• O’Brien, Lucius Richard (Canadian, 1832–1899)

    A prominent oil and watercolour painter of Canadian landscapes, vice-president of the Ontario Society of Artists (1874–80), and the founding president of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts (1880–90). He travelled extensively in Canada, reaching as far as the west coast. For the serial publication Picturesque Canada (1882–84) he supervised the commissioning of illustrations, himself producing the vast majority of images upon which the engraved illustrations were based.

  • O’Connor, Flannery (American, 1925–1964)

    A novelist and short-story writer, O’Connor was born in Savannah, Georgia, later moving to rural Milledgeville. The American South served as the background for her tales of hubris and degradation in which deeply flawed, grotesque characters find redemption, often through events that are violent as well as transformative. O’Connor was a devout Catholic, and her darkly comic works had strong religious overtones, though she avoided didacticism. She also wrote book reviews and essays that dealt with her own faith and beliefs.

  • O’Keeffe, Georgia (American, 1887–1986)

    A critical figure in American modernism, O’Keeffe was encouraged as a young artist by the photographer Alfred Stieglitz, whom she married in 1924. Her expressive and often nearly abstract paintings were inspired by natural forms such as landscapes, flowers, and bones. After Stieglitz’s death she settled permanently in northern New Mexico.

  • Obomsawin, Alanis (Abenaki, b.1932)

    One of the most celebrated Indigenous documentary filmmakers in the world. The National Film Board of Canada (NFB) first hired Obomsawin as a consultant in 1967. Subsequently, she directed over fifty films for the NFB. Devoting her career to examining the lives and concerns of Indigenous peoples in Canada, she has created such notable documentaries as Incident at Restigouche (1984) and Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance (1993). Obomsawin was named a Companion of the Order of Canada in 2019.

  • OCAD University

    OCAD University is located in Toronto and is the oldest and largest art school in Canada. It was founded in 1876 as the Ontario School of Art, becoming the Ontario College of Art in 1912. In 1996 the name changed again to the Ontario College of Art and Design, before being renamed OCAD University in 2010 to reflect its status as a university.

  • October Crisis

    On October 5, 1970, members of the Front de Libération du Québec (FLQ) kidnapped British trade commissioner James Cross. On October 10, the FLQ kidnapped and subsequently murdered Pierre Laporte, the Minister of Immigration, Manpower and Labour. In response, the federal government invoked the War Measures Act, which suspended civil liberties in Quebec and enabled the police to arrest over 450 people without charge.

  • Odjig, Daphne (Odawa/Potawatomi/English, Wikwemikong First Nation, 1919–2016)

    A founding member of the Professional Native Indian Artists Inc. and a prominent Indigenous painter in Canada. Odjig’s work blends traditional First Nations styles with Cubist and Surrealist aesthetics. Soft contours, bold colours, and black outlines are characteristic of her work, which thematically focuses on issues of Indigenous politics in art.

  • Ogata Kenzan (1663–1743)

    A Japanese potter and painter known for his decoratively painted ceramics. He was born in Kyoto and trained with the master potter Nonomura Ninsei (active c.1646–77). He often drew inspiration from his older brother, the celebrated painter Ogata Kōrin (1658–1716).

  • Ogilvie, Will (South African/Canadian, 1901–1989)

    A commercial artist, educator, and painter, Ogilvie was the first official Canadian war artist in the Second World War, noted for creating images of war while himself under fire. He was a member of the Canadian Group of Painters and the Canadian Society of Painters in Water Colour.

  • Ohe, Katie (Canadian, b.1937)

    A sculptor working in metal from Peers, Alberta, who is recognized as one of the first practitioners of abstract sculpture in Alberta. Her work explores the kinetic relationship between viewer and art object, attempting to induce a sense of mobility or touch through abstract forms and moving sculptures. Since 1970 she has taught sculpture at the Alberta College of Art and Design (now known as the Alberta University of the Arts).

  • oil wash

    Translucent layers of oil paint, which can appear stain-like. Oil washes are created by mixing oil paint with a solvent and applying it to a dry support, or one soaked with solvent. Artists known for using this technique include Helen Frankenthaler, Morris Louis, Mark Rothko, and Jules Olitski.

  • Old Master

    A vague and gendered term given to seminal artists who worked in Europe before the 1800s. During this time, artists trained in a guild system, where some pupils became independent “masters.” The term is not limited to a particular style, and some old masters include Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt van Rijn, Diego Velázquez, and Eugene Delacroix.

