Painters Eleven was the first abstract artist collective in Ontario. They were founded in 1953 at the cottage of artist Alexandra Luke on the Oshawa/Whitby border. The Robert McLaughlin Gallery’s collection began in 1967 when artist Alexandra Luke, a member of the Painters Eleven, donated thirty-seven works from her private collection. Luke’s donation of art included work by all of the members of Painters Eleven and helped to establish the RMG’s unique focus on collecting and exhibiting the work of Painters Eleven. Today, the RMG’s collection of paintings, drawings, sculptures and prints by Painters Eleven has grown to over 1000 works, including works from before and after the Painters Eleven years (1953-1960). The RMG has regular exhibitions featuring works by the group, pulling together different aesthetics or themes.
Rather than having a common philosophy or style, Painters Eleven banded together around their shared desire to support abstraction and exhibit together. As Jock Macdonald noted: “The meaning of our group is the fact that we think alike about creativeness in art and the unity established is our power.” Rather than a manifesto, the group settled on a statement: “There is no manifesto here for the times. There is no jury but time. By now there is little harmony in the noticeable disagreement. But there is a profound regard for the consequences of our complete freedom.” (1955)