The National Gallery of Canada: Ideas, Art, Architecture


496 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-7735-2509-2
DDC 727'.7'092





Reviewed by James A. Love

James A. Love is a professor architecture and associate dean (Research
and Outreach) in the Faculty of Environmental Design and an adjunct
professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Calgary. His
latest publication is the Illuminating Enginee


Douglas Ord is a Canadian writer who was granted a 1996 National Gallery
of Canada fellowship to research contemporary Canadian art in relation
to the NGC. From these studies, the more ambitious project of this book
grew. For a nation in which a prime minister governed for 20 years on
the advice of his dead mother and his dog, it is still a surprise to
learn that the Christian Science connections of the NGC’s first two
directors were key to their appointment, and that their religious
beliefs largely guided the gallery’s program for the first half of the
20th century.

Ord weaves together several strands—a critique of the design, an
analysis of the tensions between the personal beliefs of the successive
directors and thought in the art world through the 20th century, the
connection between Canadian politics and the evolution of the Gallery,
and the aspirations and manoeuvring to create a permanent home for the
institution. Each of these strands is explored rigorously and
comprehensively. The analysis of tensions between nationalism and
religion and between nationalism and approaches to modern art provide a
new perspective on the development of Canadian nationhood.


Ord, Douglas., “The National Gallery of Canada: Ideas, Art, Architecture,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 17, 2024,