McMichael Canadian Art Collection

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McMichael Canadian Art Collection
Main entrance to McMichael Canadian Art Collection
LocationKleinburg, Ontario, Canada
Coordinates43°50′27″N 79°37′31″W / 43.840776°N 79.625205°W / 43.840776; -79.625205

The McMichael Canadian Art Collection is an art gallery in Kleinburg, Ontario, Canada, northwest of Toronto. It houses an extensive collection of paintings by Tom Thomson, the Group of Seven and their contemporaries, and First Nations and Inuit artists.[1]

The core of this art collection and the very gallery itself are the result of the dreams and vision of two people. Signe and Robert McMichael were, on first sight, completely captivated by the paintings of the Group of Seven which seemed to embody the same love and respect they had for the Canadian landscape.


Robert (1921–2003) and Signe (1921–2007) were married in 1949 and worked together at Robert McMichael Studios, their wedding photography business in Toronto. During the 1950s, Robert also established a successful New York-based company called Travel Pak Limited which he eventually sold so that he could devote his full attention to the gallery.[2]

Tom Thomson Shack

In 1954, they built a four-room log house using salvaged pioneer hand-hewn logs and fieldstone on their ten acres of wooded land in Kleinburg. The following year, they purchased Montreal River, a small oil sketch by Lawren Harris and subsequently, Pine Island by Tom Thomson. Even though the young couple had to sacrifice and pay for these paintings in installments, in the words of Robert McMichael, "they were hooked".[3]

Their dream of creating a permanent art centre which celebrated Canadian art took shape long before the formal establishment of a public gallery. Their vision included Tom Thomson, the Group of Seven and their contemporaries, and Aboriginal art. Their private collection grew through astute purchases, and also through donations from other private collectors and the artists themselves who believed in what the McMichaels were trying to achieve.

By the early 1960s, the McMichaels’ personal collection had grown to the point where thousands of people a year, including local school groups, were asking to see the art collection in their home. In 1964, Robert and Signe McMichael wrote to the Honourable John Robarts, Premier of Ontario, to express their desire to donate their art collection and property to the Province of Ontario, for the benefit of all Canadians.[4] On November 18, 1965, the formal agreement was signed which gifted 194 works of art, the buildings and land to the Province. On July 8, 1966, the McMichael Conservation Collection of Art was officially opened.[5]

After becoming a public institution, the collection continued to grow through the ongoing support and donations from Signe and Robert McMichael, as well as many other private collectors. The McMichaels continued to live at the gallery as unpaid curators-in-residence until their retirement in 1981.

Six members of the Group of Seven are buried on the grounds of the McMichael Canadian Art Collection: Lawren Harris, A. Y. Jackson, Frank Johnston, Arthur Lismer, Frederick Varley[6] and A. J. Casson.

In 2016, Ian Dejardin, formerly director of the Dulwich Picture Gallery, was named director of the McMichael gallery.[7]

Selected works[edit]

Group of Seven[edit]

See also[edit]



  • Blodgett, Jean (1989). The McMichael Canadian Art Collection. McGraw-Hill Ryerson.
  • Colombo, John Robert (1984). Canadian Literary Landmarks. Dundurn. ISBN 0888820739.
  • McMichael, Robert (1986). One Man’s Obsession. Scarborough: Prentice-Hall Canada Inc. ISBN 0135669448.
  • Murray, Joan (2006). McMichael Canadian Art Collection: One Hundred Masterworks. Kleinburg: McMichael Canadian Art Collection. ISBN 1424903505.
  • McMichael Canadian Art Collection Archives
  • "McMichael Canadian Art Collection". The Canadian Encyclopedia.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]