Celebrating Museum Month with our Painters Eleven Collection

William Ronald conceived and founded the Painters Eleven in 1953 with fellow artists Jack Bush, Oscar Cahén, Hortnese Gordon, Tom Hodgson, Alexandra Luke, Jock Macdonald, Ray Mead, Kazuo Nakamura and Walter Yarwood. The Roberts Gallery in Toronto was home to the Painters Eleven first exhibition in 1954. It was also the first major commercial abstract art exhibit in Toronto. (painterseleven.com)

It is Museum Month and we are celebrating our collection of Painters Eleven works.

The RMG proudly holds Canada’s largest collection of works by Painters Eleven, primarily as a result of significant donations to the permanent collection from Alexandra Luke. At least eleven of these works are on display at all times in our Painters Eleven gallery.

Learn more about the artists!

Jack Bush:

Jack Bush

Jack Bush

Jack Bush was born in Toronto, but studied art at the Royal Canadian Academy in Montreal. Bush drew his inspiration from Charles Comfort, a Group of Seven protégé and one of his instructors at the Ontario College of Arts. Bush painted landscapes in the Group style.

After his first trip to visit the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1950, Bush redirected his vision and efforts to large-scale expressionist paintings. Bush found Clement Greenberg, a New York art critic, to become his mentor and encourage him to narrow his sight. Bush later simplified his compositions and abandoned his abstract expressionist style. He represented Canada in 1967 at the Sao Paulo Art Biennial, and later retired as a commercial artist in 1968.

Oscar Cahén:

Oscar Cahen

Oscar Cahen

abstract painting

Oscar Cahén (Canadian, b. Denmark, 1916 – 1956)
Small Structure, 1953/55
Oil on canvas board
Gift of Alexandra Luke, 1967

Oscar Cahén was born Copenhagen, Denmark and studied drawing, painting, design and illustration in Germany, Italy, France, Sweden, and Czechoslovakia. Cahén became a professor of design, illustration and painting at the Rotter School in Prague after receiving a Master’s Degree in Fine Arts from Kunstakadekamie in Dresden.

In 1940, Cahén came to Canada as a war internee, the son of a German diplomat turned anti-Nazi. When he was released he moved to Toronto and met Walter Yarwood and Harold Town. Cahén aligned himself with the avante-garde art in the city and became one of Canada’s leading magazine illustrators. He started as a dark expressionist painter, but later changed his style to bright coloured abstractions.

Hortense Gordon:

Hortense Gordon

Hortense Gordon

 

Hortense Gordon (Canadian, 1887 -1961) Horizontals and Verticals, 1955 Oil on canvas Gift of Charlie Dobbie, 2000

Hortense Gordon
(Canadian, 1887 -1961)
Horizontals and Verticals, 1955
Oil on canvas
Gift of Charlie Dobbie, 2000

Hortense (Mattice) Gordon was born in Hamilton and studied under John Sloan Gordon at the Hamilton Art School. She later married John Gordon in 1920. Gordon taught at the Hamilton Technical School from 1916 – 1951.

Gordon was the first Canadian to study with Hans Hofmann, along with fellow members Alexandra Luke and William Ronald. She was a proponent of Hofmann’s “push and pull” theory, which shows in her geometric abstractions. Gordon began experimenting with abstractions in the 1930’s and was drawn to Piet Mondrian’s style of pure design and colour. She was inducted into the Painters Eleven by Ray Mead.

Tom Hodgson:

Tom Hodgson

Tom Hodgson

 

abstract painting

Tom Hodgson
(Canadian, 1924 – 2006)
Flowers, 1962
Watercolour and ink on illustration board
Gift of Alexandra Luke, 1967

Tom Hodgson was a Canadian representative at the 1952 Helsinki and 1956 Melbourne Olympics as a sprint canoer. Hodgson grew up on Toronto’s Centre Island, where he learned to paddle as a child, leading to his Olympic participation.

As well as being an international athlete, Hodgson was also a gifted artist from an early age. He studied with Arthur Lismer at the Art Gallery of Toronto (now known as the Art Gallery of Ontario), the Central Technical School and like other members of the Painters Eleven he also studied at the Ontario College of Art. Hodgson’s work was chosen for exhibition at the 1955 Pittsburgh International Exhibition. At the exhibition, Hodgson was amazed by the large size of the canvases used by other abstract painters, which paved the way for his own large-scale spontaneous gestural works.

Alexandra Luke:

Alexandra Luke

Alexandra Luke

Abstraction

Alexandra Luke
Blythwood
1965
Watercolour and ink on paper

Alexandra Luke was born in Montreal, but moved to Oshawa in 1914. She was enrolled in the Banff School of Fine Arts, where she met Jock Macdonald in 1945.  Jock Macdonald took Luke under his wing, she also studied with American abstract artist Hans Hofmann.

