, including the extensive collection of the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography. The Gallery also maintains Canada's premier collection of European Art from the 14th to the 21st century, as well as important works of American, Asian and Indigenous Art and renowned international collections of prints, drawings and photographs. Created in 1880, the National Gallery of Canada has played a key role in Canadian culture for well over a century. Among its principal missions is to increase access to excellent works of art for all Canadians. To do so, it maintains the largest touring art exhibition programme in the world. For more information, visit

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