The first public appearance of what would become Painters Eleven occurred when seven of the artists showed their work at the Simpson’s department store in Toronto in October, 1953. The concept of an exhibition of abstract art and home furnishing was the idea of William Ronald, a commercial artist working at Simpson’s and his colleague, Carry Cardell. It was during a publicity shoot for this exhibition that the seven suggested that they add more to their number and become a formal group of abstract painters. Their first meeting as a group would be held at the Thickson’s Point cottage (on the Oshawa/Whitby border) of Alexandra Luke. Painters Eleven would be in existence from 1953-60 as a vehicle to promote the members’ individual work and the role of abstraction in Canadian art.
Canadian abstraction followed the wave of abstraction that began to appear in the United States, particularly New York City, after World War II. Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell and Franz Kline were seminal figures within this modern, revolutionary movement that looked to surrealism for inspiration.
While the Oshawa Art Gallery was founded above a store on Simcoe Street in downtown Oshawa in 1967, it would become, in 1969, The Robert McLaughlin Gallery with the donation of thirty-seven works from the collection of Alexandra Luke and a generous donation towards the construction of the first gallery by her husband Ewart McLaughlin. The RMG was named after Ewart’s grandfather, Robert. Luke’s donation included work by all of the members of Painters Eleven and helped to establish, in 1970, the RMG’s unique focus on collecting and exhibiting the work of Ontario’s first group of abstract painters.
Since 1967, the RMG’s collection of paintings, drawings, sculptures and prints by members of Painters Eleven has grown to over 500 works. Numerous exhibitions have been organized including the 1979 exhibition Painters Eleven in Retrospect, as well as solo exhibitions of individual members. The collection also includes an extensive archives with exhibition reviews, interviews and photographs.