McMichael - Canadian Art | Collection d'art Canadien

Current Exhibitions

This House Was Made For Christmas

Transforming Spirit: The Cameron/Bredt Collection of Contemporary Northwest Coast Art

The Photographs of Frank (Franz) Johnston

The Group of Seven and Tom Thomson

The Group of Seven's Canada: West and North

Mythologizing Tom Thomson

Dialogue and Divergence: Art of the Northwest Coast

Inuit Traditions

Contemplating Women

Legends: Norval Morrisseau and Anishinabek "Woodland School" Artists

PLEASE NOTE: Gallery 6 is currently closed for the installation of For Every Season, a rehanging of the permanent collection opening on October 10.

This House Was Made For Christmas

October 3, 2015 to January 31, 2016

Curated by Sharona Adamowicz-Clements

A.J. Casson This House Was Made for Christmas celebrates the art of Christmas greeting cards, which were designed by seminal Canadian artists of the twentieth century. Several members of the Group of Seven, including Lawren Harris, J.E.H MacDonald, and A.J. Casson, and their contemporaries, as well as aboriginal artists of Canada are represented with works drawn from the McMichael art and archival collections as well as private holdings, some of which have never been displayed before. The inspiration for this exhibition stems from Pierre Berton’s 1956 article “The House That Was Made for Christmas” (Canadian Homes and Gardens magazine), which featured the foundation for the McMichael gallery – the actual home of the founders – as a place of special Christmas spirit. This exhibition will reflect back on the gallery’s tradition of homeliness and neighbourly gathering for holiday joy.

More about this exhibition

A.J. Casson (1898–1992), Christmas card design for Mr. and Mrs. C.A.G. Matthews, 1927, screen print, printed by Sampson-Matthews, 14.4 x 13.2 cm, Private collection

Transforming Spirit: The Cameron/Bredt Collection of Contemporary Northwest Coast Art

September 19, 2015 – February 15, 2016

Curated by Chris Finn

Raven at the River MistFrom the time of its creation from the treasured collection of Founders Robert and Signe McMichael, the McMichael gallery has maintained a strong interest in capturing and celebrating the stories of private collectors. Transforming Spirit tells the story of Jamie Cameron and Christopher Bredt and their passionate commitment to art from Canada’s Northwest Coast, showcasing works by 28 of the region’s most celebrated contemporary artists. In conjunction with the exhibition, a catalogue of the collection will be published, including new photography of the 49 extraordinary objects and works on paper. The catalogue will include an essay by author and specialist in Northwest Coast art, Gary Wyatt, as well as a curatorial overview of the art and artists represented in the collection.

This exhibition offers viewers an opportunity to assess a range of aesthetic qualities inherent in the work created by indigenous artists of the Northwest Coast. Distinct artistic styles have emerged from each of the First Nations communities represented, based on their social and religious customs. Cultural narratives related to historical cosmological beliefs are incorporated into both the material and ceremonial culture of the peoples. Among the works featured in the exhibition are bentwood boxes, rattles, blankets and several works on paper, all by well-known artists, as well as many examples of an object important for its expressive qualities, the mask. The last serves as a form for communicating the importance of nature, animals, and humans, as well as imagined characters that are at the core of many First Nations cultures.

More about this exhibition

Ken Mowatt (born 1944), Raven at the River Mist, 2003, birch, red cedar, copper, feathers, ermine tufts, deer hide, acrylic paint, string, 76.5 55.5 x 22.1 cm (30 1/8 x 21 7/8 x 8 11/16 in.), with stand: 78.5 55.5 x 22.1 cm (30 7/8 x 21 7/8 x 8 11/16 in.), Gift of Christopher Bredt and Jamie Cameron, 2014.6.31, Photography credit: Craig Boyko

The Photographs of Frank (Franz) Johnston

April 18 – October 12, 2015

Frank (Franz) Johnston (1888-1949), Untitled, silver gelatin print, 28 x 35.5 cm, Huronia Museum

Scotiabank Contact Photography FestivalOrganized by the McMichael Canadian Art Collection with Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival.
Curated by Sharona Adamowicz-Clements and Neil David MacDonald

While Frank Johnston is widely regarded as a painter, his interest in photography has largely been overlooked. Featuring photographs sourced from both public and private collections this exhibition will be the first major display of Johnston’s photographic images. Selected images will be paired with paintings to demonstrate how Johnston used photographs as inspirations for, and to inform, his paintings.

