The Lapine Lap paints the way to gallery
By Sue Tiffin
Art lovers visiting the Agnes Jamieson Gallery at the Minden Hills Cultural Centre to take in the permanent Andre Lapine collection housed there will now be guided by Lapine’s work along the way.
Six of Lapine’s pieces are adorning buildings throughout the downtown area of the village, telling the story of the man born in what is now known as Latvia, who brought his life and art to Minden.
The Lapine Lap is a self-guided walking tour that brings participants to murals by the artist, which are featured at Riverview Furniture, Up River Trading Co., Shaw Studios, the Dominion Hotel, the former Beaver Theatre and Molly’s Bistro Bakery.
The tour, funded by main street revitalization initiative money from the province, takes about 30 minutes to complete and ends at the Agnes Jamieson Gallery, which holds more than 100 paintings by Lapine.
“You may be wondering, how did an internationally renowned artist begin painting fields in Minden? Our story is just getting started...” begins the tour.
Lapine was born into a part of Russia in 1866, studied at the Imperial Academy of Petrograd before spending years in France and Holland, spent time at the prestigious St. Lucius Society and immigrated to Canada in 1905 – first to Manitoba, and then Toronto in 1907, where he worked at Brigden’s Ltd.
“Brigden’s was one of the largest commercial art studios in Toronto, creating illustrations for Simpson’s and Eaton’s catalogues. Lapine became very well-known for his hyper-realistic illustrations of lace and fur. His popularity quickly grew in the arts community,” reads the tour.
Lapine’s work was regularly featured in the Toronto Star and he was a member of the Ontario Society of Artists and the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. His art was purchased by the National Gallery of Canada and Art Gallery of Ontario, and he was a contemporary of members of the Group of Seven. After being struck by a car, Lapine as a patient met Dr. Agnes Jamieson at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Toronto and began a friendship that would continue when they both moved to Minden, Jamieson practising out of the current location of Shaw Studios, and Lapine working through recovery on Billy Hamilton’s farm on South Lake.
“[Lapine] came to Canada just as the Group of Seven were transplanting Impressionism to the Canadian scene,” reads the tour, quoting Malloney’s Art Gallery in Toronto. “He saw Impressionism rise and wane in Europe and then rise and wane in Canada. He had close, personal contacts with the great masters of both movements, knew what they were doing and why they were doing it. There is probably no painter in the world today who has had the unique opportunity to live in the very midst of two such vital and important artistic revolutions.”
Jamieson and Lapine left a lasting impression on the town, and Emily Stonehouse said it was soon after she joined Minden Hills township in the role of economic development, marketing and destination officer and supervisor at the Minden Hills Cultural Centre that she was struck by the Lapine collection with the same “mesmerizing element” she felt when she took in the works of the Group of Seven growing up.
“In a weird way, I was like, this is marketable,” she said. “This is kind of a twist on something that we have, and this is also something I can market to our community as something that is original and exclusive to our space ... I want something that’s rooted in our own heritage, that still adds that pop of colour. Something that’s a little bit different.”
With collaboration through Tammy Rea, Laurie Carmount, and Kathy Sweeney, the inaugural murals of the project are being hung this week.
Rea brought to Stonehouse’s attention the app, PocketSights, that enables a user to access the tour through a smartphone in a completely accessible way, available to those with hearing or visual impairments, visually or audibly guiding the participant through town. The app offers walking tours in unique places around the world, including the Haliburton Sculpture Forest, dysART 150 Trail and Haliburton County Studio Tour, locally.
Carmount, curator of Agnes Jamieson Gallery, helped to source and recommend Lapine pieces for murals that suit the space they’re in. “She was on board because she loves Lapine,” said Stonehouse. “So she was excited to talk about [the works in the collection] and their full potential, and be able to expose them in the way that they deserve to be recognized.”
Sweeney, from County Sign & Display who constructed the murals, was ready to work on the project from the get-go, and did so in a timely manner, according to Stonehouse. “[County Sign & Display] made sure it was really high-res photos, you can see on all of them, there’s detail right into the brushstroke,” she said.
And though the project is beginning with six Lapine pieces that are evenly spaced throughout the downtown core, it can expand into more, pulling from the diverse collection that includes sketches as well as the more colourful work.
“I needed it to be eye-catching, needed your eye to float there naturally,” said Stonehouse. “As people kind of familiarize themselves with what these are and who he is, because I think it’s important to tell his story, we can kind of expand upon that a little bit and start to see a little bit how in-depth he was.”
The paintings featured correlate to Lapine, but also to the community. For example, Mill Scene, which is hung at the former Beaver Theatre, shows an image of Minden past as well as present. “The one over on Beaver Theatre, that’s on the log run, the tree line is almost the exact same tree line as it is behind the Beaver Theatre, when you look at it,” said Stonehouse. “It’s like this multi-dimensional kind of thing, because that’s where they would have done the logging.”
The combination of art and history makes for a tour that can be interesting to visitors as well as local residents.
“It was really just an attempt to add a pop of colour but also to bring our history to life and do something that the whole community could connect with,” said Stonehouse. “It’s something that locals or visitors can do. It’s a tourist attraction but it’s highlighting local heritage.”
One part of the tour notes that residents of Minden Hills today still remember Lapine walking the streets with paintbox in hand. “I think he’s a really interesting person, he really contributed to the fibre of this community and I just think that it’s important to tell his story because it kind of connects a lot of us in more ways than we know,” said Stonehouse.
At the end of the tour, visitors find themselves next door to the Agnes Jamieson Gallery, located at 176 Bobcaygeon Road, where the Lapine collection can be viewed from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday to Saturday, and on the same street as the Minden cemetery where Lapine, who died in 1952, is buried alongside his wife.
“The whole tour does lead up to the cultural centre, so no matter what, if people want to go in, that’s your final stop and suddenly you have his whole collection at your fingertips,” said Stonehouse. Even as she stands downtown on Minden’s main street on a weekday morning, people approach Stonehouse to ask about the paintings.
“I feel really proud because in this role, it’s such a new role, that seeing these little tangible differences, it feels good, and feels good the community is supportive and happy to work alongside,” said Stonehouse. “And I think they look good.”
For more information about The Lapine Lap self-guided walking tour, visit https://pocketsights.com/
For more information about the Agnes Jamieson Gallery, visit https://mindenhills.ca/agnes-
with files from Chad Ingram and Emily Stonehouse