Robert Bourdeau - The Station Project (detail)

Robert Bourdeau

Canada 1931


Robert Bourdeau
Robert Bourdeau
April 19, 2016
Ok, I know it's so damn corny to quote somebody just to describe yourself, let alone Confucius, but this quote says all about my relationship with Widewalls, so forgive me for doing this: Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life. Am I forgiven?

The photographs of Robert Bourdeau are focused on nature and landscapes. Throughout his career, his mission was to find a way to show the apprehension of metaphysical aspects of the everyday world. He focused on meditation in nature, so he could bring the glimpses of higher contemplation in his photographs. This idea was more noticeable in the overall atmosphere than in the choice of subject. Bourdeau created a term station point that defined the exact moment in time, where all elements were aligned in harmony: the photographer, the object, and the light. That kind of photographs truly caught the moment of revelation, when nature spoke to the subject in focus.

Robert Bourdeau - Costa Rica, 1987
Robert Bourdeau – Costa Rica, 1987

From Architect to Self-Thaught Photographer

Bourdeau was born in Kingston, Ontario, in 1931. He studied art history at Queen’s University, Kingston and then switched to architecture at the University of Toronto. He is a self-taught photographer and he excelled in his profession, he even taught photography at the University of Ottawa. Bourdeau participated in many workshops and masterclasses. As an employed architect he practiced photography as a hobby. In 1959, he met Minor White, editor of the Aperture magazine and a brilliant and influential artist. The two of them became friends and Bourdeau started photographing intensively. He discovered, as an architect, that he finds more excitement in looking at the images of buildings than in their making and designing.

The artist focused on meditation in nature and overall atmospheric experience

Robert Bourdeau - Lorraine, France, 1999 [3] (Left), West Virginia, USA, 1993 [2] (Right)
Robert Bourdeau – Lorraine, France, 1999 [3] (Left), West Virginia, USA, 1993 [2] (Right)

Reclaiming the Seized Property

His subjects cover the range from landscapes and wildlife to inanimate buildings and still life. Bourdeau photographed all over the world, visiting places like Sri Lanka, Mexico, Costa Rica, England, Ireland, France and the United States. In the 70s, he switched to large format and stayed true to long exposure. The large format allowed him to preserve as many details as possible. The method was slow and calculated. What he wanted was to catch the moment in space where nature fights for territory that has been taken from her. So, there are scenes of buildings overgrown with ivy, decayed constructions or rocks dwelling in mountain streams. This act of rebellion against industrial elements was always portrayed in tranquillity and elegance.

Bourdeau wanted to catch the moment where nature fights for its territory

Robert Bourdeau - West Virginia, USA, 1993 [3]
Robert Bourdeau – West Virginia, USA, 1993 [3]

The Moment of Transcendency

Catching the right moment and referencing to right emotion was his mission. He enriched gelatine prints with warm tones and subdued the feeling of abandonment. There are no scenes of emptiness and desolation in his art. Bourdeau made a special gold chloride solution that he used to achieve a sunny and glowing effect, and he still keeps the recipe a secret. Everything important lies beneath the surface and his goal was to discover that special geometry and harmony. The captured moment serves a purpose of awakening one’s mind and triggers the pensive thought process. In 2011, Bourdeau was elected into the Order of Canada. Along with his exhibitions worldwide, his photographs are found in collections of National Gallery of Canada, Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, Canadian Centre for Architecture and many others.

The artist is represented by Stephen Bulger Gallery.

Robert Bourdeau lives and works in Canada.

