Submitted by Regina Virgo, Department of Museum Volunteers
On our ROMwalk tour of the western section of South Rosedale, we’ll descend into the Rosedale Ravine via Park Road, originally a corduroy road constructed by Sheriff William Botsford Jarvis to make the trip to Rosedale more convenient and facilitate sales of his Rose Park subdivision lots.
Off to the west of Park Road is a 3-storey red brick building which has an industrial appearance with its flat roof and six large, multi-paned factory windows. This is the earliest purpose-built artist studio in Canada. The Studio Building was designed by architect Eden Smith in 1913 and built in 1914. It was financed by Canadian art patron Dr. James MacCallum and Lawren Harris, a painter and member of the wealthy Harris family of the agricultural equipment maker Massey-Harris Co. Ltd. The Studio Building contains six studios which were made available to artists needing a live/work space. The northern exposure provides the even, natural, neutral light preferred by painters.
The Studio Building is synonymous with the Group of Seven, a group of Canadian landscape painters from 1920 to 1933, originally consisting of Franklin Carmichael, Lawren Harris, A. Y. Jackson, Frank Johnston, Arthur Lismer, J. E. H. MacDonald and Frederick Varley. The Group of Seven believed that a distinct Canadian art could be developed through direct contact with nature. A number of the group lived and painted here at various times. Also associated with the Studio Building was painter Tom Thomson, who had a significant influence on the Group of Seven but died before its official formation. Thomson, who during his lifetime would never earn enough to make a living from painting alone, often could not afford even the low rent at the Studio Building and since he preferred the wilderness to a studio space, lived and worked in a shack behind the Studio. This shack can now be seen on the grounds of the McMichael Gallery in Kleinberg
The Studio Building was designated a national historic site of Canada in 2004.
The next ROM Walk through historic Rosedale is on Wednesday, July 11. Download a copy of the ROMwalk brochure (PDF) for the full schedule.