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Art Pick of the Week: Attic

Every week we’re sharing one of our favourite artworks from the AGO Collection for you to see on your next visit.

David Milne's artwork Attic

David Brown Milne. Attic, 1928. oil on canvas, Overall: 40.6 x 50.8 cm. Gift from the McLean Foundation, 1958. © Art Gallery of Ontario 58/19

What’s hiding in the attic? We’ve got a team that can tell you. For this week’s Art Pick, we’re taking a closer look at Canadian artist David Milne’s work, Attic.

As a prolific painter and printmaker, Milne’s body of work is largely comprised of outdoor scenes and cityscapes, many of which live in the AGO Collection. In Attic, we see his other interest: interiors. When looking at this work, you may notice that the attic is filled with canvases. The work is essentially a painting about painting paintings. However, the closer you look, the more this painting reveals. In fact, there is a hidden secret in Attic.

When Meghan Monaghan, the AGO’s Assistant Conservator, Paintings, took Milne’s painting out of its frame in our conservation lab, she learned there were even more layers to this work. When she lifted it to the light, she could see other shapes and lines beneath what is visible on the surface. With the use of transmitted and infrared light, Monaghan determined that under this work is an underpainting, much different than the completed composition.

The lines and shapes she noticed were hard to distinguish at first, but a simple change in orientation revealed the canvas originally adorned a landscape. Not only is Attic a painting about painting paintings, it was also painted atop of another painting. Take a look for yourself in this behind-the-scenes video shot in our Michael and Sonja Koerner Centre for Conservation.


You can see Attic in the newly renovated David Milne Centre near the Marvin Gelber Print & Drawing Study Centre.

Stay tuned for next week’s Art Pick.

Admission to the AGO Collection and all special exhibitions is always free for AGO MembersAGO Annual Pass holders and visitors 25 and under. For more information, please visit the website.

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