You are a Canadian icon, yet I have never visited you before. So I was excited to see if it was worth the drive to Kleinberg, Ontario with I Backpack Canada to see if it was worth it. It was. Your grounds were immaculate. Your air crisp, only an hour and a half outside of Toronto.
Those outside Canada may not know about you. That you’re one of the foremost Canadian art galleries in the world offering Canadian art, exclusively. That in the collection, there are 6,000 artworks by Tom Thomson, the Group of Seven, their contemporaries, and First Nations, Inuit and other artists who have made a contribution to Canada’s artistic heritage. And that you are the ultimate day trip, with an outdoor sculpture garden and walking trails, perfect with the fall foilage. Across the street you can picnic and hike at the Kortright Centre, as well.
Personal works by the Group of Seven are very important to you and not only did the owners Robert and his wife Signe McMichael have personal friendships with the members, they were able to display the works in the McMichael, which was their former estate. The friendship was so close that the burial grounds for the Group of Seven members (minus Tom Thomson) are viewable to the public outside of the gallery.
Quick history lesson on the members of the Group of Seven (as their artwork is now being showcased globally including the exhibition Painting Canada at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London, England).
Thanks to the wonderful generosity of Ontario Tourism, we were able to get a private tour of the Group of Seven’s works, specifically those influenced by Algonquin Park (what lucky ducks were we?!). Avril, our guide was the consumate professional and encyclopedia of information on The Group of Seven and honorary member Tom Thomson.
Triva time: Thomson, who is one of the most celebrated Canadian artists, died in 1917 before the group’s inception in 1920, but is still considered an honorary member due to his contribution to recognizing our vast Canadian landscape, including Algonquin Park.
Thomson lived in Toronto and his shack was taken piece by piece and is now on display on your grounds. There is even a replica of his living quarters inside. It’s amazing to see all of this history come to life.
There must have been a horseshoe around somewhere because we were even able to get pictures alongside the Group of Seven’s paintings in the gallery. This was because a photographer (the wonderful Sabrina Savoy) was taking some pictures of those touring the gallery that day. So you may see us featured in an Ontario brochure near you! We specialize in cheesy and posed photos (a nudge and a wink to those tourist boards out there).
I highly recommend the McMichael to those who haven’t been and are wanting the quintessential Canadian art experience.