The Canadian Art Database

Ontario Society of Artists gallery

1872 - 1972

Note: This text was originally published in the catalogue produced by the Art Gallery of Ontario titled: Ontario Society of Artists: 100 Years, 1872-1972 The complete Catalogue including images may be viewed in the Catalogue and Chronology sections of this Web site.

In Retrospect
Original Art
Annual Exhibition
Art Library and Museum
School of Art
Pervasive influence
Parent Society
I Resign
Sources for Quotations

William J. Withrow
Director, Art Gallery of Ontario

The Ontario Society of Artists was founded in 1872 and is thus the oldest existing professional art society in Canada today. From the outset, the Society attempted to create a fruitful environment in which art could take root and flourish. Its prime objective was therefore the establishment of a provincial art museum and art school. For decades, the Society itself had no permanent accommodation and was forced to hold its exhibitions in various centres on and around Toronto's King Street. Due to the perseverance and interest of the Ontario Society of Artists, the Art Museum of Toronto (later to become the Art Gallery of Ontario) was finally formed in 1900. In 1910 this new Art Museum began to exhibit at the Toronto Public Library on College Street. Naturally the Ontario Society of Artists held its annual exhibitions in the same place until 1920, when the Society was able to start holding these annual shows in the new buildings of the Art Gallery of Toronto. This arrangement continued until 1968.

Thus we owe the very existence of our Art Gallery, some of its aims and ideals, and an aspect of its collections to the Ontario Society of Artists. This year then marks not only the one hundredth birthday of the osa but also seventy-two years of our mutual involvement. I therefore asked Mrs. Joan Murray to organize this retrospective exhibition as a tribute to the major role which the osa has played in our history.

In selecting the works of art for this exhibition, Mrs. Murray used the following method: firstly, she included only work by osa members; secondly, she chose only work which had actually been, or may have been, in an osa show; thirdly, she tried to give a comprehensive, balanced view and therefore endeavoured to find one painting to represent each of the 100 years of the Society. The osa also chose five works to represent their 1972 contemporary exhibition.

Among the many people who have assisted the Curator in the preparation of this catalogue, I should like to thank especially the Presidents of the osa who have been most generous with their time; the various members of the Society who have contributed both time and effort in searching out paintings; and particularly A. J. Casson and Alan C. Collier who assisted Mrs. Murray with her selection of works. I should like to thank as well many of the galleries and dealers in Canada who have assisted with research, such as Mr. David Mitchell and Mr. Jack Wildridge in Toronto, and the National Gallery of Canada whose helpful staff have been invaluable, as have the staff of the Art Gallery of Hamilton, the Art Gallery of Windsor, and the London Public Library and Art Museum. Finally, a number of private collectors and many of Toronto's well-known clubs have assisted with loans and permission to view their collections.


Gerry Sevier
President, Ontario Society of Artists

The viability of art societies is frequently in question and the subject of wide-ranging debate. Even after 100 years of service to the Province and, indeed, to the entire country, the Ontario Society of Artists is not without its critics and detractors. Yet, this is as it should be. For without the occasional sting of criticism, and pointed questions as to our value, there would be a real danger of complacency.

We are not permitted, nor would we wish, to merely rest on our laurels.

The challenges confronting the Ontario Society of Artists in the years immediately ahead are made the greater by its unparalleled achievements in the past. We are faced with living up to, and trying to surpass, the previous accomplishments of the dedicated, energetic, highly imaginative and talented members of this Society. We are faced with building up the interest and support of all those we aim to serve at a time when most institutions and organizations are coming increasingly under attack.

Simply put, the only way the osa can hope to remain valid and viable is by endeavouring to meet the express needs of these unique times.

The general public is more art-conscious and knowledgeable today than it has been in a great many decades. We must recognize this fact and serve accordingly. Schools, universities, and other public and private institutions are hungering for art and art instruction as never before in modern times. We must remain conscious of this fact and gear to contribute to those needs to the full extent of our capabilities.

Ontario's artists, no less than others, are affected by constant and rapid change and technological innovation; many seek reassurance and encouragement. We must show ourselves willing and able to offer them that kind of support.

More and more young, emerging artists are coming on to the scene. The competition for ways and means of placing the products of their creativity before the public is intensifying. The osa must commit itself to discovering the fresh, new talent, on which the future of Canadian art will largely depend, and help provide the outlets for that expression.

The osa's achievements over the past 100 years required a great deal of courage and devotion to cause, and they were born of a fair share of trial and tribulation. The same will be true in the years to come.

