The McMichael Canadian Art Collection is devoted to collecting and exhibiting Canadian art, with a specific focus on Tom Thomson, the Group of Seven and their contemporaries: David Milne, Thoreau MacDonald, J.W. Morrice, Clarence Gagnon, Albert H. Robinson, Maurice Cullen, and Emily Carr. In addition, the collection includes works by First Nations, Inuit, and other artists who have made a contribution to the development of Canadian art. The gallery is situated amid of serene conservation land, and housed in a sprawling complex of intimate galleries built of fieldstone and hand-hewn logs.
The inspiration for this outstanding art gallery came from its founders, Robert and Signe McMichael, avid collectors of Canadian art, who decided to build a country retreat. In 1951, Mr and Mrs McMichael purchased ten acres of land in the village of Kleinburg, Ontario and built a pioneer-style home, which they named Tapawingo (believed to mean, “place of joy”). As their collection and interest from the public grew, the McMichaels added several additional galleries to their home, and eventually increased the floor area to . But as larger and larger crowds appeared on their doorstep each weekend, they began to investigate ways to make the collection permanently accessible to the public.
In 1965, the McMichaels transferred ownership of their home, property, and their collection of 194 paintings to the Province of Ontario for a tax write-off of $800,000 CAD. Since that time the founders and the province have been joined by private and corporate collectors in the development of an important cultural institution devoted to the appreciation of Canadian art. Through the generosity of these art donors, the gallery’s collection has grown to more than 5,000 artworks, thus necessitating the expansion of the original home into an facility, which includes thirteen exhibition galleries, a theatre and the Gallery Shop. The ambience created by the log and barn-board walls and fieldstone fireplaces has been preserved, offering an authentic experience of the original home.
Ongoing and temporary exhibitions display works from the core collection, while special exhibitions further enrich our visitors’ appreciation for the breadth and diversity of our country, its cultures, and its history. Dedicated to lifelong learning, the McMichael offers a wide range of programs for visitors of all ages. This high level of exhibition and complementary programming is made possible in part with support from the corporate and public sector through sponsorship, membership, and donations.
Recognized as the spiritual home of the Group of Seven, the McMichael is known for its warm and welcoming environment for visitors of all ages. The year-round seasonal beauty of the wooded landscape surrounding the gallery is evocative of the landscapes that inspired the Group of Seven and the grounds and trails are for the enjoyment of everyone. Along the pathways are several points of interest including the McMichael cemetery where six members of the Group of Seven ― Arthur Lismer, F.H. Varley, Lawren Harris, Frank Johnston, A.Y. Jackson and A.J. Casson ― are laid to rest.
Robert McMichael died in November 2003 and is interred at the McMichael cemetery alongside the Group members he counted among his friends. Signe McMichael died on July 4, 2007, and will also be buried at the McMichael cemetery.