Get to know Canada through its masterpieces. We highlight not only the nation’s most beloved artworks, but also incredible lesser-known gems that deserve a closer look. Enjoy these short and scintillating descriptions from art historians, curators, and visual culture experts across the country.

  • On the March

    Alex Colville’s Infantry, Near Nijmegen, Holland, 1946, sets the stage for his later work

    By Ray Cronin
  • Diving into Controversy

    With The Bather, 1930, Prudence Heward refused to idealize her female subject

    By Julia Skelly
  • Apocalypse Ontario

    Satire, religion, and nuclear disaster combine in William Kurelek’s This Is the Nemesis, 1965

    By Andrew Kear
  • Lost at Sea

    Joyce Wieland plays with drama and disaster in Boat Tragedy, 1964

    By Johanne Sloan
  • No Way In

    Françoise Sullivan’s Blocked Phone Booth (Cabine téléphonique bloquée), 1978–79

    By Annie Gérin
  • Approaching Totality

    Paterson Ewen finds a new medium in, Solar Eclipse, 1971

    By John G. Hatch
  • Save the Seals

    General Idea picture themselves as pups to comment on the AIDS crisis in Fin de siècle, 1990

    By Sarah E. K. Smith
  • Wind and Rain

    Paterson Ewen draws on the symbolic force of water in Coastline with Precipitation, 1975

    By John G. Hatch
  • Otherworldly Waters

    Homer Watson creates a mystic landscape in Moonlit Stream, 1933

    By Brian Foss
  • His Sign of the Times

    Greg Curnoe cries foul in The True North Strong and Free, #1–5, 1968

    By Judith Rodger
  • Beautiful Beasts

    Shuvinai Ashoona presents an extraordinary scene in Hunting Monster, 2015

    By Nancy G. Campbell
  • Turbulent Force

    Norval Morrisseau invokes traditional beliefs and personal struggle in Water Spirit, 1972

    By Carmen Robertson
  • Dynamic New Beauty

    Kathleen Munn’s ambitious modernism animates The Dance, c.1923

    By Georgiana Uhlyarik
  • Winter Pageantry

    William Notman makes a crowd come to life in Skating Carnival, Victoria Rink, Montreal, 1870

    By Sarah Parsons
  • On Equal Ground

    Molly Lamb Bobak documents her fellow servicewoman in Private Roy, Canadian Women’s Army Corps, 1946

    By Michelle Gewurtz
  • A Window to the Past

    William Kurelek’s Reminiscences of Youth, 1968, opens one memory into another

    By Andrew Kear
  • Inside and Out

    Lionel LeMoine FitzGerald finds harmony in From an Upstairs Window, Winter, c.1950–51

    By Michael Parke-Taylor
  • Classically Modern

    Prudence Heward captures the spirit of an age in Girl on a Hill, 1928

    By Julia Skelly
  • Mystical Harmony

    In Northern Lights Septet No. 3, 1985, Gershon Iskowitz’s dramatic colours take a monumental turn

    By Ihor Holubizky
  • A Lively Tussle

    Oviloo Tunnillie animates stone in Dogs Fighting, c.1975

    By Darlene Coward Wight
  • The Artist’s Muse

    Ozias Leduc’s Erato (Muse in the Forest), c.1906

    By Laurier Lacroix
  • A New Way of Painting

    Jock Macdonald seeks the infinite in Fall (Modality 16), 1937

    By Joyce Zemans
  • Ticker-tape and Tragedy

    Harold Town’s Festival, 1965, evokes wild nights and cosmic depths

    By Gerta Moray
  • The Great Canadian Escape

    Rat Life and Diet in North America, 1968, portrays Joyce Wieland’s take on the Vietnam War

    By Johanne Sloan
  • An age of perfect happiness

    In 1910 Remembered, 1962, Jean Paul Lemieux revisits his youth

    By Michèle Grandbois
  • A Force of Nature

    Paul Kane explores a Romantic wilderness in The Cackabakah Falls, c.1849–1856

    By Arlene Gehmacher
  • Beyond the Horizons

    Shuvinai Ashoona collaborates with John Noestheden to create Earth and Sky (detail), 2008

    By Nancy G. Campbell
  • The Spiritual Landscape

    Real and abstract meet in The St. Lawrence, 1931, by Bertram Brooker

    By James King
  • Power, Myth, and Politics

    Zacharie Vincent evokes the origin story of the Wendat chiefs in Head of a Moose, from Nature, c.1855

