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From its inception, the Ontario Society of Artists (OSA) has enjoyed a particularly fascinating history and has made an outstanding and enduring contribution to the artistic life of Ontario and Canada. Its aim of “fostering Original Art in the province” led to its involvement in establishing a provincial school of art, an art museum and the Royal Canadian Academy. It also launched the annual exhibitions held at the Industrial Exhibition (now the Canadian National Exhibition) and in its own galleries.

Between 1873 and 1914, the Ontario government purchased almost 200 works of art from the OSA’s annual exhibitions. These purchases proved to be an important foundation for the Government of Ontario Art Collection, as well as precedent-setting support for Ontario’s visual artists. However, only 40 remain in the collection today due to the distribution of works to provincial Normal Schools in 1912 and the fact that virtually no records were kept until the few remaining examples were relocated to the Legislative Buildings when the Schools closed during the 1970s.

In the decades following 1914, individual OSA members donated their artworks to the provincial government but it wasn’t until 2005 that the GOAC and the OSA rekindled their relationship and began organized group donations of member’s works.


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