• Vaillancourt, Armand (Canadian, b. 1929)

    An abstract sculptor and painter whose work is often informed by the political principle of anti-oppression. Vaillancourt’s materials range from clay and wood to salvaged metal, bone, and concrete, and his creations often privilege the physical character of his chosen medium. 

  • Vallée, Louis-Prudent (1837–1905)

    A significant figure in early Canadian photography, Vallée trained in New York and opened his first studio in Quebec in 1867. His business, Vallée and Labelle (with his partner, François-Xavier Labelle), produced views of Quebec landmarks and landscapes. It lasted for almost forty years, becoming particularly well known for its stereographs.

  • valorist

    A painter is a valorist rather than a colourist if he or she relies on the effect of chromatic values rather than pure colour. The value referred to is the degree of luminosity, from dark to light, independent of its hue. It is expressed in higher or lower contrasts of tones or shades that vary in intensity and in different degrees of density. Rembrandt and Corot are valorists; Renoir and Matisse are colourists.

  • van Alstyne, Thelma (Canadian, 1913–2008)

    A largely self-taught artist who studied at the Vancouver School of Decorative and Applied Arts (now the Emily Carr University of Art + Design). After she moved to Toronto, she became involved in the art scene and began to work abstractly. Her work was exhibited at the Pollock Gallery in Toronto and she was elected to the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 1977.

  • van der Weyden, Harry (American, 1864–1952)

    This Boston-born artist painted Impressionist landscapes and portraits in oil. He emigrated to England in 1870 and, after participating in the First World War, he painted a series of war scenes.

  • van der Weyden, Rogier (Netherlandish, 1399–1464)

    A painter of great influence and repute during his time, widely considered a genius of European art, but about whom little is now known. Van der Weyden is principally recognized for his religious artworks; Descent from the Cross, c. 1435, and the altarpiece Last Judgment, c. 1445–50, are among his masterpieces.

  • van Doesburg, Theo (Dutch, 1883–1931)

    Born Christian Emil Marie Küpper, van Doesburg was a painter, advocate of pure abstraction, designer, poet, and art theorist. In 1917, with Piet Mondrian and Bart van der Leck, he co-founded De Stijl, a publication that became an art movement, and his theories of integrating painting, architecture, and design influenced many modernist architects, including Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Van Doesburg introduced diagonals to his paintings to convey more movement, which led to a creative split from Mondrian. He later co-founded the Abstraction-Création group to counter Surrealism and promote abstraction.

  • van Dongen, Cornelis “Kees” (Dutch/French, 1877–1968)

    One of the Netherlands’ most important modern painters, van Dongen trained in Rotterdam at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts before moving to Paris in 1899. He was involved with several of the period’s great avant-garde groups, including the Fauves and Die Brücke (The Bridge). He is known particularly for his boldly coloured, expressionistic portraits.

  • van Eyck, Jan (Dutch, 1390–1441)

    The most prominent in a family of painters and an artist of the early Netherlandish school, van Eyck is often noted as the first master of oil painting. His technique involved layering oil paint to portray light and surface effects; his works often depicted religious subjects as well as portraits of nobles, clergy, and merchants.

  • van Gogh, Vincent (Dutch, 1853–1890)

    Among the most recognizable and beloved of modernist painters, van Gogh is the creator of Starry Night and Vase with Sunflowers, both from 1889. He is a nearly mythological figure in Western culture, the archetypal “tortured artist” who achieves posthumous fame after a lifetime of struggle and neglect.

  • Van Halm, Renée (Canadian, b.1949)

    Born in the Netherlands, Van Halm creates work that integrates media and colour, spanning painting, sculpture, and architecture. She studied at the Vancouver School of Art and Concordia University and teaches at the Emily Carr University of Art + Design.

  • Van Horne, William (Canadian, 1843–1915)

    A major railway entrepreneur, industrialist, and capitalist, Van Horne was appointed general manager of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1882 to oversee its proper construction; he became president in 1888. He viewed the railway as a communications system similar to telegraph technology, which his company also developed. As an amateur architect, Van Horne helped design the Banff Springs hotel and Château Frontenac. He also painted in his leisure time and was an important collector of art and Japanese porcelain.

