Canada abounds with as much amazing art as it has natural beauty. Not surprisingly, some of the most well-known pieces are landscapes by the country’s iconic Group of Seven, while works by indigenous artists that celebrate life on this land provide a unique perspective of place and time.
Public galleries offer top-notch exhibitions and there's even a region you can visit in the province of Quebec that has inspired some of this country’s most evocative work. Starting on the West Coast and ending on the East Coast, here are ten places you shouldn't miss.
Vancouver Art Gallery | Vancouver, B.C.
The permanent collection of more than 10,000 pieces features outstanding paintings by Emily Carr. And not to be missed are the photo-conceptual works by distinguished Vancouver-based artists Jeff Wall, Stan Douglas and Ian Wallace.
Art Gallery of Alberta | Edmonton, Alta.
The Art Gallery of Alberta (AGA) was established in 1924 and has grown to house a collection of over 6,000 objects. Continuous contemporary and historical exhibitions feature paintings, sculpture, installations and photography from Canada, as well as the rest of the world.
The snazzy AGA building is a piece of art itself, designed by Los Angeles-based Randall Stout Architects, Inc. (who won a global architectural competition). It was completed in 2010.
Winnipeg Art Gallery | Winnipeg
The WAG, founded in 1912, owns nearly 24,000 works of art, from 15th-century European paintings to 21st-century American multimedia.
This impressive gallery also has the largest public collection of contemporary Inuit art in the world with more than 10,730 pieces. Decorative art, including ceramic, metal, glass and textiles, as well as an extensive photography collection round out its offerings.
McMichael Canadian Art Collection | Kleinburg, Ont.
A 45-minute drive from Toronto, this gallery owns more than 6,400 artworks by Tom Thomson, the Group of Seven, First Nations and their contemporaries. Of special interest are 100,000 works on paper from the Inuit community of Cape Dorset.
The tranquil location on 100 acres offers outdoor paths to the Ivan Eyre Sculpture Garden, the Tom Thomson shack and a cemetery where six Group of Seven members are buried.
Art Gallery of Ontario | Toronto
The Art Gallery of Ontario was redesigned by Toronto-born architect Frank Gehry in 2008, and one of the most interesting areas is the Galleria Italia where a glass façade floats over a ribbed wooden frame resembling an overturned canoe.
Home to more than 90,000 works of art, the AGO has one of the largest collections of Canadian art in the country. Don’t miss the Henry Moore sculptures and works by the Group of Seven, including Lawren Harris, a favorite of comedian Steve Martin.
National Gallery of Canada | Ottawa
Close to the Canadian Parliament buildings, this glass and granite gallery opened in 1988 and was designed by Moshe Safdie. As implied by its name, the gallery has a focus on Canadian art, but also displays pieces by American and European artists, including Andy Warhol.
In the Canadian collection are superb pieces by Canadian greats like Louis-Philippe Hébert, Tom Thomson, the Group of Seven, Emily Carr, and Alex Colville. Outside, a giant spider, Louise Bourgeois's Maman, guards the entrance.
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts | Montreal
Montreal's largest museum was founded in 1860 and has a collection of more than 41,000 paintings, sculptures, graphic arts, photographs and decorative art objects. The awe-inspiring Claire and Marc Bourgie Pavilion features Quebec and Canadian art, and includes a 444-seat concert hall with windows of Tiffany stained glass.
Entrance to Atelier Galerie Daniel Froment in Baie-Saint-Paul — Photo courtesy of Maureen Littlejohn
Revered French Canadian artists such as Jean Paul Lemieux, Clarence Gagnon and René Richard fell in love with this area and immortalized it with their brushstrokes. Painted, photographed, written about in prose and music, Charlevoix’s landscapes nurture the soul.
At the heart of the action is the town of Baie-Saint-Paul with its many galleries and studios. Some not to miss are Galerie D'art Diamant, Maison Rene Richard, Galerie d’art Iris, Atelier Galerie Daniel Froment and Galerie d’art Beauchamp.
Beaverbrook Art Gallery | Fredericton, N.B.
Gifted to the people of New Brunswick by Lord Beaverbrook (Sir Max Aitken), the gallery opened to the public in 1959. Focusing on British and Canadian works, the collection includes Pre-Raphaelite paintings as well as those by Canadian artists including Cornelius Krieghoff, Group of Seven, Christopher Pratt, and Bruno Bobak.
Art Gallery of Nova Scotia | Halifax, N.S.
With locations in downtown Halifax and Yarmouth, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia is the largest art museum in Atlantic Canada. The gallery opened in 1908 and its permanent collection holds more than 17,000 works, a highlight of which is the Maud Lewis House and Gallery.