Our aim will be to draw strength from past example, sufficient to carry us over the hurdles of new challenge and commitment.

The past is prologue. May this prove specially true for the Ontario Society of Artists.


Joan Murray
Curator of Canadian Art

This year marks the one hundredth anniversary of the Ontario Society of Artists. Today the Society has 114 members. When it was founded, on 25 June 1872 at the Toronto home of John Fraser (Fig. 1), only 7 artists were present: J. W. Bridgman (a portrait painter), R. F. Gagen (well known for his seascapes and for years the Society's Secretary and later its chronicler), James Hoch, Marmaduke Matthews, C. S. Millard (who emigrated in 1882 to England) (Fig. 2), T. Mower Martin and, of course, John Fraser himself.

Fraser was the key figure in the founding of the Society. Before coming to Toronto in 1868 to manage Notman & Fraser (a new branch of Notman's famous photographic studio), he lived in Montreal where he was a member of the Canadian Society of Artists (founded in Montreal in 1867) and the American Society of Water Color Painters in New York. In Toronto he missed the excitement of the exhibitions and the meetings of these latter institutions, and therefore took steps to form a similar, Toronto-based society.

In the Constitution drawn up in 1872, the artists succinctly stated their objects as:

the fostering of Original Art in the province, the holding of Annual Exhibitions, the formation of an Art Library and Museum and School of Art.
With what in retrospect seems remarkable alacrity, each of these aims was fulfilled.


The fostering of Original Art in the province

From the first, the Society had a broad membership which included painters, sculptors, architects, engravers and designers. Artists from outside the Province were allowed to join but later let their memberships lapse, so that the Society became a purely provincial body. This one proviso aside, the Society has always stressed a membership policy of an " absolutely open door."

By the time of the 1898 Constitution, a change in the kind of art encouraged by the Society had occurred: not only was art to be " original,′it was to be "native." Indeed, by 1901 the creation of a living Canadian art was accepted as the foremost aim of the Society, and this belief in a Canadian birthright was to prove decisive for the aspirations of many of the members. C. M. Manly, a President of the Society, felt that, although he himself might not see " the sunrise and full daylight of a notable Canadian Art which will touch and influence all the land from sea to sea," artists of the period (1903-1905) should " more eagerly search for and record the historical, characteristic and picturesque features of this great land." In 1905 F. M. Bell-Smith, writing on behalf of the Society to His Excellency the Earl Grey cited the glories of Canada in an exuberantly poetic prose:

Our Land, Sir, is indeed Fair; Fair to look upon and good to dwell within. Fair are her boundless fields of fruitful grain, her wooded slopes and mountain heights with shining glaciers crowned; deep and exhaustless our mines and vast our forest store; her inland seas and mighty streams bear our commerce oceanward; rich in historic colouring, and picturesque in the remnant of a past day and Race, she supplies the sculptor and painter with unlimited material for the exercise of their artistic skill, and our Country is ripe for the development of a distinctly Canadian art, which if intelligently recognized should result in master-works comparable with those of older Lands.

Yet another artist and member of the osa, Georges Chavignaud, who was teaching at the Halifax Art School in 1913, wrote to R. F. Gagen, Secretary of the Society, that he was " implementing what spirit" he could "towards a Canadian Art School principle, quite Canadian."

This enthusiasm for a native art did not fail to arouse some criticism. Only four years later, in 1917, the same Georges Chavignaud found the aims he had so lauded too narrow and protested against them when he resigned from the Society.

The principle of the Society I found narrow in views, for ever talking Canadian art made in Canada, and advocating policies which I personally find opposed to my dictates and principles,

and he continued,

and who are you in the world of art, in the standing of artistic nations today, to pose as authority to dictate to a man what he shall paint.

The cry echoes the words of an earlier member, F. A. Verner, the popular painter of buffalo, who, taking offense when Gagen asked how long he intended to stay in England, wrote to him to protest that he did not see " anything in the By-Laws about a member's kennel or how long he intends to occupy it, or where he should hail from."


The holding of Annual Exhibitions

Since 1873 the Society has either held an annual exhibition (usually in the spring) or an exhibition in association with another organization (such as the Royal Canadian Academy). Many different locations have been used for this show (for a list, see page 16). The works of art to be hung in the osa annual exhibitions were chosen by a Jury which was always drawn from distinguished artists among the members (Fig. 3). Besides the Annual, open to all, the Society sometimes organized exhibitions of small pictures by members and others, memorials to deceased members, and travelling exhibitions.