Macdonald introduced Luke to Surrealism and Theosophy: a spiritual dimension that was significant to Luke’s work. Luke was instrumental in the creating the Painters Eleven by organizing the Canadian Abstract Exhibition in 1952, the first all-abstract Canada wide exhibit. Members of the future group were present at the exhibition.

Jock Macdonald:

Jock Macdonald

Jock Macdonald

abstraction

Jock Macdonald
(1897 – 1960)
Polynesian Morning
1953
Lithograph on paper
Purchased, 2009

Jock Macdonald was born in Thurso, Scotland and graduated from the Edinburgh College of Art in 1922. Macdonald later moved to Vancouver to teach at the Vancouver School of Decorative and Applied Arts.

With traditional influences by the Group of Seven, after his move to Vancouver, Macdonald he developed a surrealist style through Grace Pailthorpe. His meeting with Pailthorpe inspired him to start making large-scaled abstractions. Macdonald started teaching at the Ontario College of Art in 1947. His position as a professor at the college gave him an influential part on fellow Painters Eleven members William Ronald and Alexandra Luke.

Ray Mead:

Ray Mead

Ray Mead

abstract painting

Ray Mead
1956
Tide #22
Oil painting on canvas
Gift of Avrom Isaacs, 1987

Ray Mead was born in England, but was stationed in Hamilton as a part of the Royal Air Force. Eventually he immigrated to Hamilton, where he met Hortense Gordon. Mead’s connection to Gordon was strong and very influential to his work. Mead said, “she educated me more than any art school.”

Mead worked for the MacLaren Advertising Company in Toronto, now known as MacLaren McCann and Montreal as a commercial artist, but he returned to Toronto in 1987 to paint full time. Nicolas de Staël, a European abstract artist, heavily influenced Mead’s work. His personal style is often characterized by the use of rich fields of colour.

Kazuo Nakamura:

Nakamura

Nakamura

abstract painting of a lake

Kazuo Nakamura
1964
Lake B. C.
Oil painting on canvas
Gift of Ron and Mary Tasker, 1991

Kazuo Nakamura was born in Vancouver, but was interned with his Japanese family in Hope, British Columbia during WWII. After the war, he moved to Hamilton and met Hortense Gordon for classes before enrolling at the Central Technical School in Toronto.

Nakamura uses a simpler style in his work, with less complex structures and monochromatic colours, as compared to the expressionistic work of other Painters Eleven members. Nakamura’s work is evident of his fascination with science and mathematics. His use of patterns, linear perspectives and processes. Nakamura has said, “In a sense, scientists and artists are doing the same thing. This world of pattern is a world we are discovering together.”

William Ronald:

William Ronald

William Ronald

abstract painting

William Ronald
1953
Slow Movement
Casein duco graphite on masonite
Purchase, 1971

William Ronald Smith was born in Stratford, graduated from the Ontario College of Art and studied with Hans Hofmann in New York in 1952. Ronald was inspired by the abstract expressionist movement happening in New York City, and brought it back to Toronto while working at Simpson’s Company as a display artist. Ronald organized the Abstracts at Home display at Simpson’s, which initiated the Painters Eleven.

Ronald moved to New York in 1955 and secured a spot in the Kootz Gallery. His spot in the gallery got him known for his central image paintings, which are expressionist painting that have immediate impact on the viewer. Ronald is known as one of Canada’s most significant international artists of the 1950’s.

Harold Town:

Harold Town

Harold Town

Harold Town was born in Toronto and studied at Western Technical School and the Ontario College of Art. Town’s early work contained distinctly spiky forms, showing influence from Graham Sutherland and Rico Lebrun. He worked in a variety of mediums and showed off his flamboyant and productive personality in his artwork. Town worked with collages, printmaking, drawing, painting and sculpture. “Absorb experience common to all and subsume it in uncommon expression,” wrote Town about his use of everyday items in his work.

Town was a Canadian representative in two Venice Biennales along with being gifted an Honorary Doctorate from York University.

Walter Yarwood:

artist portrait

Walter Yarwood

Walter Yarwood was born in Toronto and studied commercial art at Western Technical School. Yarwood considered himself largely self-taught. He worked as a freelance artist for advertising companies where he met Oscar Cahén and Harold Town.

Yarwood’s work is known for its rich and commanding sense of colour. He gave up painting to take up sculpturing, receiving commissions including work at the University of Toronto, Winnipeg International Airport and York University. After becoming an instructor at Humber College in the 1970’s, he resumed painting in 1980.

Visit the RMG to see works by the Painters Eleven, or browse our collection online..

National Museum Month is Here

The month of May hosts the celebration of the Ontario Museum Association’s Museum Month, with International Museum Day falling on May 18. This special celebration happens every year around the world and the International Council of Museums coordinates the day. Each year is home to a theme for International Museum Day, this year is museums and cultural landscapes.

