The Ontario Collection


388 pages
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-88902-979-2





Reviewed by Patricia Vervoort

Patricia Vervoort is an assistant professor of art history at Lakehead


Fern Bayer, the Province of Ontario’s art curator, has prepared the definitive catalogue of works acquired by the province from 1850 to December 1983. The publication of these 1,103 works by

450 artists was made possible by the Ontario Heritage Foundation as a Bicentennial project. The book consists of four chapters, each introduced with a lively and informative essay. “Objects of Taste:            Ryerson’s Collection,” chapter one, discusses the initial collection of copies after Old Master paintings and antique statuary assembled by Egerton Ryerson for the Educational Museum established in Toronto in 1857. “Politics and Painters: The Government and the Ontario Society of Artists” chronicles the ups-and-downs of acquiring contemporary art between 1875 and 1912. The largest portion of the collection is found in “Faces of History: The Portrait Collection.” And chapter four, “Robarts and Renewal: The New Art Programs,” describes the on-going acquisition of contemporary art initiated by Premier Robarts’ “art in architecture” policy established in 1966.

The portrait section will prove indispensable to students of Ontario history. Not only are politicians included, but individuals significant to the history of the province from Queen Victoria to Tecumseh to Terry Fox. Each entry includes not only the details of medium, measurements and details of the commission, but also biographical sketches of the individuals represented.

Notes to the essays, bibliography, and appendices follow the main text. Lists of Lieutenant Governors, Premiers (curiously concluding with Premier Robarts in 1971), Speakers of the Ontario Legislature, gifts to other institutions, and an index contribute to the usefulness of the entire publication.


Bayer, Fern, “The Ontario Collection,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 19, 2024,