About Polar Bear Artist, Christine Montague
Christine Montague (B.F.A., B.Sc.) is an award winning, academically trained Canadian artist who creates dramatic polar bear portraiture paintings, symbol to beauty, intelligence, wonder and hope, even under environmental threat.
As a portrait artist (Dr. Oscar Peterson, Living Arts Centre, Mississauga) and figurative Canadian landscape painter, Christine created and sold her art out of her studio in a historic and popular Ontario arts destination venue. During that time her paintings appeared in over 50 regional art shows.
Now, committed to the polar bear and climate change story in her art, Christine works out of her new studio in Mississauga, ON.
In the past year, two of her polar bear paintings have been awarded first prize at juried shows (one of them a Canada wide call to artists), and her first solo polar bear show “Dark Water” was held at Artworld Fine Art Gallery (Toronto, Ontario, Canada) in 2018.
To further her knowledge about polar bears, Christine has traveled to Iqaluit and Cape Dorset in the arctic, and Churchill, Manitoba, the subarctic polar bear capital of the world.
Originally from Montreal, (Quebec, Canada) Christine has lived in the Greater Toronto Area (Ontario, Canada) most of her career. Her artwork has travelled further afield, to collections in Canada, the U.S.A, the United Kingdom, Australia, the Netherlands, and Bermuda.
Christine Montague interviewed on Carolyn Edmund, Artsy Shark here
Christine Montague Interviewed by Bind Collective here
It ( a 30" x 30" polar bear portrait oil painting) has arrived in excellent condition and is now in place looking superb. I must commend the excellence of the artist in capturing the dynamic image. P., Great Britain, United Kingdom
I feel most fortunate to be able to one day soon hang this magnificent "story" (Polar Bear -Dark Water 1) in a prominent place where my husband and I can enjoy it every day. Your creative talent is amazing and reveals your passion for the focus of your masterpieces. What I love about your polar bear renditions is the "story" that seems to emanate from each piece. - S.B., AL, USA
A beautiful study and very moving approach to raise awareness of the dangers these beautiful animals (polar bears) face in an every changing environment. B.K.
I first made contact with Christine through a search online. She had painted a fabulous large (48" x 48") mono oil on of a menacing (in the nicest possible way), Maine Coon cat which she had posted on her web site. I of course, had to purchase it. Following that introduction I commissioned Christine to do a small colour portrait of 'Tilly', my Maine Coon. She did a wonderful job and has since originated a similar 'Tilly' mono for me. Distance was no object - Toronto, Ontario, Canada to UK - every picture arrived safe and sound and ready to have - I could even still smell the oil paint! C.W. Great Britain, United Kingdom
The artist exhibits a remarkable understanding of oil painting as well as an unusual depiction of a subject that is familiar but seen in a different light .Top Award. Lupe Rodriguez (artist, Art Gallery of Ontario & U. of T lecturer, CBC arts commentator) & Ann MacDonald (Director/Curator Doris McCarthy Gallery), Ontario, Canada
This one (a cat) is dreaming of conquest and power and the artist' s virtuoso brushwork perfectly suits the animal's emotion. Top Award. John Sommer, Curator, gallery Sol, Georgetown, Halton Hills, Ontario, Canada
Expertly composed and executed work with the flow of pattern on the water's surface echoed in the plant life on the shore. The colour of the flowers is a perfect counterpoint to the cool blues of the lake. Top Award. Judy Daley PAMA curator. Peel Heritage Art Gallery (now PAMA, Peel Art Gallery, Museum and Archives). Brampton, Ontario, Canada
Why Polar Bear Art?
In 2011, when the polar bear was listed as a Species of Special Concern under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA), my art work, and artist life, changed. In reaction to the SARA announcement, I tool a break from my usual artwork, pre-Christmas portrait commissions, and painted a somewhat spiritual image of a polar bear swimming amongst the stars. It promoted such discourse about polar bears, and climate change, that I found myself increasingly including polar bears in my art, until finally. the polar bear muse had me firmly in its non retractable clawed grasp.
I began with polar bear portraiture. An easy decision, as portraits were my specialty, and polar bears make for inspiring subject matter. Here's why -
Polar bears are beautiful, powerful, top- of -the- arctic- food- chain bears, with loads of personality.
Polar bears are really smart (think ape) and know how to play (so smart). Research scientist, Alison Ames has seen them stack heaps of plastic pipes, then knock them down in elaborate games.
They're really big, the world's largest carnivore. The record setter was about 2000 lb.
They have a distinctive silhouette, thick white fur (it's not really white), small furled ears, dark brown eyes and black nose are recognizable to most, but more individual than one would imagine.
And those wide furry paws, with papillaed pads, act as snow shoes on ice. In water, the slightly webbed front paws paddle and the elongated back paws serve as rudders. Snow shoes, paddles, there's a Canadian cliche hiding in there.
In 2015, I had my aha! moment when I listened to Curator Barbara Matilsky talk at the opening of the brilliant Vanishing Ice: Alpine and Polar Landscapes in Art, 1775-2012(McMichael Canadian Art Collection. Kleinberg, ON). She connected the dots between climate change, changing landscapes, art, science and vanishing ice in this show, and for me, too. I realized that my concern about polar bears went hand-in-hand with my long time concern about water, and that it was that relationship between water and polar bears that was missing for me in my bear art.
Since then, I have done what I can to educate myself about polar bears, vanishing sea ice, and climate change. I've made a trip to the arctic, Cape Dorset and Iqaluit, Nunavut, and another to the subarctic, Churchill, Manitoba. I've had the good fortune to put in two days on the magical Tundra Buggy, where the polar bears ( I love you, polar bears) get to regard us a travelling zoo, and to stay at the wondrous Churchill Northern Studies Centre. I've attended lectures, some great ones by Brandon LeForest, WWF polar bear expert. I've done the appropriate follows of polar bear organizations, leaders and scientists on social media.
I learned about "dark water", defined in my lay(wo)man's terms-
The bright white polar cap serves as a giant reflector for the sun’s heat. In other words, it’s like a great, big air conditioner for our planet. Carbon emissions cause climate changes that result in dramatic arctic ice loss, over 56,000 square kilometres per year since 1979. The increase in the dark water means less sun reflects back into space, and the earth absorbs more heat. Increased absorbed heat means increased ice loss, which means increased dark water , which means decreased sun reflected, which means increased heat absorbed, and… you get the picture, how the cycle, pardon the pun, snowballs.
This loss of sea ice, and expanding water mass, has a dramatic effect on the survival of the polar bear, which, by the way, is the only bear that is a marine mammal. This great white bear depends on the sea ice for hunting, feeding and occasionally denning.
The delay in the formation of the sea ice, leaves the baby polar bear more vulnerable to attack by hungry male polar bears. The increased open water means the distance a mother polar bear must travel, polar bear cub(s) on back, before ice is found to rest on or hunt seal from, increases the odds the polar bear bear cub(s), and even the mother, will make it safely to the ice top.
A recent painting, the award winning Dark Water 1 (private collection) features a beautiful polar bear, literally in dark water. It is up to the viewer's imagination to imagine how far out of the picture frame the next ice floe is. As in real life, it is up to us to decide if what happens next results in a happy ending.