The month of May hosts the celebration of the Ontario Museum Association’s Museum Month, with International Museum Day falling on May 18. This special celebration happens every year around the world and the International Council of Museums coordinates the day. Each year is home to a theme for International Museum Day, this year is museums and cultural landscapes.
We will be celebrating International Museums Day with a special mid-day tour of the gallery with our Senior Curator, Linda Jansma. The tour will give you a look at the permanent collection and the architecture behind the building, designed by Arthur Erickson. The tour is on May 18, drop in at noon to learn more about the Gallery
According to the OMA, Museum Month celebrates Ontario’s museums and history. The RMG will be giving you a look into the history of the building, as well as its cultural background and connection to the group of artists known as the Painters Eleven.
The RMG is one of Oshawa’s cultural landmarks and it stands as the largest gallery in Durham Region with 36,000 square feet of notable Arthur Erickson architecture. We feature a permanent collection of over 4,500 works and five galleries of contemporary and historical exhibitions. Among the permanent collection, the RMG has the largest holding of works by the Painters Eleven. The Thomas Bouckley Collection is an archival record of over 3,000 photos of Oshawa and Durham Region, giving a look into the local history of our community.
The RMG was founded in 1967 when Ewart McLaughlin and his wife Margaret, also known as Alexandra Luke the painter, saw a need for a permanent space for the arts. An exhibition of local artists held by Oshawa designer William Caldwell piqued the interest of the McLaughlin’s and spawned their idea for an expanded public art gallery.
The gallery took the name of Robert after Ewart McLaughlin’s grandfather, founder of The McLaughlin Carriage Company. Isabel McLaughlin joined the gallery as a life-long patron who provided generous financial support and gifts of over 100 Canadian and international works.
The RMG is also home to a large collection of archival photos from historic Oshawa and surrounding region. We received the Thomas Bouckley Collection from Thomas Bouckley, collector and history enthusiast of Oshawa. The computerized collection has over 3,000 photographs of historic Oshawa and Durham Region for over 100 years. The collection is a remarkable resource in understanding the past and engaging with the local history surrounding Oshawa.
The group, now known as Painters Eleven, first met each other at an exhibition of abstract and non-objective paintings held by Simpson’s Department store in Toronto. The exhibition, Abstracts at Home, only had seven participants: Jack Bush, Oscar Cahén, Tom Hodgson, Alexandra Luke, Ray Mead, Kazuo Nakamura and William Ronald. The additional four artists: Jock Macdonald, Harold Town, Walter Yarwood and Hortense Gordon met with the former seven artists to discuss becoming a group of artists. The eleven artists came together for the first time under the name of Painters Eleven at an exhibition in February of 1954 at the Roberts Gallery in Toronto.
The RMG proudly holds Canada’s largest collection of works by Painters Eleven, primarily as a result of significant donations to the permanent collection from Alexandra Luke. At least eleven of these works are on display at all times in our Painters Eleven gallery.
We are also celebrating important founders and influences of the gallery this month like Isabel McLaughlin and Aleen Aked.
Isabel McLaughlin was born in Oshawa, growing up in Parkwood Estate, but later moved to Toronto. She was the third daughter of Colonel Robert Samuel McLaughlin, president of General Motors from 1918 to 1945. McLaughlin is considered one of Canada’s most important modernist painters.
McLaughlin had a strong background in the arts with an excellent education. She studied in Paris, at the Ontario College of Arts under Arthur Lismer, at the Arts Student’s League in Toronto, and the Scandinavian Academy in Paris. She contributed to some Group of Seven exhibits, who had a large influence on her, and she later became a founding member of the Canadian Group of Painters after the Group of Seven disbanded.
Isabel has made large donations of artwork and books from her personal collection to the RMG and the RMG Library, as well as substantial monetary donations to help expand the gallery building and programs.
Elizabeth Aleen Aked was an accomplished artist and had a strong sense for the history and culture in the places she lived. Throughout her life, Aked maintained a rigorous practice for painting which let her expand her reach throughout North America.
Aked’s last important art exhibition was held at the RMG in 1989. She later died in 2003, but left a generous portion of her legacy as a gift to the RMG. Aked’s legacy to the gallery, called the Aked Endowment, permits exciting initiative for education and outreach, notably the Imagination Station for children.
To learn more about the gallery, join us for a special International Museums Day tour with Senior Curator Linda Jansma on May 18 at noon.