The marvellous McMichael Collection of Canadian Art located in the picture -perfect village of Kleinburg is (relatively speaking) just a short hop north of Toronto.
Located cheek by jowl to the Kortwright Centre – a delicious wilderness of maple trees and trails, capped by an excellent Visitor Centre (with Maple Syrup tapping in the Winter) – a trip to Kleinburg makes for a wonderful day trip.
That said there is enough to do at the Gallery itself to warrant a full day. A gorgeous building designed to blend harmoniously into the surrounding 100 acres of conservation land. With thirteen galleries housing a stunning collection of works by the Group of Seven and their contemporaries, there is a special focus on the works of Tom Thompson, alongside works by First Nations and Inuit. And should your taste be a little more eclectic then the McMichael regularly injects new life into their Gallery spaces by hosting major exhibitions of the works of other artists who have made a contribution to the development of Canadian art.
Currently the Museum is hosting two “guest” exhibitions: a “Mary Pratt” retrospective and “Changing Tides: Contemporary Art of Newfoundland and Labrador”
The Gallery – styled like a huge log cabin perched high up on the valley escarpment is a nook and cranny delight for slumping into a “Stickley” armchair to contemplate the art or to gaze out onto the stunning scenery – on a good day, and from the right window it is even possible to see the CN Tower way out in the distance. A stark reminder in this peaceful serene space of the proximity of our sprawling metropolis.
When Robert and Signe McMichael discovered Kleinburg, they felt that the area evoked the images of the Canadian wilderness they so loved. They consequently purchased ten acres of land in the village and in 1954 – with the help of architect Leo Venchiarutti – built a pioneer-style home (complete with barnboard walls and fieldstone fireplaces) and named it Tapawingo (believed to mean “place of joy”), the forerunner of today’s Gallery space.
Initially the McMichaels started their “Group of Seven” collection with a painting by Lawren Harris called “the Montreal River”. This was followed by a purchase of Tom Thomson’s “Pine Island” and by 1965, their private collection numbered 194 paintings and had been visited by hundreds of people who flocked to the McMichael’s frequent open houses. Realizing they were the custodians of a national treasure, the McMichael’s donated their collection, home and land to the Province of Ontario in return for an assurance that the buildings be maintanied and the art retained and conserved in the spirit of the original intent. Eight months later in July 1966 the “McMichael Conservation Collection of Art” officially opened.
Today the collection has expanded – through purchases and donations (from private individuals and artists) to about 5500 works of art. Despite extensive additions the Gallery retains many of its original rustic features; classically smart it radiates the warmth and charm one imagines the original home to have held almost as if the current custodians had had a hotline to Robert and Signe during all the remodellings.
And when you are done with the art, the restaurant – located in the split level basement – has a beautiful outdoor patio area open during the summer with drop-away views of the forested Humber River valley.
The hiking trails are open year round but occasionally one or two are closed during winter because ice and steep slopes are a treacherous combination.
Before you head out take a moment to admire the totem pole in the Grand Hall, entitled “Where Cultures Meet”, which was carved specifically for the Gallery by artist Don Yeomans.
Beforep embarking upon a trail have a stroll around the new Sculpture Garden and peer through the windows of Tom Thomson`s original log cabin.
Telephone 905 893 1121 or 1888 213 1121