Elizabeth Aileen Aked (1907-2002)
Gallery A and the lower-level art studios are supported by the Aked Endowment. The endowment was created from funds donated by artist and benefactor Elizabeth Aileen Aked, who lived in Tyrone, Ontario.
Her donation to The Robert McLaughlin Gallery was quite purposeful—as an accomplished artist, she wanted this gift to support local artists in their professional development and provide opportunities for them to advance their practice.
The letter “A” also represents a starting point and priority. It signifies a beginning, and demonstrates the RMG’s continued commitment to supporting local artists, who are at the center of Durham Region’s arts community.
Who was Elizabeth Aileen Aked?
Elizabeth Aileen Aked was an accomplished artist, an expert golfer, and a woman with a strong sense of the history and culture of the places she lived, especially her summer home and studio just north of Tyrone. Her family came from Yorkshire, England where she was born and where her father had considerable success in the textile industry. She grew up and went to school in Toronto, in the Oakwood area where she lived with her parents, and on after they died. As a young woman, she showed the promise of early-recognized abilities in both athletics and art. She was one of those talented youngsters discovered by Arthur Lismer who sponsored and encouraged children’s involvement in art through Saturday classes. She was admitted to the Ontario College of Art at a young age and studied painting with Lismer, Fred Varley, G.A. Reid, A.Y. Jackson, Fred Haines, and J.W. Beatty. In 1917 she was the first Junior Girl’s Golf Champion, Ladies Golf Club in Toronto, and also the Club Champion from 1933-36.
Throughout her long life, Aked maintained a rigorous practice in painting and continued to gain both experience and knowledge from her involvements in artist workshops and the artist organizations she belonged to in both Canada and the U.S.. The hundreds of drawings and paintings she made demonstrate a traditional disciplined naturalism in style and an interest in subjects close-to-home. Her art was closely circumscribed by what was important to her: parents, friends, places she lived and visited. She did not pursue a typical career in art, that is, her work was not something she saw as important for the “art world”. Her life and her work were one; several of her friends observed that her paintings were “her children” and she would not have parted with them. Her beloved “Quaint Acres”, 1840’s stone house built by Thomas McLaughlin near Tyrone, was emblematic of her life of closely-held enthusiasms and artistic expressions. Her last important art exhibition was held at The Robert McLaughlin Gallery in 1989.
Aked’s legacy to the Gallery permits exciting new initiatives in education and outreach. In her own life, she enjoyed and benefited from her early associations with other artists as well as from the educational opportunities she had. In her gift to the Gallery, she has assured that those benefits will be passed to others.