About the Artist
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 owned open studios at a couple of popular Ontario art destination venues for almost 10 years. 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 newly constructed studio in Mississauga, ON.
To further her experience, 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, Christine has lived in the GTA most of her career. Her artwork has travelled further afield, to collections in Canada, the U.S.A, Great Britain and Bermuda.
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. and in water. 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 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, at 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 of "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.
My newest paintings feature 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. Like in real life, it is up to us to decide if what happens next results in a happy ending.
Comments about Christine's art
-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