    By Louise Vigneault
  • A Painter of Doon

    In A Coming Storm in the Adirondacks, 1879, Homer Watson enters the American landscape

    By Brian Foss
  • Heroic Hues

    Yves Gaucher’s harmony in Two Blues, Two Greys, 1976

    By Roald Nasgaard
  • Suspended Moments

    Jack Chambers stops time in his unfinished painting Lunch, 1969

    By Mark A. Cheetham
  • By Habitat and Size

    Louis Nicolas’s, Birds, n.d., captures the natural world

    By François-Marc Gagnon
  • Forms in Flight

    Gershon Iskowitz’s Autumn Landscape #2, 1967, turns to an abstract sky

    By Ihor Holubizky
  • Repainting History

    Robert Houle’s Kanata, 1992, Nishnaabe waabdaan (“our people will witness it”)

    By Shirley Madill
  • Sculpting in Paint

    The Russian modernism of Paraskeva Clark’s Wheat Field, 1936

    By Christine Boyanoski
  • A Study in Harmony

    Ozias Leduc’s Boy with Bread, 1892–99, visualizes both sound and time

    By Laurier Lacroix
  • An Arcadian Canada

    Lionel LeMoine FitzGerald’s idyllic vision of Manitoba, Summer Afternoon, The Prairie, 1921

    By Michael Parke-Taylor
  • The Artist in Action

    Oviloo Tunnillie’s creative process revealed in Self-Portrait with Carving Stone, 1998

    By Darlene Coward Wight
  • Seasonal Abundance

    Helen McNicoll captures the bustle of a French village scene in Marketplace, 1910

    By Samantha Burton
  • Graphic Aftermath

    Oscar Cahén’s cover illustration for Hiroshima, 1946, foregrounds the human costs of war

    By Jaleen Grove
  • Mouthing the Words

    Joyce Wieland kisses her way through the national anthem in O Canada, 1970

    By Johanne Sloan
  • Personal Myth

    In Legend of the Woman Who Turned into a Narwhal, c.1974, Inuit artist Pitseolak Ashoona builds a biography from a traditional tale

    By Christine Lalonde
  • Wrapped in Tradition

    Homer Watson’s studio frieze, 1893–1894, catalogues the artists he most admired

    By Brian Foss
  • Abstract Harmony

    Music provides the energy that animates Bertram Brooker’s Sounds Assembling, 1928

    By James King
  • Racing Colours

    Greg Curnoe’s beloved bicycle is the subject of Mariposa 10 Speed No. 2, 1973

    By Judith Rodger
  • The Artist’s Reflection

    Huron-Wendat artist Zacharie Vincent likely saw himself in his image of Tecumseh, Huron, n.d.

    By Louise Vigneault
  • Building a Reputation

    Framework of Tube and Staging Looking In, Victoria Bridge, 1859, helped launch the career of Montreal photographer William Notman

    By Sarah Parsons
  • Flying High

    Soaring over the Manitoba landscape, Gershon Iskowitz found the basis for the unique style of Lowlands No. 9, 1970

    By Ihor Holubizky
  • Echoes of the Divine

    The political meets the spiritual in Saulteaux artist Robert Houle’s Morningstar, 1999

    By Shirley Madill
  • Fired Up

    Tom Thomson captures the magic of a bright sky and blazing clouds in Sunset, 1915

    By David P. Silcox
  • New York All Over

    Painted in Paris, Blossoming, 1956, reveals Paul-Émile Borduas’s American style

    By François-Marc Gagnon
  • Memory Blooms

    Wild Flowers of Canada: Impressions and Sketches of a Field Artist (1978) is Molly Lamb Bobak’s illustrated autobiography

    By Michelle Gewurtz
  • Harmonious Hues

    Rich colour and rising lines give Yves Gaucher’s Blue Raga, 1967, its tone and mood

    By Roald Nasgaard
  • Self-Made

    William Kurelek makes his intentions clear in Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, 1950

    By Andrew Kear
  • A Dynamic Contribution

    Zig-zagging bodies show the drama on a war’s home front in Paraskeva Clark’s Parachute Riggers, 1947

    By Christine Boyanoski
  • A Haunting Figure

    Jean Paul Lemieux finds a new way of seeing his Quebecois home in The Evening Visitor, 1956

    By Michèle Grandbois
  • A Patron’s Painting

    Paul Kane created The Buffalo Pound, c.1846–1849, for Hudson’s Bay Company governor Sir George Simpson

    By Arlene Gehmacher
  • Twisting Symbols

    Anishinaabe artist Norval Morrisseau puts his own meaning into Self-Portrait Devoured by Demons, 1964

