About the AGO's Canadian Collection
The AGO has an outstanding collection of historical Canadian art, with a particular emphasis on the art of Toronto and Ontario. The Canadian Art department is responsible for all Canadian work from the earliest forms of human expression until 1985, as well as Inuit art and a national historic site known as The Grange, the original home of the Gallery. The Grange is presently the home of the Norma Ridley Members lounge. Membership volunteers lead tours of the Goldwin Smith Library and the historical kitchen at The Grange. The Thomson Collection of Canadian art elevates the AGO’s holdings, particularly in its presentation of historic First Nations art of the Pacific Northwest alongside works by Cornelius Krieghoff, William Kurelek, David Milne, Tom Thomson and The Group of Seven.
The AGO has distinguished itself by establishing one of the premier collections of work by Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven, a nationalist landscape movement that first exhibited together in 1920. Complementing this strength is an impressive group of paintings from the Victorian period, works by Canadian artists influenced by French academic and modernist painting, early Quebec art, pre-Confederation watercolours, Canadian modernism and abstraction, and sculpture from all periods, including the most comprehensive collection of sculptures by Frances Loring and Florence Wyle.
In addition to housing the David Milne Study Centre, the AGO is developing a reputation as the primary centre of research and study for an increasing number of artists such as Jack Bush, Jack Chambers, Greg Curnoe, Paterson Ewen, Betty Goodwin, Gershon Iskowitz, Christiane Pflug, Michael Snow and Joyce Wieland among others.
One of the distinguishing features of the Canadian Collection is arguably the world’s most important collection of contemporary Inuit art, with an emphasis on work produced in Canada since 1948. Among the more than 5,000 objects in the Gallery’s holdings are some 2,800 sculptures, 1,300 prints, 700 drawings and a selection of wall hangings. The AGO’s current focus is on new works, especially those that express the current state of affairs in the far North.
The Canadian department is also actively expanding the scope of its collection to include historical First Nations art. Exemplary objects include an Anishnaabe artist’s Gunstock Club from the early 1800s, which in 2002 became the AGO’s first major acquisition of Ontario’s First Nations heritage, and a Haida artist’s Sea Captain, c. 1840, acquired in 2008. Acquisitions of works such as Model Totem Pole by acclaimed 20th-century First Nations sculptor Bill Reid signalled an initiative to increase Aboriginal representation at the AGO.
Learn more about this unparalleled collection comprising some 700 works of art and distinguished by its remarkable breadth, the high quality of the individual works and the rarity of many of its objects