We will be celebrating International Museums Day with a special mid-day tour of the gallery with our Senior Curator, Linda Jansma. The tour will give you a look at the permanent collection and the architecture behind the building, designed by Arthur Erickson. The tour is on May 18, drop in at noon to learn more about the Gallery

Linda leads a tour

Linda Jansma leads a tour of The Other NFB at an RMG Friday

According to the OMA, Museum Month celebrates Ontario’s museums and history. The RMG will be giving you a look into the history of the building, as well as its cultural background and connection to the group of artists known as the Painters Eleven.

The RMG

The Robert McLaughlin Gallery exterior. Photo by Michael Cullen

The RMG is one of Oshawa’s cultural landmarks and it stands as the largest gallery in Durham Region with 36,000 square feet of notable Arthur Erickson architecture. We feature a permanent collection of over 4,500 works and five galleries of contemporary and historical exhibitions. Among the permanent collection, the RMG has the largest holding of works by the Painters Eleven. The Thomas Bouckley Collection is an archival record of over 3,000 photos of Oshawa and Durham Region, giving a look into the local history of our community.

The RMG circa 1970's

The Robert McLaughlin Gallery circa 1970’s

The RMG was founded in 1967 when Ewart McLaughlin and his wife Margaret, also known as Alexandra Luke the painter, saw a need for a permanent space for the arts. An exhibition of local artists held by Oshawa designer William Caldwell piqued the interest of the McLaughlin’s and spawned their idea for an expanded public art gallery.

The gallery took the name of Robert after Ewart McLaughlin’s grandfather, founder of The McLaughlin Carriage Company. Isabel McLaughlin joined the gallery as a life-long patron who provided generous financial support and gifts of over 100 Canadian and international works.

General Motors Strike, 1937

General Motors Strike, 1937

The RMG is also home to a large collection of archival photos from historic Oshawa and surrounding region. We received the Thomas Bouckley Collection from Thomas Bouckley, collector and history enthusiast of Oshawa. The computerized collection has over 3,000 photographs of historic Oshawa and Durham Region for over 100 years. The collection is a remarkable resource in understanding the past and engaging with the local history surrounding Oshawa.

Painters Eleven

Douglas Coupland Group Portrait 1957, 2011

The group, now known as Painters Eleven, first met each other at an exhibition of abstract and non-objective paintings held by Simpson’s Department store in Toronto. The exhibition, Abstracts at Home, only had seven participants: Jack Bush, Oscar Cahén, Tom Hodgson, Alexandra Luke, Ray Mead, Kazuo Nakamura and William Ronald. The additional four artists: Jock Macdonald, Harold Town, Walter Yarwood and Hortense Gordon met with the former seven artists to discuss becoming a group of artists. The eleven artists came together for the first time under the name of Painters Eleven at an exhibition in February of 1954 at the Roberts Gallery in Toronto.

The RMG proudly holds Canada’s largest collection of works by Painters Eleven, primarily as a result of significant donations to the permanent collection from Alexandra Luke. At least eleven of these works are on display at all times in our Painters Eleven gallery.

Isabel McLaughlin

Isabel McLaughlin

We are also celebrating important founders and influences of the gallery this month like Isabel McLaughlin and Aleen Aked.

Isabel McLaughlin was born in Oshawa, growing up in Parkwood Estate, but later moved to Toronto. She was the third daughter of Colonel Robert Samuel McLaughlin, president of General Motors from 1918 to 1945. McLaughlin is considered one of Canada’s most important modernist painters.

McLaughlin had a strong background in the arts with an excellent education. She studied in Paris, at the Ontario College of Arts under Arthur Lismer, at the Arts Student’s League in Toronto, and the Scandinavian Academy in Paris. She contributed to some Group of Seven exhibits, who had a large influence on her, and she later became a founding member of the Canadian Group of Painters after the Group of Seven disbanded.

Isabel has made large donations of artwork and books from her personal collection to the RMG and the RMG Library, as well as substantial monetary donations to help expand the gallery building and programs.

photo of Aleen Aked

Aleen Aked

Elizabeth Aleen Aked was an accomplished artist and had a strong sense for the history and culture in the places she lived. Throughout her life, Aked maintained a rigorous practice for painting which let her expand her reach throughout North America.

Aked’s last important art exhibition was held at the RMG in 1989. She later died in 2003, but left a generous portion of her legacy as a gift to the RMG. Aked’s legacy to the gallery, called the Aked Endowment, permits exciting initiative for education and outreach, notably the Imagination Station for children.

To learn more about the gallery, join us for a special International Museums Day tour with Senior Curator Linda Jansma on May 18 at noon.

Beat the heat this summer at the RMG!

Beat the heat by hiding away in what Mayor John Henry calls one of his “favourite places in Oshawa”. This summer we have something for everyone from amateur art critics and social butterflies to little artists and music aficionados. If a mayoral stamp of approval isn’t enough, here are eight reasons why you should head into the RMG this summer.

