Our History

The story of the McMichael Canadian Art Collection begins in 1952, when Robert and Signe McMichael purchased ten acres of land in the village of Kleinburg, Ontario. Architect Leo Venchiarutti designed the McMichael’s original home in 1954, as well as the subsequent additions in 1963, 1967, 1969 and 1972.

Moved by the natural environment, the McMichaels began collecting works of art by Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven, artists who also drew inspiration from the natural landscape. By the early 1960s, hundreds of people were visiting the McMichaels’ growing private gallery. In 1965, the collection comprised 194 paintings, some purchased by the McMichaels, others donated by generous donors as well as by the artists themselves.

As the size and importance of their collection grew, the couple realized that they were the custodians of a national treasure. In 1965, the McMichaels offered to donate their collection– as well as their home and land – to the Province of Ontario. Eight months later, on July 8, 1966, the “McMichael Conservation Collection of Art” officially opened.

A.Y. Jackson lived in the McMichaels’ home for the last years of his life, and – as seen in the photo on the upper left – often held great audiences of attentive listeners. In the lower photo, a team of helpers are moving the single-tree bench donated by the B.C. Forest Council and carved by Douglas Cranmer, now installed permanently in Gallery 8.

Browse our timeline to learn more about the many significant milestones that comprise the history of the McMichael: https://www.mcmichael.com/milestones