In its early days the Society held an " Art Union," designed to stimulate interest in art in general and in osa exhibitions in particular. This Art Union was not unlike today's art lottery, except that tickets cost five dollars and each subscriber received either a chromolithograph, a photograph of a work of art, or a small sketch by an osa member, along with a chance at the prizes. The purchase of a ticket also entitled the holder to free or partially free entry to the exhibition. This lottery proved highly successful, but the funds raised were abused at least three times, and in 1896 the osa abandoned this lucrative but disillusioning practice.

Following the general Victorian aesthetic of a congested, minutely described wall surface (Fig. 4), the early annual exhibitions of the osa took place in crowded interiors which bristled with pictures. As one can see from F. M. Bell-Smith's sketch (Fig. 5), the hanging committee covered practically every visible inch of the wall with works of art, lining up the vertical edges of the frames and occasionally the horizontal edges as well. The wall considered as a unit seems to grow gradually lighter towards the top because the pictures form graduated steps, ever smaller, as they build towards a central apex. By 1904, more space was left between pictures, but the committee was still hanging paintings at the level of the radiators, an area completely overlooked by today's museum designers.

Specific evidence for the theory behind the display is difficult to obtain, but in one case at least - the Little Picture Exhibition of 1916 - we do know the method followed: each artist was allotted a space " not exceeding four and a half feet in height," which he had to organize himself by drawing up a diagram of a "symmetrical arrangement of the works he had submitted to the jury."

It seems likely that the osa covered the walls of its exhibition galleries with coloured cloth, when it could afford to do so. In 1899 the Society recommended that the walls of the Fine Art Exhibition at the Toronto Industrial Exhibition, today the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE), be covered with a dark maroon cloth, and in 1900 the President of the Society suggested that the proposed new art museum should have walls either covered with tinted burlap or with paper of good colour."

The number of works exhibited in the early annual exhibitions was very large. In 1915 there were 187 works - which can be compared to the 128 works in the present exhibition. It is evident from the photographs of the day, however, that many of the works were small.

Echoing the broad range of professions represented by its members, the osa selected works from widely varying categories - drawings, illustrations, decorative designs, etchings and sculptures often appeared along with the oils and water colours. Today we find many new materials - such as wool and aluminum - in the Society's exhibitions.

Over the years the Society has offered a large number of awards at its Annual. The oldest prize still offered today was established by a bequest of the famous Victorian portrait painter, J. W. L. Forster. Often the awards have been substantial, as for instance the Baxter Art Foundation purchase award of $1,000 offered between 1959 and 1970, and the $1,000 Northern & Central Gas Corporation award established by Edmund Bovey in 1966.

The Society's annual exhibition is not the only place where the osa showed its work. From 1879 to 1915 it also held yearly shows in connection with the Toronto Industrial Exhibition (now the CNE). From the outset, two representatives from the osa were on its Fine Art Committee, and by 1890 the osa was completely responsible for a yearly show and often for a special exhibit as well. The main exhibit presented a wide range of art, and one third was always reserved for Canadian material, following the Society's foremost stated aim. The special exhibit generally featured respected paintings of the period from abroad, and usually ones with a genre subject and a broad theme. For instance, in 1894 Cooper's Morning of the Crucifixion was shown and in the following year the special attraction included works practically unknown today - Hovenden's Breaking Home Ties and Makoffsky's Choosing the Bride. In 1896 the exhibit of F. M. Bell-Smith's Sir John Thompson at Windsor Castle marked an auspicious occasion - a Canadian had finally gained acceptance in this sphere. Two years later (except for a brief revival in 1905) the osa judged these "side-shows" of doubtful advantage and discontinued them.

The gallery initially provided for the Fine Art Section at the Toronto Industrial Exhibition was extremely small and there was a serious need for a new one. A committee of the osa, guided by the architect Beaumont Jarvis, drew up plans for an improved building which was erected in 1902, but unfortunately the building was not fireproof, and another new gallery had to be erected almost immediately. Again it was a committee of the osa (this time consisting of R. F. Gagen, F. S. Challener and F. M. Bell-Smith, with the help of the architect Geo. W. Gouinlock) which furnished the plans. The second gallery, erected in 1905, was exuberantly conceived: Toronto now boasted a Roman temple as an exhibition gallery, with plaques on the outer walls listing the famous artists of the day and with the word ART spelled out in light bulbs in the pediment (Fig. 6).

