Curator: Jane Edmundson
Works from the U of L Art Collection
In the late sixteenth century, well-heeled young gentlemen seeking a classical education and cultural exposure began to depart on the “Grand Tour” – a trip through the canon of European art history which included stops in London, Paris, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, and ultimately, Italy. Grand Tourists from privileged families in England, America, and Scandinavia traversed the ancient ruins, churches, and aristocratic collections of Europe for the next 300 years, in the quest for refined neoclassical tastes, exotic experiences, and coming-of-age adventures.
Roloff Beny missed the Grand Tour’s heyday by more than a century, but his nomadic excursions carried him from his birthplace in Medicine Hat across the American, European and Asian continents. After studying printmaking at the University of Toronto and University of Iowa in the late 1940s, Beny took up photography, producing 18 large format publications over 30 years of far-flung travels. Concurrently maintaining a studio in Lethbridge and a Roman villa overlooking the Tiber, Beny surrounded himself with the cultural elite, fostering friendships with Peggy Guggenheim, Laurence Olivier, Jean Cocteau, Henry Moore, and the Shah of Iran. Upon his death in 1984, a bequest of Beny’s personal art collection was made to the University of Lethbridge, as well as the establishment of a student scholarship to fund the travel of developing photographers.
The works selected for A Canadian Abroad are from a larger photographic series titled “Odyssey: Mirror of the Mediterranean”, completed in 1981. The sweeping landscapes, monumental architecture, and wonders both man-made and natural recorded by Beny’s camera present a 20th century perspective of cross-generational wanderlust; a romanticized quest for voyages to unfamiliar and extraordinary places.
– Jane Edmundson, Preparator/Assistant Curator