  • Oldenburg, Claes (Swedish/American, 1929–2022)

    A Swedish-born American sculptor who spent the majority of his career based in New York City. Oldenburg is best known for his experimental soft sculptures, as well as his monumental public art installations that often present everyday, mundane objects on a massive scale. Considered a major figure in the Pop Art movement, a large number of his public works were created in collaboration with his wife, fellow artist Coosje van Bruggen (1942–2009).

  • Olitski, Jules (Russian/American, 1922–2007)

    Born Jemel Devikovsky, Jules Olitski moved to the United States with his family as a young child. He became famous in the 1960s for his intensely coloured spray-gun paintings, which were shown at the Venice Biennale in 1966. In these works, Olitski’s non-primary colours overlap and bleed into each other, creating atmospheric fields of colour. His later work returned to a gestural technique, using greys and earth tones to create iridescent surfaces.

  • Olson, Daniel (Canadian, b.1955)

    Daniel Olson is a Canadian artist who lives in Montreal. He works in a number of mediums, including sculpture, installation, photography, performance, video, and artist books. He is interested in the narrative elements of medium and the multiple possibilities found in everyday objects and events.

  • Olsson, Julius (British, 1864–1942)

    A painter and teacher at the Cornish School of Landscape, Figure and Sea Painting in St. Ives, Cornwall and of Swedish descent, Olsson was part of the plein air British Impressionist movement that discovered the picturesque Cornish fishing village and seacoast in the late nineteenth century. St. Ives became a famous artists’ colony that by the 1930s was attracting such avant-garde residents as Ben Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth.

  • Ondaatje, Kim (Canadian, b. 1928)

    A painter, photographer, filmmaker, and teacher, whose work is held by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. Ondaatje was an important advocate for the rights of professional artists through her association with Jack Chambers’s initiative CAR (later CARFAC).

  • one-point perspective

    A style of perspective drawing in which parallel lines converge at a single vanishing point. An image of a road or hallway disappearing into the distance is an example of one-point perspective.

  • Onley, Toni (British/Canadian, 1928–2004)

    A western Canadian artist who painted watercolour landscapes and abstracts, Onley published the book Onley’s Arctic, based on a trip to the Arctic in 1974. His work is held at the Tate and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, U.K.; the Museum of Modern Art in New York; the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; and the Vancouver Art Gallery.

  • Ono, Yoko (Japanese, b.1933)

    A multimedia artist who was an influential figure in performance and Conceptual art in the 1960s. Ono moved to New York in the late 1950s and joined the avant-garde art scene there. In 1960, she began hosting performance events in her Manhattan loft. Inspired by avant-garde composer John Cage, Ono presented Conceptual works consisting of simple instructions for participants to follow. Her performance Cut Piece, 1964, is regarded as an important example of early feminist art.

  • Onodera, Midi (Canadian, b.1961)

    An award-winning filmmaker, a media consultant, and a producer, Onodera rose to prominence during the 1980s with Ten Cents a Dance (Parallax), 1985, and The Displaced View, 1989. Her film and video works reflect upon her experience as a Japanese Canadian, a feminist, and a lesbian, and she has produced over twenty-five independent short films.

  • Onslow-Ford, Gordon (British, 1912–2003)

    A painter, Gordon Onslow-Ford was part of the Surrealist movement led by André Breton in Paris. After the Second World War, he lectured in New York City, influencing the artists that would become associated with Abstract Expressionism. His work explored practices of automatism and levels of consciousness. In 1998, he founded the Lucid Art Foundation in Inverness, Scotland, to support both artists and research on the environment and consciousness.

  • Ontario Society of Artists (OSA)

    Canada’s oldest extant professional artists’ association, the Ontario Society of Artists was formed in 1872 by seven artists from various disciplines. Its first annual exhibition was held in 1873. The OSA eventually played an important role in the founding of OCAD University and the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto.

  • Onteora Club

    A private literary and arts community in the Catskill Mountains near Tannersville, New York, established in 1887 by Candace Wheeler and her brother Francis Thurber.

  • Oonark, Jessie (Qamani’tuaq, 1906–1985)

    A major figure in twentieth-century Canadian art, Jessie Oonark was raised in traditional semi-nomadic Inuit camps near the Back River and later settled in Baker Lake in what is now Nunavut. Her boldly graphic textiles and drawings depicting the natural and spirit worlds are included in major public collections across Canada and internationally.

  • Op art

    A style of abstract art that was developed in the 1950s and 1960s, primarily by Victor Vasarely and the British artist Bridget Riley. It aimed to produce an intense visual experience through the use of severe colour contrasts and hard-edge forms.

