Ontario Society of Artists and the Government of Ontario Art Collection: The Ballot Pictures and the Provincial Art Gallery - Page Banner

Table of Contents


Since the Society’s offer to relinquish control over the art school had been accepted by the Minister of Education, the school had continued to operate without OSA input and it had been largely unsuccessful. In 1890, the school was re-established as the Central Ontario School of Art and Design. Governed by a board of directors it once again became affiliated with the OSA. It was run out of the Society's newly-leased galleries at 165 King Street West and, as before, many OSA members taught at the school. In the vice president’s report of 1892-93 its growing success as well as its long-term needs were prophetically acknowledged:

“The pupils have largely increased in number, one hundred and twenty-four names having been registered this year, and a great advance has been made in the character of the work done, warranting the hope that a continuance of the present connection may next year still further promote the practical usefulness of the school by obtaining enlarged accommodation… and eventually securing its recognition by the Provincial Government as a Normal Art School for Ontario with a substantial subsidy to render possible thoroughly effective progress.”

 

Photo: Central Ontario School of Art interior, William Cruikshank instructor, [between 1889 and 1900]
Click to see a larger image (243K)
Central Ontario School of Art interior, William Cruikshank instructor, [between 1889 and 1900]
Ontario Society of Artists fonds
Black and white print
Reference Code: F 1140-7-0-3-1
Archives of Ontario, I0010334

The annual exhibition of 1896 marked a new method of a selecting works for the government. Described in the President’s Report of 1895-96, paintings to the value of $200 were to be chosen, this amount to be used from the annual $500 grant. There was no resistance on the Society’s part to this requirement and the President stated that it was, “being complied with cheerfully, and is regarded as desirable.”

A ballot amongst the membership was held to choose the paintings which were to be valued at $100 each. Because of the method of selection, these works became known as the “Ballot Pictures.”

The Ballot Pictures for 1896 were two oils: William Atkinson’s Old Stage Days, Ontario and F. McGillivray Knowles’s, Notre Dame, Paris. This latter work remains as part of the collection today and can be found hanging on the 2nd floor of the Ontario Legislature in Toronto.

Photo: Farquhar McGillivray Knowles, 1930
Farquhar McGillivray Knowles, 1930
M. O. Hammond
Black and white print
Reference Code: F 1075-12-0-0-78
Archives of Ontario, I0007845

Oil on canvas: Notre Dame, Paris, 1895
Click to see a larger image (369K)
Notre Dame, Paris, 1895
Farquhar McGillivray Knowles, OSA
Oil on canvas
This work was purchased by the Government of Ontario
from the 24th annual OSA Exhibition, 1896
Government of Ontario Art Collection, 619867

The Ballot Pictures would continue to be selected in this way until 1912. Further, the Minister of Education had, in 1897, entered into another agreement with the Society motivated by the addition of a third floor to the Normal School in 1896 which provided spacious new galleries.

OSA members would provide paintings to fill the walls and in return the government would allocate a grant of up to $800 to purchase selected works.

Oil on canvas: Westminster Bridge, [ca. 1897]

A special committee, comprised of Education minister George Ross and Dr. S. P. May, the Superintendent of the Education Museum, was struck to select the works from the new gallery. When the grant was first exercised in 1899, fourteen paintings were purchased in addition to the two ballot pictures. Of the sixteen works acquired by the government that year, six remain in the collection.



Click to see a larger image (135K)
Westminster Bridge, [ca. 1897]
Frederick Marlett Bell-Smith, OSA
Oil on canvas
This work was purchased by the Government of Ontario
from the 27th annual OSA Exhibition, 1899
Government of Ontario Art Collection, 622111

   

Oil on canvas: The Road Through the Beeches, 1894
Click to see a larger image (92K)
The Road Through the Beeches, 1894
Thomas Mower Martin, OSA
Oil on canvas
This work was purchased by the Government of Ontario
from the 27th annual OSA Exhibition, 1899
Government of Ontario Art Collection, 692758

Watercolour: After the Shower (Dorking, Eng.), [ca. 1898]
Click to see a larger image (91K)
After the Shower (Dorking, Eng.), [ca. 1898]
Joseph Thomas Rolph, OSA
Watercolour on paper
This work was purchased by the Government of Ontario
from the 27th annual OSA Exhibition, 1899
Government of Ontario Art Collection, 692619

 

Watercolour: Fine Weather in Memphremagog’s Hills, 1897
Click to see a larger image (89K)
Fine Weather in Memphremagog’s Hills, 1897
Robert Ford Gagen, OSA
Watercolour on paper
This work was purchased by the Government of Ontario
from the 27th annual OSA Exhibition, 1899
Government of Ontario Art Collection, 619853

Watercolour: Humber River, Woodbridge, [n.d.]
Click to see a larger image (82K)
Humber River, Woodbridge, [n.d.]
Joseph Thomas Rolph, OSA
Watercolour on paper
This work was purchased by the Government of Ontario
from the 27th annual OSA Exhibition, 1899
Government of Ontario Art Collection, 622081


Oil on canvas: A Surrey Heath, 1898
Click to see a larger image (214K)
A Surrey Heath, 1898
Gertrude Eleanor Spurr Cutts, OSA
Oil on canvas
This work was purchased by the Government of Ontario
from the 27th annual OSA Exhibition, 1899
Government of Ontario Art Collection, 622103

By October 1907, a contemporary account in the Canadian Magazine reported that at least 100 works by Ontario artists were hanging in what was now referred to as the Provincial Art Gallery, or the “Louvre of the Province” as it was later described by artist Robert Ford Gagen.

