Tuesday, November 9, 2021

McMichael Canadian Art Gallery

 November 2021 - Kleinburg ON

Last Sunday was such a gorgeous fall day with sunshine and temperatures around 17 C I bought tickets for the McMichael Canadian Art Gallery to see their outdoor exhibits. After paying $7 for parking we could have wandered for free. I had paid $15 (senior) each but we did end up visiting the indoor displays so another ✅ of places to visit as I doubt I would go back unless they had a special exhibition that interested me.

Beyond the galleries, you can explore 100 acres of forested land in the Humber River Valley – from a ridgetop ‘wilderness garden,’ planted by Robert and Signe McMichael to echo the northern forest beloved of the Group of Seven, to the heritage waterway important to indigenous peoples in this area.


Tom Thomson Shack

In 1914, Lawren Harris and Dr. James McCallum purchased land on Severn Street in the Rosedale ravine in Toronto on which they built a studio offering low‐rental space for Canadian painters. Now a National Historic Site of Canada, the Studio Building gave artists, including Tom Thomson and A.Y. Jackson, a place to live, work, and socialize.

Click here to see a sculpture of Tom Thomson's Canoe in downtown Toronto.

Behind the Studio Building stood a small shack, previously occupied by a cabinet maker and later used as a tool shed during the studio’s construction. By the fall of 1915, Thomson had moved into the shack apparently out of economic necessity, paying just one dollar a month in rent. The arrangement allowed the artist to live as he would in the north country – cooking his own meals, sleeping, painting, and hiking through the ravine – while at the same time keeping him in close contact with his fellow painters. The shack was to be Thomson’s home and studio until his untimely death in 1917.

The McMichael cemetery is the final resting place for six members of the Group of Seven, their spouses, and the gallery’s founders, Robert and Signe McMichael. In his book, One Man’s Obsession, Robert McMichael recalls receiving a letter from Jackson in 1967, in which the artist expressed a hope to be buried near Kleinburg. A few months later, while Jackson and Casson were visiting the McMichaels, the idea of a memorial cemetery for members of the Group of Seven began to take shape. In the spring of 1968, Jackson fell seriously ill and the need for a burial ground on the gallery premises became pressing. The McMichaels had to select an appropriate location for the cemetery that would be accessible, yet quiet and dignified. They soon settled on a small grassy knoll with views of the river valleys, the woods, the Tom Thomson Shack and the distant roofs of the gallery. Later, the McMichaels arranged to have the Department of Highways bring carefully selected slabs of granite, blasted during road building in the artists’ beloved north country, to the site. They were carved by Canadian sculptor E.B. Cox, and used as grave markers.

The missing seventh member of The Group not buried here is Tom Thomson who drowned in Canoe Lake in Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario.

The day after the body was discovered, it was interred in Mowat Cemetery near Canoe Lake. Under the direction of Thomson's older brother George, the body was exhumed two days later and was shipped to Owen Sound. It was re-interred in the family plot beside the Leith Presbyterian Church on 21 July in what is now the Municipality of Meaford.

Since we later saw The Group of Seven exhibit inside the McMichael I chose to include one of each artist's pieces below as well. The link above has several videos of the works.
There was a separate exhibit of Tom Thomson that we missed.

The chronological development of the cemetery is as follows:

Arthur Lismer (1885‐1969): Lismer died in Montreal, Quebec on March 23, 1969 and was brought to Kleinburg for burial on April 25, 1969. His wife Esther (1879‐1976) was buried with him.

Frederick Horsman Varley (1881‐1969): Varley died on September 8, 1969, was cremated on September 13 and interred the following week.

Girl in Gold 
Click here to see another Varley piece.

Lawren Stewart Harris (1885‐1970): Harris died in Vancouver, British Columbia on January 29, 1970 and was cremated. His ashes, along with those of his wife, Bess (1889‐1969), were interred at the McMichael on March 20, 1970.

Alexander Young Jackson (1882‐1974): Jackson died on April 5, 1974 and was buried in a graveside service on April 8, 1974.

Frank Johnston (1888‐1949): Johnston died July 9, 1949 and was originally buried at Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Toronto. He was disinterred and reinterred at the McMichael on March 13, 1975. His wife, Florence, is buried with him.

Alfred Joseph Casson (1898‐1992): Casson died on February 19, 1992 in Toronto and was buried on February 20, 1992. His wife, Margaret (1900‐1992) is buried with him.

Robert McMichael (1921‐2003): Robert McMichael died on November 18, 2003 and was buried on November 24 following visitation and a funeral service at the gallery.
Signe McMichael (1921‐2007): Signe McMichael died on July 4, 2007. The gallery was closed for visitation and a funeral held on July 9, 2007.

Other members of The Group 

J E H MacDonald

Edwin Holgate

Franklin Carmichael

The Sculpture Garden meanders across the property at the front of the McMichael. The nine bronze sculptures, donated by artist Ivan Eyre, are part of our permanent collection and can be enjoyed year-round. Eyre is best known for his large landscapes and mythological paintings, and his sculpture is similarly a complex synthesis of Western and non-Western influences.


  1. ...now this is someplace that I would love.

  2. It's been years since I've been there, but I very much enjoyed it.

  3. I would definitely enjoy the interior show as well as the exterior sculptures!

  4. Very interesting post ! I like the sculptures, they are very special. The paintings less they look a bit like copies of Expressionists or impressionists.

  5. I was in awe, Jackie. I loved the sculptures and I loved the paintings. It was great learning about these artists and I have to admit, for the most part, they lived very long lives. SO glad you shared these.


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