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Fostering and promoting the Visual Arts

throughout Ontario since 1872.

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The Storied History of the OSA



Our new 150th Anniversary book, "Breath. Heart. Spirit.  The OSA 150 Years" recounts many of the historical events and goings on of the society in the past.  The reader is brought up-to-date with the inclusion of life stories, new artworks and essays in this beautiful book.  A treasure-trove indeed! It can be purchased in hard or soft cover at the link above.  You can save the shipping cost by purchasing at the Art Gallery of Ontario, The Arts and Letters Club in Toronto and The Ottawa Art Gallery.

The Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art (CCCA)

The Canadian Art Database contains the Ontario Society of Artists historical reference material from 1872 to 2003 including the 125th Anniversary Video, a catalogue search section as well as historical texts. Ernestine Tahedl was the Archive Project Chair and information about function, funding and support can be found in her letter:

A letter from Ernestine Tahedl, OSA Archive Project Chair:

"I am pleased to present the Ontario Society of Artists’ Archive Project. Having completed phase ONE and TWO of the project we know it will be of value to researchers and others interested in the history of Canadian Art. This project chronicles the early history of the Ontario Society of Artists starting with its founding in 1873 through to the present...

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... From its early beginnings the OSA has supported both established and emerging artists and continues to do so today.

After completing the first phase, the “Millennium Archive Project”, which featured OSA exhibition catalogues from 1873 to 2000, we are pleased to bring to completion the second phase which allowed us to expand the OSA’s chronology with additional entries and historic references that include photographs that have, until now, never been publicly available, documents that have been only available through Archives, the Presidents Annual Reports and even a full length video that was produced during the Societies 100th Anniversary.

The second phase of the project has also provided us with the opportunity to create a search tool that will provide a much more informative means of accessing the Exhibition Catalogues and we were able to collect additional information which we have used to produce profiles of our members.

To carry out the project the OSA partnered with The Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art, Culture Connection, the Archives of Canadian Art and Design/ Canadian Art and Design Press, and the McMichael Canadian Art Collection who collectively would like to thank the institutions which allowed us to scan and digitize their copies of OSA catalogues, photographs and documents, and provided information and encouragement, notably the National Gallery of Canada Library (Murray Waddington, chief of Library, Archives and Fellowship Programs; and Jonathan Franklin, head of collections and database management, Library); the Edward P. Taylor Reference Library and Archive of the Art Gallery of Ontario (Randall Speller, reference librarian); the Archives of Ontario, (Wayne Crockett, Senior Archivist and Mary Ledwell, Special Collections); the Toronto Reference Library (David Kotin, head of Special Collections; Christine Mosser, Special Collections), as well as the OSA itself, which loaned assorted archival materials, as did individual members.

I would also like to express my appreciation for the generous support provided by the Millennium Bureau of Canada and the Ontario Trillium Foundation along with the enlightened firms and private individuals who made up the difference through monetary and in-kind donations.

Finally, we are grateful to the Frederick Horsman Varley Art Gallery of Markham, in Unionville, Ontario, which in November 2000 hosted the OSA’s juried member show, Into Body, at which the Millennium project was officially launched and again in April of 2003 hosted the juried member show, About Water, at which time Phase 11 of the project was launched.''

Ernestine Tahedl

OSA Archive Project Chair

OSA Past President (1996 to 2000)

In 1997, the Art Gallery of Ontario produced the video below in celebration of the OSA's 125th Anniversary. Yes! that's the late Doris McCarthy speaking, one of our well known members and a Past President. A poignant interview with portents for the future we're living now.

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