1.     Puppet Act: Manipulating the Voice

Cantastoria, or puppet storytelling, is the theme of the latest exhibit at the RMG curated by Linda Jansma. Puppet Act: Manipulating the Voice features marionettes from the Peterborough Museum & Archives collection whose historic puppets, retired from the Peterborough Puppet Guild, present as disturbing caricatures waiting to come to life once more. The exhibition, set to open up at the gallery until September 1, also includes contemporary work from six artists. These puppeteers convey humanistic motifs of fear, manipulation, irony, humour and the battle between good and evil.

2.     Boxing: The Sweet Science

Entering the ring at the RMG just in time for the Toronto 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games is an exhibit that is sure to be a knockout. Boxing is a metaphor for life, filled with battles lost and won. In Boxing: The Sweet Science, curator Linda Jansma captures this expression through pieces that convey the movement, power and elegancy of the sport. Whether you’ve got a ticket to the match at the GM Centre or not, come in to see this great exhibit. Up at the RMG until September 13, 2015.

3.     RMG Fridays

On the first Friday of the month, the gallery is open 7 – 10 p.m. for RMG Fridays. The gallery buzzes with live musical performances from local and emerging talent, interactive art experiences, open gallery spaces, social mingling and more. This FREE (need not to be convinced further) is suitable for music lovers and art enthusiastic big and small. Every RMG Fridays is a family-friendly event and is a hotspot for youth, families and culture-vultures.

July 3, 2015
A Canadian Celebration:
Canada is old. It deserves more than one birthday. At the RMG we’re keeping that maple syrup, apologizing, igloo-dwelling spirit going with indie rockers Canvas and Chris Doucett & The Way Out. Join local artist Monique Ra Brent in Gallery A and chat with Teri Lipman about her collection A Visionary Journey. We’re joined by local arts collective Broken Arts as they gear up for the annual Broken Arts Festival on July 18 in Memorial Park! The PanAm Cruiser will also be stopping by for the evening – learn more about the games!

August 7, 2015 
Summer Sounds
We’re taking a night to celebrate the exhibition that has everyone talking, Puppet Act: Manipulating the Voice. The sounds of Goodnight Sunrise and locals Ivory Park, will occupy the main galleries while Father and son duo Matt and Joe will join us in Gallery A. Join us in learning more about the upcoming Durham Festival.

4.     Gallery A

If you didn’t know already, Gallery A is a professional exhibition and studio space provides accessible opportunities for artist-driven initiates at the RMG.  Each month, the gallery is occupied by a wide range of solo and group projects, curated exhibitions, artist and community collaborations, special events, film screenings, symposiums, and community art projects. And this summer, the talent in Gallery A is shining brighter than the sun!

23 June – 12 July, 2015
Gallery A: Monique Ra Brent: The Painted Soul
Art Lab Studio: Adam White

14 July – 2 August
Motor City Stories
Home to Home

5 – 30 August, 2015
Gallery A: Matthew and Joseph Catalano: Arbor Nimbus

5.     OPG Second Sundays

Every second Sunday of every month, the RMG hosts an afternoon of free family activities. Families of all kinds and sizes are invited to explore exciting exhibitions, art materials and fun hands-on activities together! You will discover things to do throughout the RMG, so you can follow your imagination and experiment with new ideas and projects. Projects suit art lovers of all ages and skill levels. Ideal for children 3 and up, however kids work with their parents & art instructors. Drop-in between 1 and 3 p.m., no registration required!

July 12, 2015
Go Team!

We will be celebrating the 2015 Pan Am Games, RMG style! We will make medals, noise-makers and party decorations to cheer on the athletes.

August 9, 2015
Calling all Artists!
This month we will explore 2D and 3D artworks, from raised salt paintings to mini sculptures, we will create artworks that will surely inspire the artists in all of us!

6.     Talks and Tours
Art education for all ages is both valuable and important here at the gallery. This summer were hosting several talks exploring the messages, themes and meanings within our current exhibitions.

Sunday, June 28, 1 – 3 p.m.
Join us for this lively and entertaining talk with Sean O’Meara – a former amateur boxer, current Oakville city councillor and the sport-organizing chair for boxing at the Toronto 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games! You will also have an opportunity to join Senior Curator Linda Jansma for a guided tour of the special exhibition Boxing: The Sweet Science.

In Gallery A, join artist Monique Ra Brent to learn more about her work and exhibition, The Painted Soul.

Sunday, July 19, 1 – 3 p.m.
Motor City Stories and Home to Home Opening Reception
Join us in Gallery A and celebrate the works and artists features in Motor City Stories and Home to Home.

Sunday, July 19, 1 – 3 p.m.
Spirit of Sport Exhibition Tour
Join Associate Curator Sonya Jones for a tour of Spirit of Sport: Selections from the Thomas Bouckley Collection.

