Night has long been an inspiration for artistic expression. The term “nocturne,” first applied to the visual arts by James Abbott McNeill Whistler in the late nineteenth century, evokes the dark and dreamy atmosphere of those hours when the sun travels below the horizon. Many artists have sought to capture the ever-changing quality of light resulting from the transition between day and night. Some have explored the moment when shadows appear with the setting of the sun; others have captured the rising moon and the way it illuminates the landscape. The darkness that reigns in the dead of night can represent a newfound freedom and anonymity—a time in which to dream and live out fantasies and secret desires. But with the sun’s inevitable return, dawn once again brings clarity and sight.
Crossing genres and decades, this exhibition explores the night in the Canadian artistic imaginary and traces the arc of night from sunset to sunrise. This universal daily transformation, which holds power over us all, has unique expression in the Agnes’s collections.