All images used for illustrative purpose only © Robert Bourdeau

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2012Edwynn Houk GalleryNew York, New YorkSolo
2012Flora and FaunaNational Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Ont. CanadaGroup
2011The Station PointStephen Bulger GallerySolo
2007Univers IndustrielUn parcours dans le collection du Centre Regionade la Photographie Nord Pas-de-Calais France.Group
2006Robert Bourdeau, Karsh Award ExhibitionKarsh-Masson Gallery, Ottawa, Ontario, CanadaSolo
2006The Sixties: Photography in QuestionCanadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, Ottawa, Ontario, CanadaGroup
2006Univers IndustrielCentre Regional de la Photographie Nord Pas-de-Calais, FranceGroup
2005Le Grand Palais and The Distillery DistrictCorkin Gallery, Toronto, Ont. CanadaSolo
2003Structural LandscapesEdwynn Houk Gallery, New York, N.Y. U.S.A.Solo
2003New to View: Recent Acquisitions in PhotographyThe Art Institute of Chicago, ILSolo
2003ConfluenceCanadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, Ottawa, Ont. CanadaSolo
2002Passages on Nature: Selections from the Gary M. Bettis CollectionBoise Art Museum, ID.Solo
2001Industrial SitesForum Gallery, Los Angeles, CAGroup
2001Bringing to Order: Form and Expression in Canadian Photographic PracticeCanadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, Ottawa, Ont. CanadaGroup
2000Industrial SitesEdwynn Houk Gallery, New York, NYGroup
2000Group ExhibitionStark Gallery, New York, NYGroup
2000Building Images; architecture 1851 to the presentJane Corkin Gallery, Toronto Ont. CanadaGroup
1999Industrial SitesMichael Hoppen Gallery, London, EnglandGroup
1999Icons and IconoclastsJane Corkin Gallery, Toronto, Ont. CanadaGroup
1999La surface du reel: imagesCIPRA, La Premiere Rue, Briey-enforet, FranceGroup
1998Industrial Sites: Europe and United StatesCorkin Gallery, Toronto, Ont. CanadaGroup
1998Robert Bourdeau49th Parallel, Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art, 420 West Droadway, New York, NY.Solo
1997Galerie Baudoin LebonParis, FranceGroup
1997The Meditated ImageThe Canadian Embassy, Tokyo, JapanSolo
199730 Years of Collecting PhotographsNational Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Ont. CanadaGroup
1994Recent WorkJane Corkin Gallery, Toronto, Ont. CanadaGroup
199415th Anniversary ExhibitionJane Corkin Gallery, Toronto, Ont. CanadaGroup
1994From Light to DarkNational Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Ont. CanadaGroup
1993Magicians of LightNational Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Ont. CanadaGroup
1993Observing Traditions: Contemporary PhotographsNational Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, CanadaGroup
1992Recent WorkJane Corkin Gallery, Toronto, Ont.CanadaGroup
1991Four CanadiansVision Gallery, San Francisco, CAGroup
1991Canadian Centre for ArchitectureMontreal, Quebec, CanadaGroup
1990Is There Life in the Still Life or is Nature MorteWatson Gallery, Houston, TXGroup
1990Children in PhotographyDalhousie Art Gallery, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada touring throughout CanadaGroup
1990Group ExhibitionNational Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, CanadaGroup
1990Money Matters: A Critical Look at Bank ArchitectureMuseum of Fine Arts Houston, Texas, and Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal, Quebec, CanadaGroup
1988The Meditated ImageWinnipeg Art Gallery, Manitoba, CanadaSolo
1988The Meditated ImageLondon Regional Art Gallery, Ont. CanadaSolo
1988The Meditated ImageEdmonton Art Gallery, Alberta, CanadaSolo
1988The Meditated ImageGlenbow Museum, Calgary, Alberta, CanadaSolo
1988The Meditated ImageWhyte Museum of Canadian Rockies, Banff, Alberta, CanadaSolo
1988The Meditated ImageAgnes Etherington Art Centre, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ont. CanadaSolo
1988The Meditated ImageNational Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Ont. Canada Solo
1988The Meditated ImageVancouver Art Gallery, British Columbia, CanadaSolo
1988The Meditated ImageRoyal British Columbia Museum, Victoria, British Columbia, CanadaSolo
1988The Meditated Image49th Parallel Gallery, New York, NY Solo
198710 Ways of Looking at LandscapesWatson Gallery, Houston, TXGroup
1986Masterpieces from the Gallery CollectionJane Corkin Gallery,Toronto, Ont. CanadaGroup
1986Contemporary PhotographyWatson Galler;y, Houston, TexasGroup
1985Landform and ArchitectureJane Corkin Gallery, Toronto, Ont. CanadaGroup
1984The Afterimage GalleryDallas, TXGroup
1984Group ExhibitionJane Corkin Gallery, Toronto, Ont. CanadaGroup
1983Galerie Zur StockereggZurich, SwitzerlandGroup
1983Jane Corkin GalleryToronto, Ont. CanadaGroup
1983Group ExhibitionGalerie Zur Stockeregg, Zurich, SwitzerlandGroup
1981Jane Corkin GalleryToronto, Ont. CanadaGroup
1981Robert BourdeauArt Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Ontario, CanadaSolo
1981Group ExhibitionJane Corkin Gallery, Toronto, Ont. CanadaGroup
1981University of Toronto Art CalleryToronto, Ontario, Canada Group
1980LandscapesInternational Centre of Photography, New York, NYSolo
1977Secession GalleryVancouver, British Columbia, CanadaGroup
1976Yajima GalleryMontreal, Quebec, CanadaGroup
1976Group ExhibitionWitkin Gallery, New York, NYGroup
1975Group ExhibitionNational Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, CanadaGroup
1974Cahlon-sur-faone, cultural exchange program by Canadian and Frenchgovernments tour: Europe, Africa and the Middle EastGroup
1970The Photograph as an ObjectArt Gallery of Toronto, Toronto, Ont. CanadaGroup
1968Robert BourdeauSmithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.Solo
1968Hayden GalleryMassachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MAGroup