The Society also sponsored travelling exhibitions of the work of its members. In 1894, the President, G. A. Reid, initiated this activity when he and his executive organized an exhibit of some 100 pictures to be sent to Owen Sound. Such shows soon circulated beyond the Province, and grew in number. By the early 1930s, more than seventy exhibitions were held in twenty-seven towns and cities outside Toronto. Among the centres reached by these exhibits were Kitchener, Windsor, St. Thomas, Welland, Simcoe, Tillsonburg, St. Mary's and Hamilton. Often speakers from the Society would accompany the works of art, the better to proselytize for the cause.

Such exhibitions aroused interest in local art galleries. In 1930, it was said that the enthusiastic reception given the osa travelling exhibition " by all classes of citizens had undoubtedly done much to stimulate interest in the proposed gallery" in Hamilton. The gallery of the Border Cities, which had "secured temporary quarters in the Willistead Library Building" in 1931 was also considered to be partly an outcome of the osa travelling exhibition policy.

In the 1940s and the early 1950s, individual osa members as well as the Society itself, organized travelling shows which, in some cases, stayed on the road for many years. Exhibitions of this period included The Painter's Art in Layman's Language (1948-49), a tabloid course in picture appreciation, illustrating and explaining a single element in the design of a good picture, as well as the development of the picture itself; Chair and Variations (1953), a theme show of twenty paintings by osa members which circulated throughout Ontario and in several other provinces for over fifteen years; and Fine Art from the Common-Place (1955).

When the Art Institute of Ontario was founded in 1952, it took over a number of these travelling exhibitions and new shows created by the osa, and circulated them on behalf of the Society. In 1968 the Art Institute of Ontario came under the aegis of the Art Gallery of Ontario, and today the programme sponsored by the Extension Department of the AGO amounts to as many as fifty exhibitions travelling throughout the Province.


The formation of an Art Library and Museum

Although the Society had always remembered this aim - its third object as stated in the 1872 Constitution - it only made a decisive move towards its realization in 1889, when it tried to obtain public subscriptions to purchase land held by the RCA at what is today Dundas and Victoria Streets in an attempt to provide a site for the proposed museum. Unfortunately, this effort failed, as did another attempt by the Society to secure the old Upper Canada College Buildings on King Street West. During this early period the osa envisioned an art museum which would fulfill three of its needs: that of creating a permanent collection open to the public, that of providing commodious facilities for an art school, and that of providing well-lit walls for the Society's exhibitions. Certainly, the vision behind such a project could not be denied, and indeed the Society drafted a pamphlet on the subject, On the Need of an Art Museum in Toronto, published in 1899 in an edition of 2,000 copies. This clarification spurred the Society on to greater efforts. In 1900 a committee chaired by B. E. Walker (later Sir Edmund) and a Provisional Council drafted a Constitution, and the Ontario Legislature incorporated the Art Museum of Toronto (now the Art Gallery of Ontario) under the Benevolent and Provident Societies Act. In 1903 a special act conferred enlarged powers on the Art Museum. During this period, there was no site for an actual building although the University of Toronto offered to set aside land for the purpose. However, the situation was rectified in 1909 when it was found, upon the death of Mrs. Goldwin Smith of The Grange, that her Toronto property had been willed to the Art Museum.

The first curator, Edward R. Greig, was appointed in 1912 and the following year Grange House was opened to the public. But it was not until 1918 that the new galleries in the Art Museum of Toronto were opened with what the osa considered "proper conditions of light and space," and only in 1926 that the Museum opened its Sculpture Court, on which occasion it held its first ball (Fig. 6). From those early years to this, the relationship between the Society and the Gallery has been a close one.

The growth of the AGO Collection can in part be attributed to this friendship between Gallery and Society. For instance, the Society has given the Gallery direct gifts from its own collection, like the vigorous Leaping Wolf by Ernest Seton Thompson (Catalogue No. 106). More significant is the gift of the Normal School Collection from the Government of the Province of Ontario, which comprises works of art purchased by the Government to a value of over $1,000 a year from the osa annual exhibitions between 1873 and 1912. Housed in the Normal School until 1912, this Collection was then dispersed among the various government buildings and schools in Toronto, and formed the nucleus of the Government's collection when it was donated to the Art Gallery of Ontario in 1972. Thus the AGO has received a large inheritance, albeit indirectly, from the original osa.


