‘Drawn to Art’: A morning out at the National Gallery of Canada

La Piazza Navona by Jean-Baptiste Lallemand is one of 100 works at the National Gallery's 'Drawn to Art'

Mike Cullen (Twitter) is a young public servant who is also a regular contributor to (Cult)ure Magazine as a music editorialist. His passions include music, coffee, writing, travel and comic books.

Armed with a cup of coffee, I braved Ottawa’s unusually unseasonal October with my mother to check out the latest exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada, “Drawn to Art: French Artists and Art Lovers in 18th-Century Rome”. This international exhibition highlights the influence and artistry of French artists living in Rome during the 18th century.

St. Jerome by Jacques-Louis David

To be called to the Eternal City to study architecture, statuary and paintings was considered a great honour, and one that few artists managed to achieve during their lifetime. For them, the opportunity to sketch, paint and emulate the great masters before them, both Classical and during the Renaissance meant that they had managed a major achievement in their own artistry.

With over 100 works on display, there’s certainly a lot to take in at this exhibit, but it’s all worth it. Part history lesson, part art lesson, we see some fantastic works by the likes of Hubert Robert, Jean-Honore Fragonand and Jacques-Louis David. (It’s okay if you don’t recognize any of these names — I didn’t, and I thought I knew a lot more about the art world!)

The Sheperd Paris by Jean-Baptiste Frederic Desmarais

Many of the pieces in this exhibit are in North America for the first time, making this a very important exhibit for those who can’t get around internationally to see what’s out there (though by looking at the placards with the paintings, most of the collection has remained in France). Definitely worth the cost of admission, if only to be exposed to artists you might not otherwise have known about.

An amazing European art history lesson right here in the capital! Drawn to Art opened Friday and runs until January 2, 2012 — so there’s lots of time to check it out!