However, the magazine’s critic was less impressed with the quality of the art and wrote, “and it may be said that they are not the great efforts of these artists, but the best the present Government can apparently afford.”


Photo: "A Corner of the Provincial Art Gallery in the Normal School, Toronto"
Click to see a larger image (276K)
"A Corner of the Provincial Art Gallery in the Normal School, Toronto"
Radford, J. A. "Canadian Art and Its Critics"
The Canadian Magazine, vol. 24, no. 6 (Oct. 1907)
Archives of Ontario Library Collection, Call No: Period C

Pastel on paper: Reading, 1900
Click to see a larger image (148K)
Reading, 1900
George Agnew Reid, OSA
Pastel on paper
This work was purchased by the Government of Ontario
from the 28th annual OSA Exhibition, 1900
Government of Ontario Art Collection, 623112


The government continued to purchase artworks from the Society’s annual exhibitions until 1914. However, the method of selection did not always meet with the approval of the Society. In 1907 for example, a dispute had arisen concerning the works chosen.

A committee, known as the Guild of Civic Art, had been formed in 1900 and charged with the responsibility of making the selections. Run by an executive of artists and laymen, the Guild promoted itself as an organization available to give advice on artistic matters in the public realm. As noted in its charter the Guild offered: to enter into agreements with the Municipality of Toronto, Corporations, or private persons, to act in a purely advisory capacity in matters pertaining to works of an Artistic nature.

The situation in 1907 involved the selection of two paintings that were considered ineligible due to the status of the artists, Archibald Browne and Franklin Brownell. All artists were required to have works on display at both the provincial art gallery and the annual OSA exhibition in order to be considered by the selection committee. As neither artist had fulfilled this obligation, the Society deemed the Guild's choices invalid.

Oil on canvas: ‘At the Loom’ – French Canadian Interior, 1899
Click to see a larger image (413K)
‘At the Loom’ – French Canadian Interior, 1899
Sydney Strickland Tully, OSA
Oil on canvas
This work was purchased by the Government of Ontario
from the 28th annual OSA Exhibition, 1900
Government of Ontario Art Collection, 623330

   

Photo: Archibald Browne, R.C.A., 1930
Archibald Browne, R.C.A., 1930
M. O. Hammond
Black and white print
Reference Code: F 1075-12-0-0-6
Archives of Ontario, I0007773

Photo: Franklin Brownell, R.C.A., 1930
Franklin Brownell, R.C.A., 1930
M. O. Hammond
Black and white print
Reference Code: F 1075-12-0-0-33
Archives of Ontario, I0007800

Despite the Society’s objections and a deputation dispatched to the Minister of Education, the selections stood. Continuing dissatisfaction with the outcome was noted by the secretary in the Society’s records as: Pictures paid for by the Ont Government not endorsed by the OSA. Not only did this incident cause a rupture in the Society itself by bringing to the surface increasing antagonism between some of the old guard and the newer members, but it led to the formation in 1907 of a breakaway group, the Canadian Art Club.

As for the Guild of Civic Art, local critic and writer, J. A. Radford had sympathy for the Society’s situation. In an article in the Canadian Magazine of October 1907 he observed that:

“The Guild of Civic Art has been in existence many years, and has done absolutely nothing tangible for art in Toronto, except the so-called mural decorations on the walls of the City Hall by the President of the Canadian Royal Academy. The committee of the Guild was hybrid in character, not one artist being upon it. It was composed of two newspaper writers, a picture dealer, a manufacturing chemist, an ethnologist and a lawyer. As the grant is given to the Ontario Society of Artists, surely they are responsible to the Government and the people for its proper disbursement.”

Although the Guild’s choices were not rescinded the Minister did agree to the striking of a new selection committee. Between 1908 and 1912 this new committee was to be comprised of a representative of the Government, a member of the Society and two laymen appointed by the Society.

Photo: Hanging Committee, 1908
Hanging Committee, 1908
Back Row: Robert F. Gagen, F. S. Challener.
Front Row: Sydney S. Tully, Wyly Grier, C. W. Jefferys
Photographer unknown
Ontario Society of Artists fonds
Black and white print
Reference Code: F 1140-7-0-2.1
Archives of Ontario, I0010424

   

Photo: King Street West gallery, 1904 (1)
Click to see a larger image (74K)
King Street West gallery, 1904
Ontario Society of Artists fonds
Black and white print
Reference Code: F 1140-7-0-3-8
Archives of Ontario, I0010336

Photo: King Street West gallery, 1904 (2)
Click to see a larger image (70K)
King Street West gallery, 1904
Ontario Society of Artists fonds
Black and white print
Reference Code: F 1140-7-0-3-8
Archives of Ontario, I0010335

Overall, the Guild of Civic Art Committee in its various incarnations selected over 60 works from the OSA’s annual exhibitions.

Eight of the works that were chosen by the committee and still in the collection today are illustrated in the slide show below.

Slideshow Title Slide

This slideshow uses javascript.
If your browser does not support javascript,
click here to view the html version of this OSA slideshow.
Previous Slide Start Slide Show Pause Slide Show
Next Slide Restart Slide Show
previous | play | pause | next | restart


Previous | Home | Next
The Recent OSA Donations to the Government Art Collection | The Founding of the
Society and its First Exhibition
| Early Purchases and the Foundation of Art Education
The Ballot Pictures and the Provincial Art Gallery | The Final Purchases