Over 50 years, Ken Thomson (1923–2006) assembled the most important private art collection in Canada, and its gift to the Art Gallery of Ontario is one of the most significant acts of philanthropy in Canadian history.
The Thomson Collection comprises Canadian paintings, First Nations objects, European works of art - primarily northern European sculpture and decorative arts dating from the early Middle Ages to the mid 19th century - plus ship models from the Napoleonic era to the 20th century.
Everything Ken Thomson bought was of the highest quality of craftsmanship and spoke directly to him.
Ken Thomson formed what is without doubt the most significant and important collection of Canadian art in private hands. Comprising some 700 works of art assembled over 50 years, it is distinguished by its remarkable breadth, the high quality of the individual works, and the rarity of many of its objects.
The Canadian Collection, apart from the First Nations objects, comprises three major components:
19th century Canadian art, with a particular emphasis on the paintings of Cornelius Krieghoff the Group of Seven and their contemporaries, with strong holdings of the work of Tom Thomson, Lawren S. Harris, J.E.H. Macdonald, David Milne and James Wilson Morrice, significant paintings by post-war artists Paul-Emile Borduas and William Kurelek.
First Nations objects include early, finely detailed objects such as masks, amulets, dagger hilts and combs carved from ivory which came from sperm or orca whale teeth or, more rarely, walrus tusks. They also include pieces by one of the best-known historical First Nations artists, Charles Edenshaw (1839–1920) and a number of objects acquired from the celebrated Dundas collection after Ken Thomson’s death.
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