The formation of a School of Art

In Toronto's early days, professional artists found "solid instruction" in art difficult to obtain. Apart from classes at the Mechanics Institute, there were only a few private studios where a student could go to learn, and these catered primarily to fashionable young ladies (Fig. 8) whose main training consisted of copying works by other artists, in surroundings which contained many "interesting′art objects and pictures. During the 1880s and 1890s, the osa took care of its members by holding its own sketch club, known as the osa Composition class, which met on Saturday evenings. The main object of these occasions was " fostering the exercise of the faculties of imagination and originality" by creating works to a suggested theme. One example of a work done in the class is the delightful sketch Before the Storm (Fig. 9) by J. D. Kelly, which shows the use of black wash, the medium generally employed on "Colour Night."

But it could not be denied that facilities for art instruction were limited and the osa quickly realized the profound need for good public art schools in the Province.

In October 1876, after some negotiation, the Ontario Government gave the Society a grant of $1,000 which enabled it to open the Province's first art school in a building at 14 King Street West, providing a gallery sixty by thirty feet and some small offices. By 1884, the Toronto School had come under government control, an arrangement which contemporary artists considered "a dismal failure." Finally, in 1890, the Provincial Government, acting upon the suggestion of the osa, incorporated the Central Ontario School of Art and Design (in affiliation with the osa, but governed by its own Board of Directors), and from 1891 to 1910 the School leased the Society's art rooms at 165 King Street West for three days a week. A number of osa members, such as Cruikshank, taught at the school. Some even attended classes there. By 1912, however, it was felt that more was needed, and the Central Ontario School of Art sought to broaden its scope by obtaining a charter as a College of Art, expanding its curriculum and reorganizing its structure and management. After sending a deputation to the Provincial Government, it received a large grant to carry out these aims. Once again, the government bill which incorporated the Ontario College of Art (OCA) in 1912 clearly recognized the signal importance of the Society, since it stipulated that two members of the OCA Council should be chosen from the Society. By 1931, the College was considered so successful that the osa President boldly stated that, due to the large number of graduates, "it should not again be necessary to go outside of Canada for art instructors" - words which today seem more hopeful than prophetic.


A pervasive influence

The influence of the osa has been so widespread during its first hundred years that its effects can be traced throughout the cultural life of Ontario today. But besides the art itself, the art museum and art school, there were other, more indirect influences, less widely recognized perhaps but just as pervasive. It was, for instance, the Society which organized the Toronto Guild of Civic Art, which practically constituted a federation of artists, architects, and "art-loving citizens," organized for the purpose of "stimulating and guarding municipal art." " Municipal art" implied, among other things, mural painting. Thus, the existence of the Guild led to the patronage of a "Society of Mural Decorators," whose members in 1896-97 volunteered the idea of murals for the City Hall Council Chambers. Unfortunately, the only result in the City Hall of their imaginative proposal was G. A. Reid's series of panels illustrating the City's motto of "Industry, Integrity and Intelligence." But the idea was there to influence all; and individuals like F. S. Challener, later responsible for a large body of such work, shared this vision (Fig. 10). Much later, from 1959 on, another group of osa artists sought commissions of a similar nature. The result was a considerable number of works which still form landmarks in Toronto today, such as the murals by Charles Comfort and Sydney H. Watson in the Toronto General Hospital; A. J. Casson's work in the Royal York Hotel; Cleeve Horne's relief sculpture on the exterior walls of the Bank of Canada and Alan Collier's mural inside the same building; R. York Wilson's mural at the O'Keefe Centre; and many others.

The osa fulfilled another important function simply by disseminating ideas in an era when it was difficult to obtain information on the arts. Since the 1890s, they had organized free lectures on subjects ranging from William Morris to Great Portrait Painters. In 1924 the osa in the persons of C. W. Jefferys, Frances Loring and F. H. Varley instituted a programme of monthly meetings on subjects of "theoretical and practical interest." Programmes even included lectures on such unusual subjects as Dynamic Symmetry (given by Estelle M. Kerr and Alfred Howell).


The parent Society

The osa naturally became parent to a number of later associations, which included the Applied Arts Society (now defunct), the Canadian Society of Graphic Arts, the Ontario Association of Architects, the Sculptors' Society of Canada, the Canadian Society of Painters in Water Colour and of course - most important of all - the Royal Canadian Academy. Membership in the osa often ensured an artist's admission to these other organizations. For example, in 1880 the RCA accepted a number of new members, such as Robert Harris, because they were members of the osa and had exhibited in osa annual exhibitions, osa membership could help an artist in many different ways - in 1880 for instance, Lucius O'Brien offered Robert Harris a job helping with the Society's School, although he knew Harris only through the work he had exhibited in the Society's annual exhibitions.