More about this exhibition

Frank (Franz) Johnston (1888-1949), Untitled, silver gelatin print, 28 x 35.5 cm, Huronia Museum

The Group of Seven and Tom Thomson

(Gallery 1)

Autumn Birches, 1916, oil on panel, 21.6 x 26.7 cm, Gift of Mrs. H.P. de Pencier, McMichael Canadian Art Collection, 1966.2.3The Toronto-based Group of Seven held their first exhibition in 1920 with the intention of promoting a uniquely Canadian art through subject matter and innovation in style. The original seven members – J.E.H. MacDonald, Lawren S. Harris, A.Y. Jackson, Arthur Lismer, Frederick Varley, Frank H. Johnston, and Franklin Carmichael – would later be joined by three additional artists who were invited to become part of the Group prior to its evolvement into the Canadian Group of Painters in 1933. Johnston left after the first Group show and was replaced by A.J. Casson, followed by the inclusion of Edwin Holgate from Montreal and L.L. FitzGerald from Winnipeg. Tom Thomson was a close associate of the original seven artists. His name has become synonymous with the Group although he could not become a member due to his sudden and premature death in 1917, only three years prior to the Group’s formation.

Since their inception, the Group of Seven and Thomson gradually became the
predominant national school of Canadian art embracing the modern era in art of the
early part of the twentieth century. The artists largely focused on representing the
Canadian landscape as a symbol of national pride and cultural identity. The Canadian
land also provided the means by which to experiment in techniques and create a new
formal language that would be distinctively Canadian.

Image: Tom Thomson (1877 - 1917), Autumn Birches, 1916, oil on panel, 21.6 x 26.7 cm, Gift of Mrs. H.P. de Pencier, McMichael Canadian Art Collection, 1966.2.3

The Group of Seven's Canada: West and North

(Gallery 2)

A.Y.-Jackson_Road-to-Baie-St.-PaulA selection of works by the Group of Seven that provides an overview of their travels travels to Western Canada and the Arctic. 

"Art movements come and go. When one becomes stabilized it is by-passed by younger and more vigorous groups. In some cases new movements work a revolution in art, as did the French Impressionists and Post-Impressionists. Others are important only to the countries that gave them birth.

The Group of Seven ranks with such local movements. It is hard now to believe that years ago we who were members of it were regarded as radicals. We were revolutionaries only in that we expected an art movement to develop in our country at a time when most Canadians were indifferent to any form of art, and because we attempted to paint objectively the kind of country that comprises most of Canada. The majority of Canadians, were shocked by our efforts, yet we did create something in the field of painting that was distinctively our own." A.Y. Jackson

Image: A.Y. Jackson (1882 - 1974), Road to Baie St. Paul, 1933, oil on canvas, 64.4 x 82.2 cm, Purchase 1968 with funds donated by C.A.G. Matthews, 1968.20

Mythologizing Tom Thomson (NEW!)

(Gallery 3)

Tom Thomson - TamaracksThe story of the canoe is Canada’s story, …Canada is a gigantic waterway, a complex system of lakes and rivers stretching from the Atlantic to the Rockies… In the canoe’s wake the economy and the culture of Canada appeared. There is one man in a canoe that I have especially in mind …– Tom Thomson. Of Thomson it may literally be said that he lived and worked and died in a canoe in Canada’s north country. The very waters in which he drowned are known as Canoe Lake.

But it is more important that he alone was able to express the feelings, the deep faith in nature, the wild, mute emotions of all the strong men in canoes who created this country. …Tom Thomson painted Canada not only as it looked to him but as it must have looked to his kind of man from the beginning.

Roy Atherton, 1947

These statements were made by Alfred (Roy) Atherton, the first American Ambassador to Canada, three decades after the death of Tom Thomson. His comments position the artist within a master narrative of Canada’s development as a country linking an idealized view of the man, his work and lifestyle to the symbol of the canoe and the significance of its economic role in the stimulation of exploration and geographical expansion of this country’s boundaries.

Atherton’s description of Thomson elevates him to the level of a ‘representative character’. The artist has been contextualized within a masculine, mythologizing framework that ascribes heroic qualities. He is presented as a solitary, artistic male visionary who explored the northern Canadian wilderness and produced images that provided a singular and profound expression of nature that speaks for all of the heroic (male) individuals who contributed to the early formation of this nation.

