toronto artists

The 10 most famous artists from Toronto

The most famous artists from Toronto form a varied group that includes photographers, painters and a member of the Group of Seven. The Painters Eleven are well-known for their abstract work, and despite his roots out west William Kurelek is often associated with Toronto. Douglas Coupland also hails from the west coast, though his public artworks appear in parks, condos and office building across the city.

Here are my picks for the most famous artists based in Toronto.

Tom Thomson
While Tom Thomson was never part of the Group of Seven, he's said to have influenced their formation (and really we could have included all the Toronto-based members on this list). His landscape paintings are iconic, but one of his most enduring legacies is his mysterious death; he disappeared while canoeing on Canoe Lake in Algonquin Park.

Lawren Harris
Born in Brantford, Lawren Harris gained acclaim for helping to form the Group of Seven. Naturally, he's known for his Canadian landscape paintings and you can see many of them at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, just north of Toronto, in Kleinburg. And in 2016, the AGO will host a Harris exhibition co-produced by comedian (and Harris enthusiast) Steve Martin.

Albert Franck
While Albert Franck wasn't born in the city (he's originally from the Netherlands), he's most widely known for his paintings of Toronto. Yet, he didn't focus on iconic buildings or places. Rather, he immortalized the more typical and everyday houses that made up his city.

Kim Ondaatje
Toronto-born artist Kim Ondaatje didn't just reside in a single medium. While she's rather well-known as a painter (who sometimes depicted Toronto scenes), she is also a photographer, a documentary filmmaker and a printmaker.

Michael Snow
If you've ever been to the Eaton Centre, you've seen Michael Snow's work. That's because he's the artist behind the flying Canadian geese (fun fact: the sculpture's actually called Flight Stop). Along with his public sculptures (The Audience outside the Rogers Centre is also his), Snow is a notable painter, filmmaker and musician.

Charles Pachter
Many Torontonians see Charles Pachter's work daily. If you ride the Yonge subway line, you've likely seen it too. Patcher's behind the Hockey Knights in Canada mural at College Station. And, much of his work, which encompasses numerous media including, painting, sculpture, design and printmaking, involves Canadian iconography.

Suzy Lake
While Suzy Lake was born in the United States, she's spent much of her career based out of Toronto. Hopefully you caught her AGO retrospective, Introducing Suzy Lake, in fall 2014 so you could see her video and performance work as it explored issues of identity, gender and body politics.

Edward Burtynsky
Edward Burtynsky is one of this city's renowned photographers. His large, industrial images can be found in the collections of some of the top museums and galleries in both Canada and around the world and in 2016 alone, he's exhibiting in four international solo shows.

Kent Monkman
Kent Monkman is a Canadian painter, filmmaker and performance artist of Cree and Irish descent. He frequently reimagines seemingly historical scenes and explores themes of colonialism in Canada. By playing with gender and sexuality, as CBC Arts notes, he often puts his alter-ego Miss Chief Eagle Testickle in his work.

Shary Boyle
Shary Boyle explores themes of class and gender through her painting, sculpture and performance art work. For many, her porcelain figures are especially recognizable. And in 2013, she represented Canada at the Venice Biennale with the Music for Silence exhibition.

Who do you think we missed? Let us know in the comments.

Installation photo from an Edward Burtynsky exhibit.


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