The RMG’s collection of paintings, drawings, sculptures and prints by Painters Eleven has grown to over 1000 works. The collection includes works from different points in their career, including pre and post Painters Eleven. We know the story of how Painters Eleven was formed, but what were the artists doing before? This exhibition includes earlier work by each member juxtaposed with work at the height of the Painters Eleven period—what they are best known for. The group brought a wide range of backgrounds, training, styles and ages that influenced their journey to becoming the first Ontario abstract collective. For example, William Ronald, the youngest of the group, had training with fellow member Jock Macdonald at the Ontario College of Art that included a contemporary outlook, while Hortense Gordon, the oldest of the group, had traditional training in landscape painting and turned to abstraction later in life. Their artistic paths prior to Painters Eleven are part of their individual stories, giving insight into who they were and how they came to be.
Who were Painters Eleven?
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.