The Machine Age

December 15th, 2018 – April 21st, 2019

Isabel McLaughlin (Canadian, 1903-2002); Untitled; n.d.; watercolour over graphite on paper; Gift of the estate of Isabel McLaughlin, 2003

This exhibition explores industrial imagery in visual art from the RMG’s Permanent Collection. Since the early 20th Century, artists have embraced industry as a subject for various reasons, from a fascination and commentary on an evolving society and workforce, to simply being drawn to the formal qualities of industrial and mechanical structures.

Industrial images in art reflect the robust and ever-changing nature of a country in transition. The art in this exhibition shows the evolution of society from rural to urban, and from agricultural to industry.

Industrial architecture offers a unique formal and technical challenge to artists working with traditional media. Buildings, both interior and exterior, present a visual complexity of pipes, ducts, silos, and chimney-stacks. In works that depict exterior rural scenes, such as Yvonne McKague Housser’s Mine Elevator, these forms and structures look out of place in the natural landscape, their towering presence a reminder of the industry’s importance to the community in which it exists.

Once called the “Manchester of Canada” and “Canada’s Motor City”, Oshawa has historically been associated with industrial growth. The artists in this exhibition found inspiration in the changing mechanization of society as reflected in industrial growth and the changing world around them.