Impressionism: From Seeing to Feeling


COVID-19 update: We are planning for Toronto Pursuits in July 2021 but are not formally opening registration yet. We will be updating our product pages as we have more information from the University of Toronto and the City of Toronto on indoor gatherings, and from the Canadian and US governments on border and travel updates. We do have a variety of online seminars running now, with new groups starting almost weekly. Thank you for your support!

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Wendy O’Brien is a philosopher with over 30 years’ experience teaching and leading workshops in academic and non-academic environments. Her interest in existentialism and its legacy has led her to study art as philosophy by another means. For several years she has taken this approach beyond the walls of academe to the Art Gallery of Ontario, where she leads workshops on beauty, happiness and wonder that combine art history and the philosophy of art with hands-on art practice.



Impressionism: The Movement That Transformed Western Art, by Véronique Bouruet-Aubertot
(Flammarion, 2017)
ISBN-13: 978-2080203205

The Group of Seven and Tom Thomson, by David Silcox
(Firefly Books, 2011)
ISBN-13: 978-1554078851

Wendy will also be presenting slide shows.

Participants are required to obtain the specified edition to facilitate the group’s ability to find and cite portions of the text during discussion. Details will be provided at registration.

How did the impressionists—Manet, Monet, Renoir and Pissarro—change not just what painting looked like but how we looked at painting? How did they condition their contemporaries, and us, to no longer see a work of art but to feel it? These painters were both revolutionaries and revolutionizing, and we’ll consider how their approaches and techniques would go on to transform the art of other places and other times. We’ll also explore how the impressionist project was taken up and often applied to the domestic realm by Berthe Morisot and Mary Cassatt, offering glimpses into the interior lives of women.

Rebecca Belmore at the 2016 Nuit Blanche<br> at the Art Gallery of Ontario
Rebecca Belmore at the 2016 Nuit Blanche at the Art Gallery of Ontario

From the streets of Paris and the ports of Normandy, we’ll travel across the Atlantic to understand how impressionism was interpreted by Canada’s Group of Seven and applied to a different landscape to shape the development of a uniquely Canadian art. Our inquiry will finally take us to the present day, where we’ll consider how contemporary indigenous artists, including Rebecca Belmore, Christi Belcourt and Robert Houle, continue to respond to the impressionist tradition. Through word, thought and image, and by appreciating a wide variety of paintings and maybe even creating some works of our own, we’ll get at the heart of how this group of painters, how this movement, for better or for worse, changed the very definition of art.



We have not yet announced the cost of Toronto Pursuits 2021, but it will be similar to the 2020 price of C$1520. This includes one seminar Monday to Friday, morning coffee and newspapers, five buffet lunches, afternoon speakers, a five-day opera lecture series, film screenings, guided walks, two cocktail receptions, and a range of other cultural and social activities. All costs are subject to the 13% Harmonized Sales Tax (HST).

See Registration and Cancellation Policy at


ONE per registrant

  • Participants who have attended Toronto Pursuits at least five times receive a C$215 discount.
  • Register with a friend, and if one or both are first-time participants, each receives a C$215 discount.

Do you qualify for a loyalty or friend discount but would also like to purchase a concert ticket? Please make a note with your order when you check out and we will contact you.


You are responsible for booking your own accommodation. Click here for more information.

Stratford Shakespeare Festival Weekend

Join us for a weekend of top-notch theatre at our Stratford Festival excursion.

Additional information


Concert ticket, Not eligible, Five times, With friend, Gift registration