Founded in 1914, the Art Gallery of Hamilton is now one of Ontario's largest public galleries. Over its 100+ year history, it has grown, changed and developed along with the communities it serves, building a permanent collection distinguished by the quality and integrity of its holdings. Our permanent collection is one of the finest in Canada, respected nationally and internationally and recognized as being particularly distinctive due in part to a significant number of iconic works that serve to distinguish the collection.
The AGH primary collection, comprised of over 10,000 works of art, is based on Canadian historical, Canadian contemporary and European historical art. The collection of historical Canadian art was developed through the meticulous promotion of local, regional and national artists over the Gallery's 100 year history; the European collection spans Baroque through Post-Impressionist Art, with particular emphasis on the French, British and Italian schools; the collection of modern Canadian art is one of the strongest in the country, due, in no small part to the vision and efforts of Thomas Reid (T.R.) MacDonald (1908–1978), the Gallery’s first full-time director and curator.
MacDonald inaugurated the Annual Winter Exhibition at the Gallery; this yearly exhibition was held from 1948-1973. These juried exhibitions provided artists with an important exhibition venue and also brought works to Hamilton that might be acquired by the Gallery. Usually about one hundred works were featured in each exhibition, with the purchase prize (generally donated by a local patron or business) entering the AGH permanent collection. In this way, many important works were acquired, such as A.J. Casson’s First Snow, Lilias Torrance Newton’s Keith MacIver, and the iconic Horse and Train by Alex Colville. Selected as the purchase prize in 1954, Horse and Train was panned by The Hamilton Spectator art critic Mary Mason, who wrote: “There are undoubtedly some very fine paintings out at the Art Gallery of Hamilton in this year’s Winter Show, but the winner of the purchase prize is not, alas, one of them.”
The collection contains works nationally recognized as significant achievements in the development of the visual arts in Canada and that allow for an understanding and appreciation of the rich field of cultural activity.
Welcome to Virtual Vaults
The microsite virtualvaults.artgalleryofhamilton.com offers website visitors a modest sampling of the remarkable permanent collection of the Art Gallery of Hamilton, much of which is not currently on display - due to space and environmental issues - but stored in climate controlled vaults.
Almost one hundred years old, the AGH permanent collection is comprised of approximately 10,000 works, 600 of which are available for viewing here. Virtual Vaults is also a work in progress; please return frequently to browse any new additions.
Works are searchable by artist’s last name. Not every artist represented in the permanent collection will appear as only those with entries are listed. Thumbnails can be enlarged by double clicking on the image chosen.
I hope you enjoy perusing our Virtual Vaults and know that you will discover some new favourites along with revisiting the celebrated icons of our outstanding collection. Click either the logo or link above to launch the site.
Should you have a question regarding permanent collection artists or works not represented here, please do not hesitate to contact me or search the AGH Artist Listing.
Christine Braun, Manager, Collections and Exhibitions
Special thanks go to Lucia Shayan, Vince Franco, Adrian Emberley, Mike Lalich and Celina Senisterra, without whose efforts this site could not have been realized. Content © Art Gallery of Hamilton.