"I Resign"

Diverse reasons have existed for resignation. The formation of some of the later societies led to resignations from the parent body, as happened in 1929, when the formation of the Sculptors' Society meant the resignation of four osa members: Emanuel Hahn, Frances Loring, Florence Wyle and Elizabeth Wyn Wood. Many members, too, have left with only good memories, such as J. D. Kelly who resigned in 1912 after seventeen years of membership, feeling that his association with the Society had afforded him "much pleasure and profit.'' But many members resigned because they felt neglected by the " next generation" - artists younger than themselves or more recent adherents of the Society. In 1899 Verner suggested that the fact that his work had been turned down for an annual exhibition was a deliberate insult and showed the "ill-feeling which is presenting itself among certain members." In 1908 T. Mower Martin resigned for a similar reason and, in a classic formulation of the theme, railed against

the injustice of throwing out the works of the older members when they are fully up to the standard on which they were made members, because of some new ideas on the subject of painting, introduced by those who have since entered the society.
In 1909 Marmaduke Matthews also resigned because he felt that for years past he had been, for "some reason,′" pointedly and insultingly treated by the Committees of the Ontario Society of Artists as regards the acceptance and hanging" of his work. He added: "having no benefit by sales or otherwise through the Exhibitions, I have been forced to the auction block in order to live" - the worst imaginable fate for an artist in those days.

Through the years, the general resentment of older artists facing standards imposed by a younger generation has occasionally come to a head. The liveliest and most notable variation on this theme occurred between 1907 and 1909 when nine members seceded: (in order of their resignation) Edmund Morris, Curtis Williamson, Franklin Brownell, J. Archibald Browne, Homer Watson, F. McGillivray Knowles, Elizabeth McGillivray Knowles, Harry Britton and W. E. Atkinson. A new club was set up - the Canadian Art Club. The original cause célèbre occurred over irregularities in the selection of paintings bought with the yearly Department of Education grant. But other motives were also involved, such as a desire to elevate an art standard and complaints that "the exhibitions have been bad and ... the Society is not effective, nor respected." It was said that "endless internal riots" only produced "general disgust," and a number of members had withdrawn "on account of the deadly weariness of it all." Older members stoutly maintained that those who resigned had exaggerated "the depravity of the thing seceded from," but they nevertheless immediately initiated a programme of internal reform. Much later, when the Canadian Art Club ended, many of its members rejoined the osa and a general reconciliation took place.

Once again, in 1952, serious friction occurred and a group of artists led by Kenneth Forbes resigned, setting up a rival institution (devoted to traditional art) - the Ontario Institute of Painters.


One of the Presidents of the Society, L. A. C. Panton, wrote in 1936:

In the final analysis, those who produce the Fine Arts for the enjoyment and enrichment of the people of its own time, can scarcely remain aloof from movements to educate public taste. The education of public taste cannot be confined to the appreciation of pictures, but must embrace all those fields in which art is involved.
This wide-reaching and imaginative definition of a role was certainly true of the osa, and was implicit in the objects set forth in its 1872 Constitution. The breadth of its concern is well illustrated by its early interest in conservation. Already in 1882, the Society had suggested that an international park be formed in the vicinity of Niagara Falls. Forty years later, in 1929, the osa negotiated with the Government to introduce a special clause into all contracts with companies developing water power or lumbering in Ontario, which would give the Government "power to restrict any unnecessary destruction of natural beauty," and also requested special attention for "the preservation of trees and the flow of water on the large waterfalls." Thus, the artist would preserve not only works of art, but the very sites of the picturesque.

There appears to be ample room for growth with such a farsighted, broadly based and consistently relevant approach. Why is it then that today's osa seems to be constantly on the defensive? Is it that its original objects have grown up to challenge it? Have the many public and private art galleries taken over the Society's foremost function of exhibition?

Certainly, if the osa is to survive and flourish, the impetus must come from within. Fred Haines, one of the Presidents of the Society, put the matter in a mechanical metaphor in 1926: "like an automobile, it [the Society] will only, of its own accord, run downhill. The motive power is brains and energy, and, like the machine, it is easily directed from within, not from the outside."

Those that run the Society today will provide the impetus and direction for the next hundred years.



R. F. Gagen "Ontario Art Chronicle," unpublished manuscript on file in the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; osa Minute Books, osa Papers and osa Presidents' Reports (1894-1972), Ontario Department of Public Records and Archives, Toronto.

* Courtesy of the Art Gallery of Ontario