7.     The Permanent Collection

At the RMG, we have an extensive collection of permanent works totalling more than 4,000 works. Often pieces are incorporated into exhibits from our archives. Our current exhibition, Go Figure, was curated by Senior Curator Linda Jansma and explores various aspects of human temperament and how this conception is professed by artists.

8.     Painters 11

Painters 11 began in the fall of 1953 in Oshawa, launching them as Ontario’s first abstract painting group. The group includes members such as Alexandra Luke, Jock Macdonald and Jack Bush – Luke being the catalyst of the group’s formation. The group held their first exhibit under the name “Painters 11” in February 1954 at Roberts Gallery in Toronto, Ontario. The RMG has had a long-term relationship with Painters 11, which explains why the gallery is the owner of the largest collection of the group’s work.

Our Isobel McLaughlin Gallery occupies works by Painters 11, interchangeable from our extensive collection. Be sure to stop by the gallery to see the iconic abstract works by the Canadian group.

 

To stay in the know about all the great events by signing up for our newsletter here https://rmg.on.ca/exhibitions-and-events.php.

 

Vol ‘n’ Tell is an ongoing series of blog posts written by RMG Volunteers. Raechel Bonomo is an art enthusiast and writer from Oshawa, Ont.

Collections Corner: Ray Mead

This blog post comes from the desk of Senior Curator, Megan White, Assistant Curator.

The number of works by members of Painters Eleven in the RMG’s permanent collection just got a fair bit larger. The curatorial team at the RMG have been working on processing 496 drawings by Painters 11 member Ray Mead, into the permanent collection. In 1999, this wonderful collection of drawings and sketches by Mead were donated to the RMG. The collection of drawings include 292 loose drawings and 4 sketchbooks including 204 drawings, mostly in pen/pencil, ink or mixed media. This treasure trove of artwork has been patiently waiting in the RMG Archives for a chance to formally enter the permanent collection. This year, with funding from a Collections Management grant through the Department of Canadian Heritage, the drawings have been catalogued, photographed, matted and re-housed in our vault’s brand new rolling storage system.

files 2

When I think of Ray Mead, I immediately think of the work he produced as a member of Painters 11: striking abstract paintings in solid, bold colours.  Although many of the drawings (mostly untitled) are abstract in style, the collection also includes a number of portraits of both men and women, female nudes, animals, and several sketches that look like they could be blueprints for future paintings. It has been a lovely experience being able to go through each of Mead’s drawings.  Flipping through his drawings and pages of his sketchbooks can reveal part of his thought process, giving us a rare window into the mind of the artist. It is possible to track the development of a motif or design through five or six sketches, to see the different stages that Mead went through as he worked out his ideas.

Ray Mead (Canadian, b. England, 1921-1998); Untitled; 1986; charcoal on paper; Gift of the Estate of Ray Mead, 1999

Ray Mead (Canadian, b. England, 1921-1998); Untitled; 1986; charcoal on paper; Gift of the Estate of Ray Mead, 1999

Now that the artworks have been digitized and are available to search on our database, the drawings can be accessed in a much easier way by both RMG staff and the public. The drawings/sketches can be viewed digitally using our online database by searching “Ray Mead” in the Artist Name search bar.

Ray Mead (Canadian, b. England, 1921-1998); Untitled (study); n.d.; charcoal on paper; Gift of the Estate of Ray Mead, 1999

Ray Mead (Canadian, b. England, 1921-1998); Untitled (study); n.d.; charcoal on paper; Gift of the Estate of Ray Mead, 1999

 

Ray Mead (Canadian, b. England, 1921-1998); Untitled (figure with hat); n.d.; felt pen on paper; Gift of the Estate of Ray Mead, 1999

Ray Mead (Canadian, b. England, 1921-1998); Untitled (figure with hat); n.d.; felt pen on paper; Gift of the Estate of Ray Mead, 1999

Curator’s View: Jack Bush and Jock Macdonald

This blog post comes from the desk of Senior Curator, Linda Jansma.

This is an unprecedented time in the history of Painters Eleven. Two of its members, Jack Bush and Jock Macdonald are simultaneously having major retrospective exhibitions. Jock Macdonald: Evolving Form, which debuted at the Vancouver Art Gallery last fall and has now just opened at the RMG runs concurrently with Jack Bush, an exhibition organized by and featured at the National Gallery of Canada.

Image Credit: Jock Macdonald in Nootka Sound, c. 1935-36, Vancouver Art Gallery Archives

Image Credit: Jock Macdonald in Nootka Sound, c. 1935-36, Vancouver Art Gallery Archives

As a co-curator of the Macdonald exhibition, I have been immersed in the project for three years and yesterday’s final touches on the installation were a satisfying experience. I’d seen the exhibition installation in Vancouver, and ours, because of the spaces we’re using, looks quite different. It’s interesting to see how work changes dependent on the height of galleries or the juxtaposition with different work—it’s the stuff that keeps curating fresh for me.

