Group of Seven Discovery Route: Greater Toronto Area
They worked in the Toronto area as graphic artists by day and landscape painters by night, completing paintings they captured during their travels in studios.
It’s no wonder that two major galleries in the region; the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) and the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, provide you with an incredible opportunity to connect the art on the walls by the Group of Seven with the landscapes and cityscapes that inspired them.
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Key Stops, Attractions and Landscapes on the Group of Seven Discovery Route in the Greater Toronto Area
1. Lawren Harris Park, 145 Rosedale Valley Road, Toronto
The small park on the sound side of Rosedale Valley Road features a plaque that displays one of Lawren Harris’ works and a short bio.
Connect to the canvas: although renowned for their depictions of the remote Canadian wilderness, members of the Group of Seven also sketched and painted outdoor urban scenes, such as Lawren Harris’ Early Houses, c. 1913 McMichael Canadian Art Collection and MacDonald’s Humber River at Baby Point, c. 1910 Art Gallery of Ontario.
2. The Studio Building, 25 Severn Street, Toronto
Located next to Lawren Harris Park, this National Historic Site served as a living and working studio for several of the Group of Seven for just $22 per month!
Connect to the canvas: the artists still found nature within bustling urban locations, as demonstrated in Arthur Lismer’s Our Garden, Bedford Park Ave. Toronto, c. 1922-1923, McMichael Canadian Art Collection, and J.E.H. MacDonald’s Thornhill-Pine Tree and Fields, c. 1924, Ottawa Art Gallery.
3. Arts and Letters Club of Toronto, 14 Elm Street, Toronto
During their time working as graphic artists at Grip Ltd., the Group of Seven met frequently in the ‘Great Hall’ for lunch at this heritage building near Young and Dundas Square. Today the club functions as members-only but you can view their extensive collection of sketches by Arthur Lismer online.
Connect to the canvas: another example of commissioned works in Toronto is Arthur Lismer’s large scale mural Explorers and Builders of Canada, c. 1927-1932, housed inside Humberside Collegiate in Etobicoke.
4. Art Gallery of Ontario, 317 Dundas Street West, Toronto
Formerly the Art Gallery of Toronto, this is the site of the first ever exhibit as a Group in 1920. The Canadian Collection features numerous works of art the Group of Seven created while exploring Toronto and beyond. Find unique Group of Seven gifts, books and souvenirs in the gift shop.
Connect to the canvas: explore approximately 300 works by the Group of Seven and Tom Thomson in the permanent Thomson Collection.
5. Ontario College of Art & Design University, 100 McCaul Street, Toronto
Most of the Group of Seven members were students, instructor or staff when this university was known as the Ontario College of Art. Today, the modernist addition to the original historic building is called the A.J. Casson Wing.
6. EY Tower (formally the Concourse Building), 100 Adelaide Street West, Toronto
In the heart of downtown Toronto, a colourful mosaic created by J.E.H. MacDonald in 1928 greets visitors at the entrance to the building.
7. St. Anne’s Anglican Church, 270 Gladstone Avenue, Toronto
MacDonald, Varley and Carmichael were commissioned to paint murals in St. Anne’s Anglican Church in 1923, a National Historic Site just north of Dundas Street West. These are the only known religious works by the group. One-hour guided tours are available on the first Sunday of each month.
8. Group of Seven Bike Trail, Vaughan to Kleinburg
Cycle the bike trail from the north end of Toronto roughly 72 kms to Kleinburg, home of the world-renowned McMichael Canadian Art Collection of iconic Group of Seven paintings.
Connect to the canvas: see if you can determine where A.J. Casson’s painting entitled Kleinburg c. 1929 (on display at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection) took inspiration from during the scenic ride on this part group of the seven discovery route.
9. McMichael Canadian Art Collection, 10365 Islington Avenue, 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. Initially conceptualized by Jackson and Casson in 1967, 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. A cairn and tombstone memorializing Tom Thomson can be found in Leith, Ontario and within Algonquin Park.
Tips and Resources
- Parkbus provides day and overnight trips to and from Toronto and Ottawa, Algonquin Park, Killarney Park, Georgian Bay and Tobermory.
- Some of these stops are seasonal, book ahead and double check operating hours and dates to avoid disappointment.