The elements for mythmaking pertaining to Thomson were in place before his death. The recognition by some of the exponential growth of his painterly skills and the intensity of his commitment to his vision of the North provided the foundation for the enduring view that emerged after Thomson’s death in which it was believed that an exceptional artist was lost to this country while in his prime. His sudden death overshadowed by speculation regarding the mysterious circumstances of his demise and coupled with the efforts of those who knew him including the members of the Group of Seven to shape perceptions of his role within Canadian art contributed to the range of stories that emerged in the decades following his passing. Thomson’s presence in the Canadian imagination continues to the present time in exhibitions, and literature, as well as in music and film.

Tom Thomson (1877 - 1917), Tamaracks, 1915, oil on wood panel, 21.3 x 26.7 cm (8 3/8 x 10 1/2 in.), Gift of Mr. R.A. Laidlaw, 1968.12

Dialogue and Divergence: Art of the Northwest Coast

(Gallery 4)

Emily Carr - Old Tree At DuskDialogue and Divergence: Art of the Northwest Coast explores relationships between First Nations and non-First Nations cultures of British Columbia. The exhibition makes this history the basis for engaging the McMichael Canadian Art Collection’s holdings.

The project is organised into four thematic areas that present different aspects of cultural production. Emily Carr and First Nations Imagery and Beautiful British Columbia: Marketing the Coast through First Nations Culture address the use of First Nations imagery both in the popular culture of tourism and in the work of modern painters, engaging ideas of dialogue and appropriation. Works by Emily Carr depicting First Nations settlements and monumental carvings, the argillite poles of the Haida master carver Charles Edenshaw, and mass-produced tourist material featuring First Nations and pseudo-First Nations imagery emphasise an awkwardly shared space of exchange, misunderstanding, and misrepresentation. Within the sections titled Masks of the North.Lit Fuse Records

Image: Emily Carr (1871 - 1945), Old Tree at Dusk, 1932
oil on canvas, 112 x 68.5 cm, Gift of Colonel R.S. McLaughlin, McMichael Canadian Art Collection

For Every Season

Gallery 7: Winter

"...the year sleeps as the first flakes come steadily down among the spruce and birches of the far woods. The inspiration waits. The eager soul needs merely come and breathe it." —J.E.H. MacDonald, A Landmark of Canadian Art (1917)

Canadian painters learn quickly that mastering the representation of snow-laden hills means embracing shades of blue and violet to signal shadow. This sleepy season is anything but pure white. The low slung sun in the sky prompts a softer palette but moods are sterner, as if to acknowledge the fortitude required to survive the cold climate.

Legends: Norval Morrisseau and Anishinabek "Woodland School" Artists

(Gallery 8 - Upper Level)

Shaman and Disciples by Norval MorrisseauFirst Nations artist Norval Morrisseau is celebrated for establishing a style of art that became known as the Woodland School. Morrisseau’s decision to produce his art on canvas and paper marked a shift to European-influenced traditions. His painted compositions are characterized by an intuitive use of bright, pure colour shapes contained within black form lines; a deliberate attempt to  communicate his beliefs with the viewer using colour. At the same time, other First Nations artists were similarly motivated in their desire to communicate the values of their culture, and subsequent generations of artists continue to do so through the creation of unique and significant art forms.

More information on this exhibition

Image: Norval Morrisseau (1931-2007), Shaman and Disciples, 1979, acrylic on canvas
180.5 x 211.5 cm, Purchase 1979, McMichael Canadian Art Collection, 1979.34.7

The Founders' Story
A Tribute to the Legacy of Robert and Signe McMichael

The Founders' StoryDon’t miss this display of archival photographs and accompanying texts recounting the history of the McMichael from its early beginnings in the home of Robert and Signe McMichael through the donation to the Province in 1965, until the Founders’ retirement in 1981.

Learn more about our Founders’ passion for collecting and their mutual vision – a vision that enabled the creation of a unique public art gallery, the McMichael Canadian Art Collection.

To view The Founders’ Story visit the ramp leading from Gallery 1 to the restaurant.

More information on this exhibition

Image: Robert McMichael signing the Gift Agreement, with Premier John Robarts and Signe McMichael, November 18th, 1965, Photo by the Ontario Department of Tourism and Information

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