The experience I had with the Jack Bush exhibition was completely different. Two RMG works were included in the show and one of its principal curators, Sarah Stanners spent a good deal of time in our vault and with our archives. But that was extent of my knowledge of the exhibition.

The painting to greet visitors on entering the exhibition is a majestic sash painting—indeed, the entire first part of the exhibition concentrates on work that Bush did after 1961. These are paintings to which his international reputation is attributed. A room of his 1950s abstract expressionist work is one in which I felt particularly comfortable. He produced these paintings when he was a member of P11 and while they might not be considered as accomplished as his later work, I love the energy that spills from them. The majesty of these later works cannot however, be denied: expansive areas of colour, the brush strokes, unlike many other colour field painters, he allows his audience to see, as well as many of the works’ expansive sizes that envelope you when standing in front of them make for an incredible experience.

Portrait of Jack Bush at Park Gallery, 1958, The New Studio Photography, Gift of the Feheley Family, 2013

Portrait of Jack Bush at Park Gallery, 1958, The New Studio Photography, Gift of the Feheley Family, 2013

There are interesting similarities to the Bush and Macdonald stories. The NGC retrospective highlights the importance of Bush’s relationship with New York critic Clement Greenberg (although puts to rest the myth that Greenberg all but guided Bush’s brush), while the Macdonald exhibition shines a light on the relationship he had with British Surrealists Dr. Grace Pailthorpe and Reuben Mednikoff. The Bush family gave unprecedented access to their father’s diaries giving a personal voice to the project. The Macdonald project saw the inclusion of both a previously unknown diary that he kept while roughing it with his family in Nootka Sound, as well as close to forty letters that he’d written to his mentors Pailthorpe and Mednikoff. These primary sources have enriched both projects.

As a curator who has worked with a collection by members of Painters Eleven for many years, seeing both of these exhibitions is particularly satisfying for me. It also makes me realize how much has yet to be done: as a start, Ray Mead or Walter Yarwood retrospectives anyone?

Curator’s View – Jock Macdonald

This blog post comes from the desk of Senior Curator, Linda Jansma.

It has been an exciting journey to be involved in the development of Jock Macdonald: Evolving Form. As the “spiritual home” of Painters Eleven, it was natural for the RMG to be part of this collaboration with the Vancouver Art Gallery and Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. Many of the 26 works by Macdonald in the RMG’s permanent collection are featured in both the exhibition and publication, as are other paintings from major public holdings across the country, as well as from private collections.

The exhibition presents important new research: a previously unknown diary that Macdonald kept while he and his family lived in Nootka, a remote community on Vancouver Island, correspondence from Jock to British Surrealists Dr. Grace Pailthorpe and Reuben Mednikoff, and a selection of 86 previously unknown works housed in the archives of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh. The latter represents a link between Macdonald’s early forays into abstraction, and his fully realized automatic works and a number are included in the exhibition.

This wonderful photograph of Macdonald, taken at the opening of a Jack Bush exhibition in 1958 at Toronto’s Park Gallery, is also a recent discovery and a 2014 addition to the RMG’s important P11 archives. We are grateful to the Feheley family for their generous gift of this material.

Image – Jock Macdonald, 1958 Park Gallery Opening, Gift of the Feheley Family, 2014

Jock Macdonald: Evolving Form – Special Programs

This winter we’re offering an in-depth  learning series about the artist and educator Jock Macdonald.

Over 60 years ago, Alexandra Luke organized The Canadian Abstract Exhibition for the YWCA in Oshawa, giving birth to abstraction in Ontario and a collective of artists who would go on to call themselves Painters Eleven. Jock Macdonald, a member of this illustrious group, is regarded as an early visionary, leading the way in automatic and abstract painting in Canada.

The Robert McLaughlin Gallery is thrilled to present Jock Macdonald: Evolving Form, the first major retrospective of the artist’s work in over thirty years and the only venue to host the exhibition, east of British Columbia. The exhibition provides a fresh look at Macdonald’s artistic practice and includes for the first time, previously unknown Automatics, discovered in the archives of The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art by the RMG’s Senior Curator Linda Jansma.

Jock Macdonald: Evolving Form
3 February, 2015 – 24 May, 2015

Opening Reception
RMG Fridays, 6 March 2015, 7-9pm

Talk and Tour with Pete Smith and Linda Jansma, Curator of Jock Macdonald: Evolving Form
Sunday 1 February, 1-3pm

ArtLab artist in residence Pete Smith will discuss his relationship to abstraction and the development of his recent ArtLab installation. Senior Curator, Linda Jansma will share the story of her discovery of the previously unknown Macdonald works, followed by a guided tour of Jock Macdonald: Evolving Form.

Symposium
Abstraction in Canada: The Legacy of Jock Macdonald

Saturday 7 March 2015, 10am-4pm

Lunch and refreshments included. Registration required $20 / $15 students
Free for RMG Members.