    By Carmen Robertson
  • Super Heroes and City Lights

    Harold Town’s Day Neon, 1953, mixes modern art and pop culture references

    By Gerta Moray
  • A Gift for the Queen

    When British royalty took notice of Homer Watson’s The Pioneer Mill, 1880, it launched his career with a subject that hit close to home

    By Brian Foss
  • Life on Ice

    Rink Theme—Skaters, 1969, is Molly Lamb Bobak’s dynamic interpretation of an everyday scene

    By Michelle Gewurtz
  • Portrait of Vulnerability

    Paterson Ewen’s Bandaged Man, 1973, reveals the artist’s inner state

    By John G. Hatch
  • Colour as Subject

    Pigment comes alive in Painters Eleven member Oscar Cahén’s Small Combo, c.1954

    By Jaleen Grove
  • Learning to See

    Critics at the time struggled to understand Paul-Émile Borduas’s Study for Torso or No. 14, 1942

    By François-Marc Gagnon
  • Separated at Birth

    Françoise Sullivan sees past and present in Portraits of People Who Resemble One Another, 1971

    By Annie Gérin
  • A Defiant Gaze

    A rural girl shows modern poise in Prudence Heward’s Rollande, 1929

    By Julia Skelly
  • The Ordinary made Extraordinary

    With Doc Snyder’s House, 1931, Lionel LeMoine FitzGerald gave a modest house monumental presence

    By Michael Parke-Taylor
  • Tundra Landscape

    Shuvinai Ashoona brings inspiration and insight to her Cape Dorset Composition (Community with Six Houses), 2004–2005

    By Nancy G. Campbell
  • Stitching Activism into Art

    Joyce Wieland’s The Water Quilt, 1970–1971, comments on environmental fragility

    By Johanne Sloan
  • Mythical Beasts of North America

    Why Louis Nicolas depicted Unicorn of the Red Sea, n.d., in his seventeenth-century drawing of the new world

    By François-Marc Gagnon
  • Art and Commerce

    General Idea mixes commentary and commercials in Test Tube, 1979

    By Sarah E.K. Smith
  • Shattered Space

    Harold Town turns broken ornaments into dazzling abstraction in Silent Light No. 11, 1968–69

    By Gerta Moray
  • Picturing Empire

    Paul Kane paints the Hudson’s Bay Company fur trade in Fort Edmonton, c.1849–56

    By Arlene Gehmacher
  • Healing Through Memory

    In Sandy Bay, 1998–99, Saulteaux artist Robert Houle conjures his past

    By Shirley Madill
  • A Foreboding Family Reunion

    Impending dooms unsettles William Kurelek’s In the Autumn of Life, 1964

    By Andrew Kear
  • In Isolation

    Human suffering is Bertram Brooker’s subject in The Recluse, 1939

    By James King
  • Secret Revealed

    Kathleen Munn’s Untitled I, c.1926–28, was originally part of a larger work

    By Georgiana Uhlyarik
  • Spiritual Self-Portrait

    Norval Morrisseau charts his creative evolution in Man Changing into Thunderbird, 1977

    By Carmen Robertson
  • Ready to Play

    William Notman’s photograph St. Regis Lacrosse Club, 1867, documents a Mohawk team and a sport’s promotion

    By Sarah Parsons
  • Personal Hue

    Greg Curnoe takes his palette for a spin with Large Colour Wheel, 1980

    By Judith Rodger
  • Old Methods, New Forms

    In Asagao, 1961, Montreal artist Yves Gaucher innovates in printmaking

    By Roald Nasgaard
  • The Feline and the Future

    Alex Colville’s Black Cat, 1996, balances between the known and unknown

    By Ray Cronin
  • An Artist Takes Flight

    Pitseolak Ashoona’s Untitled (Birds Flying Overhead), c.1966–67

    By Christine Lalonde
  • Luminous Immersion

    Helen McNicoll’s The Little Worker, c.1907, connects viewers to its young subject

    By Samantha Burton
  • A Change in Palette

    Tom Thomson breaks free of convention in Cranberry Marsh, 1916

    By David P. Silcox
  • Crafting Tradition

    Snowshoe Maker, by 19th-century Huron-Wendat artist Zacharie Vincent

    By Louise Vigneault
  • Exquisite Abstraction

    In Nature Evolving, 1960, Jock Macdonald’s ideas about art come to life

    By Joyce Zemans
  • Garden Sisters

    Jean Paul Lemieux’s The Ursuline Nuns, 1951, is a portrait of traditional Quebec

    By Michèle Grandbois
  • One of the 5 Greatest Films

    Jack Chambers’s Hart of London, 1968–70, is an experimental tour de force

    By Mark A. Cheetham
  • The Art of Confidence

    Paraskeva Clark’s Myself, 1933, signals a grand entrance into Canadian art

    By Christine Boyanoski
  • Poodle Party

    General Idea’s Mondo Cane Kama Sutra, 1984, is a subversive take on representing queer identity 

