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Exhibitions

Arthur Lismer, Isles of Spruce, 1922, oil on canvas. Hart House Art Collection, University of Toronto. Purchased by the Hart House Art Committee, 1927/28. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid
Yvonne McKague Housser, South Shore, Quebec, 1933, oil on canvas. Hart House Art Collection, University of Toronto. Gift of Graduating Year of 1934. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid  
A Story of Canadian Art: As Told by the Hart House Collection
Samuel J. Zacks Gallery
29 August 2015–6 December 2015

Season Launch: Thursday 24 September, 5-7 pm

Join the conversation #StoryCdnArtAGNES

Curated by Dr. Christine Boyanoski

The Agnes is pleased to present this major touring exhibition of Canadian art, showcasing such renowned artists as Emily Carr, Lawren Harris, Prudence Heward, Yvonne McKague Housser, A. Y. Jackson, J.E.H. MacDonald, David Milne, Tom Thomson, and F. H. Varley. Drawn from the celebrated Hart House Art Collection, A Story of Canadian Art features classic Canadian landscapes, coast to coast, alongside stunning modern portraits, still lifes and abstracts.

The exhibition also represents an important chapter in the history of collecting, and how collections contribute to the shaping of national identity and cultural history. Hart House was commissioned by the Massey family, and gifted to the University of Toronto in 1919 as a cultural centre where students, faculty, and the broader public could mingle and converse. The Hart House Art Committee, comprised of students, artists, faculty, and staff at the University of Toronto, began collecting art with the purchase of A. Y. Jackson’s Georgian Bay in 1922, and continued to focus on the work of the Group of Seven and their contemporaries, as well as the Beaver Hall Group and Canadian Group of Painters, through the first half of the twentieth century. The art collection rapidly gained a national and international reputation, with works being loaned to important shows of Canadian art at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, DC, and the Tate Gallery in London, UK. These shows, and the resulting critical reviews that were distributed across Canada, helped to define Canadian art at that time.

While individual works from the collection continue to be regularly included in museum exhibitions and in published histories of Canadian art, they are rarely seen together. A Story of Canadian Art is the first opportunity in over thirty years for Canadian audiences to see some of the most important works from the collection, and to learn about a significant chapter in the formation of the story of Canadian art in the first half of the twentieth century.

A Story of Canadian Art: As Told by the Hart House Collection is organized and circulated by the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery (Hart House, University of Toronto, Canada). The exhibition is financially supported by the Museums Assistance Program of the Department of Canadian Heritage.