Toronto In Art

Toronto in Art from the 1830s to the 1980s

Toronto in Art is the name of a book that was published in 1983 to mark the City of Toronto's 150th anniversary the following year. I had no idea that such a book existed until I was rummaging through some local offerings at BMV the other day, and came upon it. My copy has a badly warped dustcover, more than a few stains on its actual cover and the wonderful but also awful smell that books acquire when they've been put into storage. In other words, it's quickly become a treasured addition to my collection of Toronto-specific texts.

Originally published by the City of Toronto (in conjunction with Fitzhenry & Whiteside), Toronto in Art is still relatively easy to come by if you're willing to order it through a used bookseller online. Given the fact that it's unlikely to be sitting on the shelves of your local store (unless you get lucky), I thought I'd share a glimpse of what's contained in its pages. Think of it as the painterly companion to the historical photo posts I'm so fond of.

And a history text it is. Written by Edith G. Firth, the purpose of the book is twofold: one, to establish that Toronto does, indeed, have a rich artistic heritage, and two, to tell the story of the city's development "through artists' eyes." It succeeds on both accounts, even if there is a certain artistic conservatism on display throughout its pages.

Some of the artists featured will be familiar to most readers — people like Lawren Harris and J.E.H. MacDonald of the Group of Seven, the members of which met while working at the Toronto design firm Grip near the turn of the century. Others will be less so, but in some ways, their work is all the more remarkable for that feeling of first time discovery.

Here's a brief sample of Toronto in Art: 150 Years Through Artists' Eyes. It would be nice to share more of the artists' work, but digital copies aren't always easy to come by. Think of this as more of an introduction than an overview.

20111122-John-Howard-Third-Parliament-Building-b.jpg

John Howard - "Third Parliament Building" 1834

20111123-jackes-residence-elms-1875-unknown.jpg

Unknown Artist - "Jackes Residence, The Elms" Ca. 1875

20111123-je-usher-uc-fire-1890.jpg

J.E. Usher - "University College Fire" 1890

20111122-Frederic-M-Bell-Smith-Lights-of-a-City-Street.jpg

Frederic M. Bell - "Lights of a City Street" 1894

20111123-macdonald-trucks-traffic.jpg

J.E.H MacDonald - "Tracks and Traffic" 1912

20111122-toronto-in-art-cover.jpg

Robert F. Gagen - "Temples of Commerce" 1914

20111122-Lawren-Harris-Houses-St.Patrick-Street.jpg

Lawren Harris - "Houses St. Patrick Street" 1922

20111119-Hornyansky-St-Lawrence-Market.jpg

Nicholas Hornyansky - "St. Lawrence Market" 1943

20111122-Tom-Roberts-City-Lights.jpg

Tom Roberts - "City Lights" 1945

20111123-eric-freifeld-subway-construct-1952.jpg

Eric Freifeld - "Subway Construction" 1952

20111122-albert-franck-backyard-baldwin-st-1964.jpg

Albert Franck - "Backyard Baldwin Street" 1964

20111123-a-and-a-clark-mcdougal-1969.jpg

Clark McDougal - "A & A" 1969

20111123-ondaatje-hearn-1974.jpg

Kim Ondaatje - "The Hearn" 1974

20111122-walter-coucill.jpg

Walter Coucill - "Eaton Centre Excavation" 1975

20111123-les-tait-1182-bloorW-1982.jpg

Les Tait " 1182 Bloor Street West" 1982

20111123-rayka-kupesic-Winter-NPS-1982.jpg

Rayka Kupesic - "Winter Nathan Phillips Square" 1982

Lead painting by Michel Binette. "Brush Strokes on Dundas Street" 1979.


Join the conversation Load comments

Latest in Arts

Toronto just hosted a fashion show under the Gardiner Expressway

It now takes a song and movie to rent an apartment in Toronto

Toronto just got a sprawling new event space and gallery

Someone created Valentine's Day cards for TTC subway stations

Toronto condo might finally become a major arts hub

Toronto's Old City Hall to be transformed into museum and library

Toronto is a getting a stunning new contemporary art museum this spring

12 photo printing options in Toronto