Monday, June 5, 2017

Tuesday Treasures Doors Open 2017

May 2017 - Toronto ON

Doors Open is an annual weekend event to allows free entry to buildings in the Toronto area.
Some of these buildings can be visited anytime with paid entry so we tend to avoid those as they get crowded with cranky kids families taking advantage of the no fee.

We tend to go for the ones that don't normally open to the public.

Sunday we headed out to Fool's Paradise, in Scarborough, an area that we don't often frequent.

I knew nothing about this Canadian artist, Doris McCarthy until Doors Open, but the name of her home attracted my interest.

Doris McCarthy's Fool's Paradise sits atop the Scarborough Bluffs.
McCarthy first visited the property during a sketching trip in November 1939. She was immediately inspired by the landscape views and picturesque setting and purchased the property for $1,250. In 1940, she had a small cottage constructed on the site by local builder Forest Telfer.

 Its name is owed to McCarthy's mother, who considered the estate purchase an unnecessary extravagance and always referred to it as her "fool's paradise".

McCarthy's rendition of Fool's Paradise

I became more intrigued by her after this and have found an autobiography at the library and placed it on my wait list.

I found this article in Maclean's.
The constant is landscape, which the Calgary-born artist began depicting as a girl growing up in Toronto’s Beaches neighbourhood and cottaging in Muskoka. A scholarship student at the Ontario College of Art, McCarthy studied with Group of Seven painters, among them J.E.H. MacDonald and Arthur Lismer, who offered her a teaching job at the Toronto Art Gallery and, after she graduated in 1930, a position at Grip, the advertising agency where many of the group worked. As a woman, she was expected to work for nothing. Having none of that, McCarthy took a position teaching art at Central Technical High School, where her students included Harold Klunder, Murray McLauchlan and Joyce Wieland, who said McCarthy inspired her to become an artist.

The school, like many of the era, prohibited women from teaching after they married. “Doris said she would have happily stopped, but it didn’t happen,” says Lynne Wynick of Wynick/Tuck. 

I picked out a few of my favourites that I found online. I know she was inspired by The Group of Seven, but I find her paintings to be much more cheerful.

Image result for doris mccarthy

A prolific painter, McCarthy up to the ’70s showed often at galleries attached to department stores, universities and art societies such as the Ontario Society of Artists, of which she became the first female president in 1964. She chose to ignore the discrimination facing women artists, says Wacko: “She thought the best approach was to do the best job you can and don’t waste time whining about it.” McCarthy is not one to mope. When she realized raising a family wasn’t in her future, she forged ahead—teaching, painting and expanding Fool’s Paradise, which she purchased in 1939 and has bequeathed to the Ontario Heritage Foundation for use as an artists’ retreat after her death.

Image result for doris mccarthy

I loved this painting and found an article in which she was quoted as saying that she hoped her nineties would be as exciting as her eighties. It was accompanied by a photo of her, a wizened gingerbread type figure with gnarled arthritic hands standing before a huge canvas.

Image result for doris mccarthy

Never did she define herself as elderly. When looking for a gallery to represent her in the late ’70s, she chose Wynick/Tuck, which had a roster of young artists. “She didn’t want to be with the old guys,” says Wynick. In 1989, at age 79, she received a B.A. in English from the University of Toronto and published the first of three well-received memoirs, which contributed to what friends refer to as the “cult of Doris.” When her publisher wanted to use “old woman” in the title of the third, McCarthy prevailed. “I’m damned if I’m going to be old,” she told the Globe and Mail. The book’s final title: Ninety Years Wise.

Fool’s Paradise evolved and grew over McCarthy’s time there, guided by her personal preferences. The one-storey wood frame structure comprises attached wings off the central small studio, kitchen, bathroom and bedroom. The interior of Fool’s Paradise follows an irregular layout, as wings have been added to the original cottage over the years. The living/dining room has high vaulted ceilings with exposed pine beams.

A large studio has a wood-burning Franklin stove. There are large built-in cabinets for storage of paintings and art supplies. A clever pulley device is in place at either end of the studio that McCarthy constructed to lift her large paintings so she could stand back and view them.

“Fool’s Paradise will continue to be… a place for healing, for laughter, for shared tears, for growing.” – Doris McCarthy (from Doris McCarthy – My Life)

In keeping with McCarthy’s wishes when she donated the property to the Ontario Heritage Trust, the Trust has converted Fool’s Paradise into an Artist-in-Residence Centre. Professional visual artists, musicians, and writers can apply to live and work at this serene and picturesque site. The Centre embraces the multi-disciplinary nature of the arts, strives to demonstrate the positive and restorative influence of landscape and the environment, and fosters excellence among contemporary Canadian artists, musicians, and writers.


  1. Your post has made me also want to check out more about her. Sounds like she had an interesting life and Fools Paradise would be a great place as it certainly inspired her to be who she became. I always admire anyone who can draw or paint. Thanks for sharing.

    Peabea@Peabea Scribbles

  2. how interesting! i am glad you chose to visit fool's paradise over the more crowded places...i had never heard of her before but i love her work now!

  3. neat, yet another place to put on my must see list. I love the colors in the first painting. Thanks Jackie for sharing, let's do it again.

  4. McCarthy was an interesting and talented woman. Good on her for bucking the trends of the times. I can see why you visited her paradise on Doors Open weekend.

  5. I am loving her work. This post has inspired me artistically. I have been in a slump lately. Thanks for posting.

  6. Beautiful estate! And so interesting to learn about the artist. Her work was lovely!


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