  • van Oosterwijck, Maria (Dutch, 1630–1693)

    A painter of the Dutch Golden Age, Maria van Oosterwijck lived and worked in Delft, Utrecht, and Amsterdam. She focused on still lifes, painting primarily flowers. During her lifetime, she received commissions from European royalty, including Louis XIV of France, the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold, and William III of England. Her religious beliefs translated into richly symbolic compositions that gestured toward life, death, and resurrection.

  • van Ruisdael, Jacob (Dutch, 1628–1682)

    The leading landscape painter of the Dutch Golden Age. Van Ruisdael had a long career during which he emphasized the lively, romantic character of his subjects by using panoramic views, expansive skies, billowing clouds, stormy weather, rushing water, traces of a human presence, and a technique that combines detail with thick impasto.

  • van Velde, Bram (Dutch, 1895–1981)

    Born in poverty in Amsterdam, Van Velde trained as a painter, arriving in Paris in 1924. His style evolved from figurative work toward an individualized abstraction that drew on elements of Cubism and Surrealism. Van Velde did not achieve professional success until the years following the Second World War when, supported by the critical assessment of his friend the writer Samuel Beckett, his intensely coloured works began to attract attention.

  • Vancouver Art Gallery

    The Vancouver Art Gallery, located in Vancouver, British Columbia, is the largest art gallery in Western Canada. It was founded in 1931 and is a public, collecting institution focused on historic and contemporary art from British Columbia, with a particular emphasis on work by First Nations artists and, through the gallery’s Institute of Asian Art, on art from the Asia Pacific Region. 

  • Vancouver Biennale

    Previously the Vancouver International Sculpture Biennale, the Vancouver Biennale is a public art event that began in 1998 with a four-month-long exhibition of work by international sculptors along Vancouver’s English Bay. Renamed in 2004, the Biennale now hosts both sculpture and new media work at outdoor venues throughout Vancouver and in the neighbouring cities of New Westminster, North Vancouver, Squamish, and Richmond, B.C. Work presented in the Biennale remains on display for two years.

  • Vancouver photo-conceptualism

    Also known as the Vancouver School, the term originated in the 1980s in reference to a group of artists in Vancouver, including Jeff Wall, Roy Arden, Stan Douglas, Ian Wallace, Ken Lum, and Rodney Graham, who diversely incorporated conceptual art’s concerns into their photographic practices. These include Wall’s staged tableaux, Douglas’s historical recreations, and Lum’s pairings of photographs and text. The movement, while not always embraced by those who fall under its label, has had an international impact on contemporary photography.

  • Vanderpant, John (Dutch/Canadian, 1884–1939)

    After immigrating to Canada in 1911, Vanderpant became a major influence on photography in Western Canada in the 1920s and 1930s. His Robson Street gallery in Vancouver, opened in 1926 with Harold Mortimer-Lamb, promoted contemporary Canadian and international art and was a centre for music, poetry, and painting. Originally working in the Pictorialist style, in the late 1920s he developed a personal expression that emphasized light and form, becoming increasingly abstract. His solo exhibitions toured the United States, Great Britain, and Europe, and he became a fellow of the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain. (See Charles C. Hill, John Vanderpant: Photographs [1976].)

  • vanitas

    Borrowing the Latin word for “vanity,” a vanitas is a style of still life associated with seventeenth-century Dutch art. Combining items symbolic of ephemeral earthly achievements or pleasures (books, musical instruments, and luxurious objects) and items symbolic of death (skulls and rotting food or flowers similar to those featured in the related memento mori still lifes), vanitas paintings called on viewers to contemplate their own mortality, rejecting worldly indulgence and embracing repentance, The style’s popularity was closely associated with the contemporaneous rise of Calvinism and its rigid moral view.