  • Oppenheim, Meret (German/Swiss, 1913–1985)

    The artist Meret Oppenheim began her career among the Paris Surrealists in the 1930s. She was the muse and model for several of Man Ray’s photographs and created a piece, Object, 1936, a cup, saucer, and spoon covered in fur, that became an archetypal example of the movement’s aesthetics and was the first work by a woman artist to be acquired by the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. After a twenty-year pause in her career, during which time she distanced herself from the Surrealists, Oppenheim began to make art again in the 1950s.

  • Oqutaq, Sheokjuk (Kinngait, 1920–1982)

    A carver known for his realistic style, Sheokjuk Oqutaq is famous for his depictions of birds, especially loons, although his early work includes figurative pieces. The brother of the artist Osuitok Ipeelee, Sheokjuk began working in ivory in the late 1940s, transitioning to stone in the 1950s. He continued to incorporate detailed ivory carvings into his stone works throughout his career, often carving in granite. 

  • Oretsky, Barry (Canadian, b.1946)

    A Toronto-based photorealist painter who has been widely recognized since the 1980s for his detailed large-scale works based on his own photography. Oretsky was taught by painter Doris McCarthy at Toronto’s Central Technical School; he also trained at St. Martin’s School of Art in London. In 2004, he was elected to the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.

  • Orozco, José Clemente (Mexican, 1883–1949)

    A painter, draftsman, and printmaker and a leading figure in Mexico’s mural movement. Active predominantly in Mexico City, from 1927 to 1934 Orozco lived and worked in the United States, where he completed several important commissions. More interested in the human condition than in politics per se, he painted in a highly Expressionistic style that influenced many younger muralists.

  • Orpen, William (Irish, 1878–1931)

    A portrait painter known for being a child prodigy, Orpen was an official British war artist during the First World War. At age eleven, Orpen attended Dublin’s School of Art and, at seventeen, entered the Slade School of Fine Art in London, where he trained with Henry Tonks and gained the attention of John Singer Sargent. Orpen depicted many of the senior military and political officials of his time.

  • Orphism

    French poet and critic Guillaume Apollinaire conceived the term “Orphism” around 1912 in reference to the abstract paintings of Robert Delaunay. It is a modern art form aligned with early Cubism, yet distinct from it in its harmonious use of colour. The term alludes to the ancient Greek poet and musician Orpheus and refers to the musical quality associated with Orphism.

  • Ostiguy, Jean-René (Canadian, 1925–2016)

    An art historian and curator of Canadian art at the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, from 1965 to 1986, who specialized in Canadian and particularly Québécois modernism. His publications include monographs on Adrien Hébert and Ozias Leduc, and a survey of modern art in Quebec.

  • Ostrom, Walter (American/Canadian, b.1944)

    A Binghamton, New York-born ceramic artist known for his elaborate, innovative sculptures and ceramic objects that often take on hybridized forms and address mythology themes as well as social and political issues. He taught at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (now NSCAD University) from 1969 to 2008, where he is Professor Emeritus of the ceramics department.

  • Ottawa Art Gallery

    Founded in 1988, the Ottawa Art Gallery (OAG) is a not-for-profit public gallery with a permanent collection of more than 1,600 artworks. Specializing in exhibitions that represent regional artists within national and global contexts, the gallery expanded its exhibition space in 2018 with a new purpose-built museum. The OAG holds one of the most significant collections of works by Group of Seven member A.Y. Jackson.

  • Ouspensky, P.D. (Russian, 1878–1947)

    A mathematician and philosopher who was also an influential figure in London literary circles and the Russian avant-garde during the 1920s and 1930s. Today Ouspensky is primarily associated with the mystic George Gurdjieff, whose ideas he helped spread through publications and lectures after their first meeting in 1915. His books were very influential among artists for their understanding of metaphysics.

  • Owens Art Gallery

    Owens Art Gallery is associated with Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick. It was originally founded in 1884 in Saint Johns, New Brunswick, as the Owens Art Institution, but the collection was transferred to Mount Allison University in 1893. In the early years, the collection was used to provide examples for copying to art students at the university. After becoming the Owens Art Gallery in 1972, the gallery began to actively develop its collection of works by Canadian and international artists.

  • Ozenfant, Amédée (French, 1886–1966)

    An important and active figure in French modernism, associated particularly with the Purist movement. Alongside his work as a painter, Ozenfant founded journals, schools, and art studios dedicated to modern art with contemporaries such as Le Corbusier and Fernand Léger. He exhibited widely throughout his life, including at the landmark 1911 Salon des Indépendants in Paris.

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