This one-day symposium will explore the life and work of Canadian painter Jock Macdonald, including postwar abstraction in Canada and Macdonald’s influence on the last century of Canadian art.  This event is held in conjunction with Jock Macdonald: Evolving Form —the first major retrospective of the artist’s work in over thirty years. The day will include an in-depth tour of the exhibition, a light lunch and refreshments and presentations from art historians, researchers, students and curators. 

Call for proposals

The RMG invites diverse session proposals that contribute to our understanding of postwar abstraction in Canada, including the work of Jock Macdonald and Painters Eleven.

Session proposals may cover history, theory and criticism, museum and curatorial practice, contemporary work, and artistic practice. Please submit your CV and a 300 word abstract to Elizabeth Sweeney at [email protected] by January 15, 2015. 

Website

In conjunction with Jock Macdonald: Evolving Form the RMG is proud to launch www.jockmacdonald.org a special exhibition website detailing the artist’s life with an extended timeline, live drawing tool and interactive gallery of artworks. This is the first time the artist’s work has been available online in an interactive, web-based format.

Catalogue

Jock Macdonald: Evolving Form is accompanied by a major book co-published by The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, the Vancouver Art Gallery, the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria and Black Dog Publishing, featuring texts by each curator, an essay by scholar Dr. Anna Hudson, excerpts from Macdonald’s correspondence and a diary the artist kept while living in Nootka Sound from 1935 to 1936. Available at the RMG shop.

School Enrichment Programs
February 2015 – May 2015
Grades JK-12

This comprehensive school enrichment program includes an interactive tour of Jock Macdonald: Evolving Form, proving an easy and engaging introduction to the world of abstraction. Students will also visit the studio and experiment with watercolour and ink to create an abstract artwork inspired by the exhibition. Visit the Teachers Corner on our website to learn more.

OPG Second Sundays!
12 April: Amazing Abstractions                                                                                                                                     We are letting our imaginations loose! Inspired by the Jock Macdonald: Evolving Form exhibition, we create watercolour paintings, unique abstracted pinwheels, silly sculptures and a collaborative abstract floor art. Free.

Top image: Jock Macdonald, Untitled, 1954 (Detail), Collection of the Robert McLaughlin Gallery

Jock Macdonald: Evolving Form

Jock Macdonald: Evolving Form

3 February – 24 May, 2015
Talk and Tour: Sunday, 1 February, 1-3pm
Opening: RMG Fridays, 6 March, 7-10pm

Symposium:
Abstraction in Canada: The Legacy of Jock Macdonald

Saturday 7 March 2015, 10am – 4pm

Jock Macdonald: Evolving Form is a travelling exhibition, organized by the Vancouver Art Gallery, Art Gallery of Greater Victoria and The Robert McLaughlin Gallery and celebrating the artist’s life and exhibiting many previously unknown works. The exhibition begins with Macdonald’s early painting career in Vancouver, surveys his move toward abstraction and his extraordinary automatics, and concludes with the later abstractions he produced as part of the Toronto-based collective of abstract artists, the Painters Eleven.

A pioneer of postwar abstraction in Canada, Jock Macdonald was a key figure and influenced not only his peers, but also future generations of Canadian painters. The exhibition traces the artist’s practice and shows the dramatic transformations he underwent throughout his development. Influenced by spirituality and Surrealist thinking, Macdonald believed that the artist’s task was to “break out of the tangible reality of daily existence to realize the highest planes of art expression”. (Pg 15, Thom, The Early Work: An Artist Emerges) His career was an artistic journey in a perpetual state of evolution and growth. As a founding member of Painters Eleven, Macdonald’s contribution to abstract painting in Canada is seminal.

Evolving Form is the first major retrospective of the artist’s work in over thirty years and is a fresh look at the influential artist’s career.

A special project website detailing the artist’s life with an interactive timeline, drawing tool and gallery of artworks accompanies the exhibition. Click here to launch jockmacdonald.org

This project is accompanied by a major book co-published by the three art galleries and Black Dog Publishing, featuring texts by each curator, an essay by scholar Dr. Anna Hudson, excerpts from Macdonald’s correspondence and a diary the artist kept while living in Nootka Sound from 1935 to 1936.

The exhibition is organized by the Vancouver Art Gallery, the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, and The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, and is curated by Ian M. Thom, Michelle Jacques and Linda Jansma.

This exhibition is generously supported by the Government of Canada through the Museums Assistance Program of the Department of Canadian Heritage.

Image: Jock Macdonald, Nature’s Pattern, 1954; Collection of The Robert McLaughlin Gallery

Painters Eleven at Sixty

Tom Hodgson, Yellow Hydrant, 1953; oil, sand and acrylic ? on masonite; Gift of Martin Vagners, 1989

Tom Hodgson, Yellow Hydrant, 1953; oil, sand and acrylic ? on masonite; Gift of Martin Vagners, 1989

This post comes from our Senior Curator, Linda Jansma.


