Alexandra Luke, Isabel McLaughlin, and Aleen Aked are a significant part of the history of The Robert McLaughlin Gallery. We acknowledge the lasting impact these women had on the RMG every time a piece of artwork they donated is exhibited or an event is held in one of the gallery spaces named after them. But who were these women?
Alexandra Luke was a nurse, a mother, a wife, and, most importantly to the RMG, an artist and member of Painters 11. She exhibited her work in the exhibition Abstracts at Home, which led to the first official meeting of Painters 11 at Luke’s cottage in 1953. Her husband Ewart McLaughlin provided the funds for the first RMG building, but it was the gift of Alexandra Luke’s personal art collection that created a starting point for the gallery and ultimately its P11 focus.
Isabel McLaughlin, daughter of the industrialist R.S. McLaughlin, was an artist and one of the important early modernists in Canada. She was an invited contributor to Group of Seven exhibitions and the first female President of the Canadian Group of Painters. Isabel studied and became friends with many significant artists, collecting their work over the years. Though she didn’t see herself as an art collector, her extensive collection, which she donated to the RMG, bridges the gap between the Group of Seven and Painters 11 further enhancing the gallery’s holdings.
Aleen Aked was an accomplished artist and an expert golfer from Toronto and Tyrone, Ontario who won an Arthur Lismer scholarship to study at the Ontario College of Art. Aked drew and painted places she visited or lived, her family and friends, documenting her own life. Her last important art exhibition was at the RMG in 1989, and when she died in 2003 she left the gallery a legacy which has allowed new initiatives in education, outreach, and artist development.