  • Vantongerloo, Georges (Belgian, 1886–1965)

    A painter, sculptor, architect, art theorist, and founding member of the Dutch abstract movement De Stijl. He would later move to Paris and become a member of the abstract group Cercle et Carré, which later was assimilated into the group Abstraction-Création. Vantongerloo and the groups he was associated with were all interested in Neo-Plasticism and abstraction through a reduction of form and colour.

  • Varèse, Edgard (French/American, 1883–1965)

    An innovative twentieth-century composer who experimented with methods of sound production, Varèse is known for creating noisy and dissonant compositions, his use of unconventional instruments, and his novel approaches to the hallmarks of music: melody, rhythm, and harmony. He immigrated to the United States in 1915 and founded the International Composers’ Guild. In the 1950s Varèse began to concentrate on electronic music.

  • Varley, F.H. (Frederick Horsman) (British/Canadian, 1881–1969)

    A founding member of the Group of Seven, known for his contributions to Canadian portraiture as well as landscape painting. Originally from Sheffield, England, Varley moved to Toronto in 1912 at the encouragement of his friend Arthur Lismer. From 1926 to 1936 he taught at the Vancouver School of Decorative and Applied Arts, now known as Emily Carr University of Art + Design.

  • Varley, John (1912–1969)

    The oldest son of renowned Canadian painter Fredrick Horsman (F.H.) Varley, as an artist John Varley was interested in Rosicrucian, astrological, and oriental teachings.

  • Vasarely, Victor (Hungarian/French, 1906–1997)

    A painter, printmaker, and graphic designer, and a leader of the Op art movement. Vasarely studied the work of Bauhaus artists in Budapest before moving to Paris in 1930. He continued to concentrate on geometric abstraction throughout his career, even as styles like Tachism came to dominate the art scene in Paris.

  • Vazan, Bill (Canadian, b.1933)

    A leading figure in the Land art and Conceptual art movements in Montreal in the 1960s. Born in Toronto, Vazan studied fine arts at the Ontario College of Art in Toronto, the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, and Sir George Williams University (now Concordia University) in Montreal. Vazan is known for his Land art installations, stone sculptures, and Conceptual photography, which explore how cosmology and geography inform our understanding of the world.

  • Véhicule Art

    Active from 1972 to 1983, Véhicule Art was the first artist-run centre in Montreal. Its founding members included Gary Coward, Bill Vazan, Henry Saxe, Suzy Lake, and Milly Ristvedt. Véhicule Art aimed to be an interdisciplinary, experimental exhibition space as well as a centre of education for artists and the public. In the 1970s the gallery added experimental dance to its programming. By the end of the 1970s, video works dominated its roster.

  • Velázquez, Diego (Spanish, 1599–1660)

    A towering figure of the Spanish Golden Age, Velázquez was court painter to Philip IV. His portraits of members of the royal family—including his celebrated Las Meninas, 1656—as well as his mythological, historical, and religious scenes were greatly respected by innovative artists of later centuries, including Francisco Goya and Édouard Manet.

  • Vellekoop, Maurice (Canadian, b.1964)

    A Toronto-born illustrator and graduate of the Ontario College of Art and Design, Vellekoop has frequently published work in major fashion magazines such as Vogue, GQ, Cosmopolitan, and Glamour. In 1997 he published Maurice Vellekoop’s ABC Book: A Homoerotic Primer and has since released two graphic novels through the Montreal-based publisher Drawn & Quarterly.

  • Venice Biennale

    Founded in 1895 as a biannual exhibition of avant-garde and contemporary art from participating countries, many of which have permanent pavilions in the Venice Giardini, a section of parkland that serves as the heart of the event. There have historically been several additions to the Biennale’s programming, including film, theatre, and musical festivals. At present, the main events are the International Art Exhibition, which is held in odd-numbered years, and the International Architecture Exhibition (or Venice Biennale of Architecture), which is held in even-numbered years. Today, it regularly attracts more than 370,000 visitors. Canada has been participating since 1952.

  • Venné, Sharon (n.d.)