‘This exhibition is not a compact to agree, but rather the expression of a long repressed desire on the part of eleven painters to disagree harmoniously in terms visually indigenous to this age.’

While a fall 1953 meeting at Alexandra Luke’s cottage officially launched Painters Eleven as Ontario’s first abstract painting group, their inaugural exhibition took place at Roberts Gallery in Toronto from February 13 – 27, 1954. The above quote is taken from the exhibition flyer; indeed, the group wasn’t interested in presenting a manifesto similar to the Automatistes’ Refus Global, but in seeking opportunities to show their abstract work to the public.

Jock Macdonald, one of the oldest members of P11, would write in a letter to friends about that early exhibition: “It was the bombshell of the Art world in Toronto. It set the established and recognized artist on their ears.” Roberts Gallery had a huge attendance for the exhibition opening for which each member could contribute three paintings. As one Toronto Daily Star reporter noted: “The show has one common denominator: it gives conservatism a polite but firm kick in the pants and blazes independent trails.”

The RMG has organized an exhibition celebrating P11’s first sixty years and has included early work by each of its members. The gallery’s first mandate emphasized collecting and exhibiting the work of the group and the RMG now has the largest collection of work by Painter’s Eleven, as well as an extensive archive. Four paintings from that first exhibition are part of the RMG permanent collection, including Forest by Kazuo Nakamura, Yellow Hydrant by Tom Hodgson, and Tumult for a King by Harold Town (a Varsity reviewer remarked, about the latter painting, that it was “rather violent, too violent perhaps”).

Kazuo Nakamura, Forest; 1953; oil on masonite; Gift of Charles E. McFaddin, 1974

Kazuo Nakamura, Forest; 1953; oil on masonite; Gift of Charles E. McFaddin, 1974


In the invitation for the group’s second Roberts exhibition, they further clarified their aims:

‘There is no manifesto here for the times.
There is no jury but time. But now
There is little harmony in the noticeable disagreement.
But there is a profound regard
For the consequences
Of our complete freedom’

After sixty years, the jury is back, and the verdict, is no doubt, positive.

Harold Town; Tumult for a King; 1953- 54; oil and Lucite 44 on masonite; Gift of the artist's estate, 1994

Harold Town; Tumult for a King; 1953- 54; oil and Lucite 44 on masonite; Gift of the artist’s estate, 1994

 

The Curator’s View: Av Isaacs

This post comes from our Senior Curator, Linda Jansma.

I was going through the lobby of the gallery recently, when a gentleman in the lower Alexandra Luke Gallery caught my eye. “Hmmm, looks like Av Isaacs,” I thought. A quick step closer confirmed that Av was taking a turn around the gallery, something he does two or three times a year.

This was serendipitous. The day before, we had taken delivery of approximately 25 8” x 10” black and white photographs from Pat Feheley. She had inherited them from her father, Budd, who was a co-founder of  Park Gallery in Toronto which he opened in the 1950s on Avenue Road. The photographs were taken at an opening of work by Painters Eleven and included candid shots of Jock Macdonald, Hortense Gordon, Ray Mead, Harold Town and Tom Hodgson. But the other people in that crowded room were a mystery.

Portrait of Jack Bush at Park Gallery   1958  Photo courtesy the new studio photography

Portrait of Jack Bush at Park Gallery 1958.  Photo: The New Studio Photography

So I sat with Av for a half hour in the gallery space with that pile of photographs on my lap, one by one passing them on to Av. Av was the owner of Isaacs Gallery, a Toronto institution that he opened in 1955. He represented artists like Michael Snow, Joyce Wieland and Jack Chambers. He reminisced about living below Jock Macdonald in a duplex on 4 Maple Avenue while the latter was teaching at the Ontario College of Art, and his own father’s reaction when he sold a work by William Ronald for the princely sum of $900 (his father was incredulous). He told me of the opening of the RMG-organized exhibition of the work of William Kurelek and the impression the presence of a red-robed bishop had made on him, as well as the after-party at the home of our Director Emerita, Joan Murray, and how the majority of the guests ended up fully clothed in her swimming pool.

Tom Hodgson (left), Jock Macdonald (right)  Park Gallery opening  1958 Photo credit: The new studio photography

Tom Hodgson (left), Jock Macdonald (right) Park Gallery opening, 1958 Photo:
The New Studio Photography

Av was able to identify a number of people in those photographs which will be incredibly helpful as they’re archived into the collection. But the best part was sitting beside a Canadian legend and hearing his stories.

Thanks for dropping by Av.

Interested in learning more? Click here to read about our upcoming Michael J. Kuczer exhibition. Kuczer also lived in Toronto at 4 Maple avenue with Isaacs and Jock Macdonald.