    By Sarah E.K. Smith
  • Frieze Fantastic

    Oscar Cahén’s Multi-part Mural for the Imperial Oil Executive Office Building, 1956, brought modernist style to corporate space

    By Jaleen Grove
  • Ecstatic Vision

    The crystalline forms of Kathleen Munn’s Descent from the Cross, c.1934–35, bring a traditional subject into the 20th century

    By Georgiana Uhlyarik
  • The Art of Looking

    With his iconic painting To Prince Edward Island, 1965, Alex Colville explores ways that we see

    By Ray Cronin
  • Black for White and Dark for Light

    Why Paul-Émile Borduas’s The Black Star, 1957, is an abstract masterpiece

    By François-Marc Gagnon
  • Sacred Names

    Robert Houle reclaims Manitoba in Muhnedobe uhyahyuk (Where the gods are present), 1989

    By Shirley Madill
  • In the Act of Looking

    Artful Edwardian tourists in Helen McNicoll’s Sunny September, 1913

    By Samantha Burton
  • The Artist as an Old Man

    Jean Paul Lemieux’s Self-portrait, 1974, captures the artist’s feelings about the passage of time

    By Michèle Grandbois
  • First and Last Image

    How William Notman’s photo Mrs. Hillard’s Dead Baby, 1868, lovingly documented loss

    By Sarah Parsons
  • A Painter’s Last Painting

    Yves Gaucher’s Yellow, Blue & Red IV (Jaune, bleu & rouge IV), 1999

    By Roald Nasgaard
  • Elegy for an Art Critic

    Harold Town pays homage with In Memory of Pearl McCarthy, 1964

    By Gerta Moray
  • Inside Looking Out

    The Little Plant, 1947, by Lionel LeMoine FitzGerald 

    By Michael Parke-Taylor
  • A Catalogue of Wonders

    In drawings like Plants, Louis Nicolas recorded the early days of colonial contact in New France

    By François-Marc Gagnon
  • Arctic Trails

    Pitseolak Ashoona’s Summer Camp Scene, c.1974, encapsulates the season

    By Christine Lalonde
  • Punch and Politics

    The power of puppets in Paraskeva Clark’s Petroushka, 1937

    By Christine Boyanoski
  • Portrait of Controversy

    Paul Kane’s Flat Head Woman and Child, Caw-wacham (c.1849–52)

    By Arlene Gehmacher
  • Running in the Family

    Zacharie Vincent’s Zacharie Vincent and His Son Cyprien, c.1851

    By Louise Vigneault
  • Sublime Highway

    The perceptual “wow moment” of Jack Chambers’s 401 Towards London No. 1, 1968–69

    By Mark A. Cheetham
  • A Lunar Vision

    Shadows and illuminations in Paterson Ewen’s Gibbous Moon, 1980

    By John G. Hatch
  • Artful Terror

    Creatures break free in Shuvinai Ashoona’s Composition (Attack of the Tentacle Monsters), 2015

    By Nancy G. Campbell
  • New Frontier

    Tongue in cheek, ink in hand, Greg Curnoe redraws borders in his Map of North America, 1972

    By Judith Rodger
  • Kaleidoscope Grazing

    Kathleen Munn’s Cows on a Hillside, c.1916

    By Georgiana Uhlyarik
  • Cosmic Inspiration

    Jock Macdonald’s Etheric Form, 1936

    By Joyce Zemans
  • Wholesome Taboo

    General Idea’s Nazi Milk, 1979

    By Sarah E.K. Smith
  • Spiritual Awakening

    Norval Morrisseau’s Observations of the Astral World, c.1994

    By Carmen Robertson
  • Cover Story

    Oscar Cahén’s Maclean’s illustration, 1952, satirizes Canadian art 

    By Jaleen Grove
  • Independent Spirits

    Prudence Heward’s At the Theatre documents new female freedom

    By Julia Skelly
  • Eye of the Storm

    Tom Thomson’s Approaching Snowstorm, 1915, captures nature’s fury

    By David P. Silcox
Download Download