    Involved in Toronto’s burgeoning experimental art scene in the late 1960s and 1970s. Retroactively crowned Miss General Idea 1969, Venné, who went by the name Granada Gazelle, was an important figure to the collective. She appeared in some of General Idea’s video works and did most of the voiceovers in their videos between 1974 and 1982. She lived across the street from 78 Gerrard Street West, where AA Bronson, Felix Partz, Jorge Zontal, Mimi Paige, and Daniel Freedman lived from 1969 to 1970.

  • Vermeer, Johannes (Dutch, 1632–1675)

    A major figure in seventeenth-century Dutch art, whose technically masterful and evocative paintings are among the most celebrated in Western art history. He is best known for genre scenes—such as Young Woman with a Water Pitcher—that display meticulous construction and attention to light.

  • Verner, Frederick Arthur (Canadian, 1836–1928)

    A landscape painter known for calm and idyllic depictions of Canadian scenery, especially the Prairies. He studied in London, but returned in 1862 to Canada, where he initially worked in photography. Verner was intrigued by the art of Paul Kane, and soon began depicting his own Indigenous subjects. He also gained fame for his many depictions of buffalo. Although he moved permanently to London in 1880, he continued to exhibit in Canada, and became a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 1893.

  • Vernet, Horace (French, 1789–1863)

    A painter favoured by the various regimes of nineteenth-century France whose patrons included royal and imperial figures. Among his works are portraits of Napoleon and Charles X and history paintings for Louis-Philippe I at Versailles. He was director of the Académie de France à Rome (1828–35).

  • Veronese, Paolo (Italian, 1528–1588)

    Paolo Caliari, known as Paolo Veronese, was a Venetian painter of the Italian Renaissance known for the complex compositions of his paintings and for his use of colour. He was born in Verona, arriving in Venice in 1553, where he completed numerous fresco projects. Influenced by Venetian and central Italian painters, in particular Raphael, Veronese specialized in opulent feast scenes, often surrounding his figures and landscapes with complex architectural features that referenced important buildings and styles of his time.

  • Viau, Guy (Canadian, 1920–1971)

    An art critic, painter, designer, and leader in the Canadian cultural scene from the 1940s until his sudden death, Viau was associated with the Automatistes and studied with Paul-Émile Borduas. He taught at the École du meuble, a furniture design school, and the École des beaux-arts de Montréal. Viau contributed independently to Canadian newspapers and broadcasters in the form of major international stories and art films. He is the author of Modern Painting in French Canada (1967). Viau served in many leading cultural positions, including as the deputy director of the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, from 1967 to 1969, and as the founding director of the Canadian Cultural Centre in Paris in 1969.

  • video art

    Refers to artwork created through the use of video, audio, and film technology. It emerged in the late 1960s as commercial and public access to portable video tape recorders increased. Often highly experimental, it can also involve the editing and assemblage of existing footage and media.

  • Vieira da Silva, Maria Helena (Portuguese/French, 1908–1992)

    Born in Lisbon, Vieira da Silva became a leading figure in the French Abstract Expressionist movement Art Informel. She left Portugal to study in Paris in 1928, where she became immersed in the city’s modernist art scene. She embraced the Futurist emphasis on the representation of speed and velocity but rejected the movement’s Fascist politics, developing her own mosaic-like mixture of figuration and abstraction: cityscapes were one of her most frequent subjects. With her husband, the Hungarian-Jewish painter Arpad Szenes, Vieira da Silva spent the Second World War in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where she became involved in the city’s emerging art scene.

  • Viennese Actionism (Wiener Aktionismus)

    Founded in the 1960s, this Viennese group of performance artists deliberately attempted to shock its audiences in order to highlight the violence of society. Performances are known for including blood and feces. Artists principally associated with the group are Günter Brus, Hermann Nitsch, and Rudolf Schwarzkogler.

  • Vietnam War

    An extended military conflict lasting from 1955 to 1975 between the communist government of North Vietnam and the government of South Vietnam, the latter of which fought with the aid of the United States. Resulting in millions of military and civilian deaths, the war sharply divided political opinion in the United States and ended with North Vietnamese victory in 1975.

