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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Vol ‘n’ Tell

Vol ‘n’ Tell is an ongoing series of blog posts written by RMG Volunteers. Raechel Bonomo is an Oshawa native, art enthusiast and second-year Print Journalism student at Durham College.


Painters Eleven (P11) began in the fall of 1953 in Oshawa, launching them as Ontario’s first abstract painting group. P11 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 Eleven” in February 1954 at Roberts Gallery in Toronto, Ontario.

The Robert McLaughlin Gallery has had a long-term relationship with Painters Eleven, which explains why the gallery is the owner of the largest collection of the group’s work. The history of the group is woven into the history of the RMG, creating the symbiotic relationship that is prevalent in work displayed from the gallery’s archives. Oshawa native Alexandra Luke, an advocate for abstract art, brought this style of painting to the city through the South Ontario Art Gallery Circuit. The RMG’s foundation as a gallery began with a focus on collecting, preserving and displaying the group’s work. It is because of Luke’s munificent, extensive donation of the group’s work that allows the RMG to continue its original mandate and introduce new pieces to the public.

In a time where the landscape style of the Group of Seven dominated the Canadian art world, the work from P11 would soon become the new foundation for modern art in Canada. The new installation at the Robert McLaughlin Gallery features work from the collection from every member of the P11 and demonstrates their then breakthrough abstract style, evident in works such as Melville’s Island (1961) from group member Ray Mead.


Ray Mead, Melville’s Island, 1961; oil on canvas; Donated by the Ontario Heritage Foundation, 1988; gift of M. F. Feheley


With each new installation, there is a cohesiveness that is present within the collection despite the differences in technique and imagery from the artists. For example, the imagery of Alexandra Luke’s piece Encounter (1959) contrasts the more heavy appearance of Cloud (1962) by William Ronald.


William Ronald, Cloud, 1962; oil on canvas; Donated by the Ontario Heritage Foundation, 1988, gift of Dr. and Mrs. S. P. Starkman


Alexandra Luke, Encounter, 1959; oil on masonite; Gift of Mr. and Mrs. E. R. S. McLaughlin, 1971

Despite abstract being a lesser of my personal favourites, the work of the P11 evolve the style to encompass traditionalist approaches of painting in their work – creating an appeal to both the classical and modern art enthusiasts.

A new exhibition is installed every eight months and features, fittingly, eleven original paintings from the group that is worth a visit to the Robert McLaughlin Gallery.


Raechel Bonomo

Volunteer Blog Writer

Robert McLaughlin Art Gallery