Group of Seven Discovery Route: Ontario Collection
Canada’s internationally acclaimed Group of Seven, also known as the Algonquin School, was a landscape painters group. Founded in 1920, the original seven members included: Franklin Carmichael, Lawren Harris, A.Y. Jackson, Franz Johnston, Arthur Lismer, J.E.H. MacDonald and F.H. Varley. Artist Tom Thomson was commonly associated with the group as he had a tremendous impact on their vision and style.
The Group of Seven’s depictions of Canada’s rugged forest came to symbolize Canadian strength and resilience. Their expressionist works were often simple landscapes but stood apart from the rest for their use of bright hues and unique painting style, ultimately inspiring the modern art movement in Canada.
For thirteen years, the hearty artists rode the rails, hitched boat rides, scaled rock faces, hiked back-country and paddled wild waters to reach the views that inspired their art. They camped in the forest, stayed in vacant cabins and lived off the land, often in less than ideal conditions. Their artistic journeys took them wide and far, not only in Ontario but across Canada.
The Group of Seven’s iconic paintings and sketches, located inside the Ontario galleries’ walls, is nothing short of spectacular. Explore the Group of Seven Discovery Route: Ontario Collection below to see how these paintings impacted the way we view the art of landscape painting.
Prior to travel, please contact the individual galleries and businesses to ensure you have the most up-to-date opening dates, times and other pertinent information due to COVID-19. Stay safe and healthy.
1. Art Gallery of Windsor, 401 Riverside Drive West, Windsor
With over 150 works by members from the Group in their collection, plus activities, educational programs, guided tours and the Sunday studio program, the Art Gallery of Windsor is the perfect forum to learn more about the Group of Seven.
2. Judith & Norman Alix Art Gallery, 147 Lochiel Street, Sarnia
This public gallery received a donation of art from the Sarnia Women’s Conservation Art Association in 1956 that included works by A.Y. Jackson, Tom Thomson, and other Group of Seven members, which would help form the basis and expansion of the permanent collection.
3. Museum London, 421 Rideout Street North, London
The Group of Seven’s paintings and drawings are included in this multidisciplinary arts institution’s full collection.
4. Art Gallery of Hamilton, 123 King Street West, Hamilton
Founded in 1914, the AGH embraces Canadian historical, international and contemporary art with a collection of over 10,000 pieces, including works by A.Y. Jackson and Lawren Harris.
5. Art Gallery of Guelph, 358 Gordon Street, Guelph
Teaching, while continuously learning, was critical to the Group of Seven members. The Art Gallery of Guelph embraces this philosophy blending artistic practise with education.
Connect to the canvas: View MacDonald’s Agawa Canyon and Waterfall, c. 1919, then journey by train into the Algoma Canyon to see this natural attraction in person.
6. Art Gallery of Ontario, 317 Dundas Street West, Toronto
This Gallery has a special connection to the Group of Seven, dating back to their inaugural exhibit in 1920 when the group shared their collection of landscape paintings, drawings, sketches and studies with the public for the first time.
7. The Art Museum at the University of Toronto, 7 Hart House Circle, Toronto
This collection numbers over 700 works of art, including 59 artworks deemed “National Treasures.” Book a guided tour to get the full experience.
Connect to the canvas: contrast the urban landscape with water, wind and wave details in A.Y. Jackson’s Pic Island, Lake Superior c. 1926 or Lismer’s, Isles of Spruce c. 1922, displayed in The Hart House Collection.
8. McMichael Canadian Art Collection, 10365 Islington Ave, Kleinburg
Home to a significant collection of works by Tom Thomson, the Group of Seven, their contemporaries and Indigenous Peoples, this gallery is an integral page in the Group of Seven narrative. Learn about the artists, their inspirations and the profound mark they’ve left on the landscape of Canadian art.
An interpretive installation leads to the Group of Seven Artist Cemetery. This cemetery is the final resting place for six of the seven members and their spouses. Slabs of granite blasted from northern road construction were transported to the cemetery so that the Group of Seven members would always have a piece of the north with them on their journey.
9. Varley Art Gallery, 216 Main Street, Unionville, Markham
Named after Group of Seven member Frederick Horseman Varley, the gallery encompasses the historic Kathleen McKay house dating from the 1840s, the home of Varley for the last 12 years of his life. Stop by the gallery to participate in studio art classes, workshops, family art activities and group tours.
10. Robert McLaughlin Gallery, 72 Queen Street, Oshawa
The Robert McLaughlin Gallery tells the continuing story of Canadian art.
Connect to the canvas: view Harris’ Chestnut Street c. 1919 or Carmichaels, Grace Lake c. 1940 and try to figure out where in Ontario the inspiration was found. Hint: you’ll find answers in two other Discover Routes.
11. National Gallery of Canada, 380 Sussex Drive, Ottawa
2,500 works by Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven are prominently displayed at the National Gallery of Canada (NGC.) One of the most recognizable works is Tom Thomson’s The Jack Pine c. 1916-1917. For the full experience, book a guided tour that features the National Collection’s commentary and highlights and enjoy lunch at the on-site café, ‘7’.
12. Ottawa Art Gallery, 50 Mackenzie King Bridge, Ottawa
Head to the Firestone Reverb Exhibition for contemporary works displayed along with historical heavyweights including Franklin Carmichael, J.E.H. MacDonald and Lawren Harris, creating a dynamic and exciting conversation.
13. Art Gallery of Sudbury, 251 John St, Sudbury
Within the Gallery’s permanent collection, Tom Thomson and the original Group of Seven members find works, including Franklin Carmichael, Arthur Lismer, A.Y. Jackson, and Frederick Varley. Sign up for an outdoor art workshop, such as the Grace Lake Plein air excursion. You’ll hike, portage and travel by water to experience the landscapes which inspired Franklin Carmichael’s watercolour painting Grace Lake, c. 1932-1934, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa.
14. Art Gallery of Algoma, 10 East Street, Sault Ste. Marie
The Art Gallery of Algoma highlights a variety of Northern Ontario artists in their programming and collections. It has sketches, paintings and studies created by members of the Group of Seven during their time in the region as part of their permanent collection.
After your visit, head over to the waterfront, where you’ll find a Moments of Algoma permanent artist easel and stool highlighting more exciting details related to the Group of Seven and their connection to Algoma.
15. Tom Thomson Art Gallery, 840 1st Ave W, Owen Sound
Dedicated to the innovative and artistic spirit of Tom Thomson, the gallery (known as the TOM) features some of his work as well as contemporary art, including a beautiful Indigenous collection.
Connect to the canvas: view Tom Thomson’s painting sketch of Algonquin Park c. 1915, part of Trailblazers: Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven in Provincial Parks exhibit before exploring Algonquin Park or Harris’ detailed sketch Toronto Houses before setting out on the GTA Discovery Route.
Relieve artistic history on your terms like a true artist: experience all or some of this extensive leg of the Group of Seven Discovery Route in Ontario. Plan your trip today!