  • Vigée-Lebrun, Elisabeth (French, 1755–1842)

    Official portraitist of Queen Marie Antoinette, beginning in 1778, Vigée-Lebrun was an exceptional woman painter of her time, at the intervention of the monarchy becoming one of only four women accepted into the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture. She continued to prosper after fleeing revolutionary France, working and painting members of royal families across Europe and exhibiting regularly at the Paris Salon.

  • Vincent, Bernice (Canadian, 1934–2016)

    Vincent’s career developed along with the other London Regionalists.  Her paintings often depict landscapes and intimate moments from her day-to-day life in the small city of London. Her oeuvre also contains forays into abstraction, and she has often incorporated geometric patterns into her realist works. Her paintings have been exhibited regularly since the 1950s.

  • Vincent, Don (Canadian, 1932–1993)

    A graduate of Beal Art and husband of artist Bernice Vincent, he worked as a graphic designer, but is known for his documentary photographs of the art scene in London, Ontario. He exhibited his photographs at Region Gallery and 20/20 Gallery. He also wrote about the London artists in a 1967 issue of artscanada (formerly, and since 1983, known as Canadian Art). Vincent’s archive is at the McIntosh Gallery, Western University, London, Ontario.

  • Vincent, Zacharie (Huron-Wendat, 1815–1886)

    A war chief and artist whose self-portraits and depictions of Indigenous life countered colonial misrepresentations and stereotypes that centred around the Indigenous person as exotic, primitive, and inevitably a figure of the past. In his adoption of Western artistic conventions, Vincent was probably influenced by William Bartlett and Cornelius Krieghoff. It is estimated that Vincent completed several hundred drawings and paintings in his lifetime. (See Zacharie Vincent: Life & Work by Louise Vigneault.)

  • vitalism (élan vital)

    A belief that there is a “life force” or “spirit” other than physical and chemical matter that governs the animation of living things, making them distinct from non-living objects. Now fallen out of favour as a doctrine, vitalism was popular in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Europe.

  • Voaden, Herman (Canadian, 1903–1991)

    Born in London, Ontario, Voaden was a playwright known in the 1930s for multimedia stage productions in a style he termed “symphonic expressionism.” Drawing on the modernist lighting design of Gordon Craig and Adolphe Appia and the spiritually inflected nationalism of the Group of Seven, Voaden’s work offered an alternative to the realism prevalent in Canadian theatre at the time. After the Second World War he was primarily a senior administrator in national arts organizations.

  • von Neumann, Robert (American, 1888–1976)

    A painter, watercolourist, printmaker, and teacher, Robert von Neumann was associated with the Regionalist movement in American art during the 1930s and 1940s. He was born and studied in Germany, before moving to the United States and teaching at several art schools. True to the Regionalist movement, his works are known for their depictions of rural American life.

  • Vorticism

    A British avant-garde art and literary movement led by Wyndham Lewis and active from around 1912 to 1917. The first abstract modernist group in Britain, the Vorticists adopted a style influenced by Cubism and Futurism and that featured angular, geometric abstract forms. Those associated with the movement included Ezra Pound, David Bomberg, Helen Saunders, and William Roberts. Officially created with the publication of the Vorticist manifesto in 1914, the movement did not survive the First World War.

  • votive painting

    Votive paintings, ex-votos, are personal, narrative images that memorialize a religious vow or express gratitude to God or a saint, typically for a life-saving favour. A significant national collection of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century votive paintings is held in the Musée de sainte Anne, Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, Quebec.

  • Vuillard, Édouard (French, 1868–1940)

    A printmaker, decorative artist, and painter who preferred the difficult medium of distemper for its opaque qualities. Vuillard was a member of the Nabis, Post-Impressionist painters influenced by the work of Paul Gauguin; their domestic scenes employ intense colour, flattened space, and areas of vivid patterning. He later became an accomplished and popular portraitist.

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