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A gift from Doris


by Kurt Kleiner

When celebrated Canadian artist Doris McCarthy died almost a year ago, she left most of her papers and many of her paintings to UTSC. Archivists and curators have been hard at work organizing the material, which will form the most extensive McCarthy archive anywhere in the world.

The archive contains 6,000 photos, 8,000 slides and nine linear meters of documents, including letters, postcards, personal journals and other papers. The gift also included 220 of McCarthy’s artworks.

“She has a huge number of fans. Lots of people call regularly to view her work,” says Katrina Enros, collections coordinator at UTSC’s Doris McCarthy Gallery. The McCarthy Gallery will house the paintings, while the archive will be maintained by the UTSC Libarary.

McCarthy was born in Calgary but spent most of her life studying and teaching in Toronto. She studied under Arthur Lismer and J.E.H. MacDonald, two members of the Group of Seven, and her art is well-known for its depictions of northern landscapes. She received the Order of Canada in 1987 and graduated from UTSC with an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Literature in 1989, at the age of 79.

Enros says that the paintings are being stored in climate-controlled conditions and will be available to art historians and students by appointment, and will also be available for loan to other institutions. Eventually, a permanent gallery to display the works is planned.

Elizabeth O’Brien, acting head librarian, says that the archive will make UTSC the most important centre for scholars interested in McCarthy’s life and will also be a resource for art historians and others interested in Canadian art in general.

Archivist Kelli Babcock has spent the last several months sorting through boxes and organizing the records and objects. A summary of the contents runs to 37 single-spaced pages. They include McCarthy’s personal journals, beginning in 1922, as well as personal letters from friends, writers and artists. There are also personal keepsakes such as Christmas cards and family photos, and objects such as the easel she used to paint.

 

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An early photo of Doris McCarthy, from the Collection of the Doris McCarthy Archive, courtesy of the Doris McCarthy Estate
© University of Toronto Scarborough