Sam and Ayala Zacks were prominent Canadian art collectors of international repute active in the mid-20th century whose gifts form the basis of the modern European art collection at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Ayala Ben Tovim Fleg Zacks Abramov (1912-) was born in Jerusalem and educated in Israel, Paris and London. In 1938 she married Maurice Fleg in Paris, and joined the French Resistance after her husband died in action in1940. Active in Zionist circles after the war, she met Sam Zacks in Switzerland. Samuel J. Zacks (1904-1970) was a financier, Zionist and art collector, born in Kingston Ontario and educated at Queen’s University and Harvard. Following their marriage in 1947 they immediately began to collect art of the School of Paris as well as Canadian and Israeli art and antiquities, amassing an extensive collection by the late 1950’s that was in continual demand by museums around the world. In 1956 a collection of Canadian art was donated to Queen’s University, Mr. Zack’s alma mater, the first of many significant gifts to institutions in Israel and Canada including the Hazor Archaeological Museum, the Royal Ontario Museum and the Art Gallery of Ontario. Mr. and Mrs. Zacks were both involved in international art circles, sitting on the Boards of the International Committee of Museums (ICOM), a branch of UNESCO, the International Committee of the Museum of Modern Art, the Art Gallery of Ontario and others. In 1969 Mr. Zacks received an Honourary Fellowship from St. Peter’s College, Oxford. He died in 1970 in Toronto. After his death, Ayala Zacks was awarded the Order of Canada and an honourary degree from the University of Toronto. She married Zalman Abramov, an Israeli lawyer and politician in 1976 and moved permanently to Israel in 1982.
The Art Institute of Ontario (AIO) was incorporated in 1951 to circulate art exhibitions, lecturers, and instructional programmes to venues in smaller communities. The idea of an art institute had been discussed informally as early as 1948, and the Art Gallery of Toronto had organized circulating exhibitions. The AIO was formed when a grant from the Ontario Department of Education made it possible to sponsor a travelling exhibition throughout the province. Later grants from the Atkinson Foundation, the Canada Council, and the Province of Ontario Council for the Arts supported AIO’s operations. The AIO was an alliance of several Ontario visual arts institutions and organizations. Its founding members were the Art Gallery of Hamilton, Art Gallery of Toronto (now Art Gallery of Ontario), Hart House (University of Toronto), London Public Library & Art Museum, National Gallery of Canada, Ontario Association of Architects, Ontario Society of Artists, Royal Ontario Museum, Willistead Library and Art Gallery (Windsor) and the Windsor Art Association. The AIO maintained close ties with the Art Gallery of Ontario throughout its existence. It was absorbed into the extension programme of the AGO in 1968.
Gilbert Forrest Bagnani (1900-1985) was a professor of ancient history. He was born in Rome to General Ugo Bagnani and Florence Dewar. He served as a Second Lieutenant of artillery towards the end of World War I. After the War he returned to the University of Rome where he received his doctorate. Instead of entering law as he had planned, he turned to the Italian School of Archaeology in Athens to study antiquities. In 1929 Gilbert married Mary Augusta Stewart Houston (1903-1996) of Toronto, daughter of Stewart Houston (editor of "The Financial Post") and Augusta Robinson (daughter of John Beverley Robinson, Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario, and granddaughter of Sir John Beverley Robinson, Chief Justice and Attorney-General of Upper Canada). Gilbert and Stewart had an apartment in Rome and for seven seasons worked, in the Sahara Desert, with the Royal Archaeological Mission to Egypt. In 1937 they fled fascist Italy and purchased a 200 acre farm and house built around 1845 near Port Hope, Ontario and named it "Vogrie". In 1945 Gilbert was invited to teach ancient history at the University of Toronto and in 1958 became a Professor. He retired from the University of Toronto in 1965. The Bagnanis returned to "Vogrie". In the same year, Gilbert was asked to accept a term-appointment at Trent University. He was honoured with a LL.D. by Trent in 1971 and he continued to teach as a Professor of Ancient History until 1975.
Mary Augusta Stewart Houston Bagnani (1903–1996), known after marriage as Stewart Bagnani, was an administrator at the Art Gallery of Toronto (now the Art Gallery of Ontario) and a lecturer in fine art. Born in Toronto of a distinguished family, she was the daughter of Stewart Fielde Houston (1868–1910), manager of Massey Hall in Toronto and first editor of The Financial Post. Her mother was Augusta Louise Beverley (Robinson) Houston (1859–1935), daughter of Mary Jane (Hagerman) Robinson (1823– 1892) and John Beverley Robinson (1821–1896), mayor of Toronto (1856), member of Parliament in Ottawa (1872–1880) and Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario (1880–1887). Augusta Robinson was one of five children: John Beverley, Napier, Christopher, Minnie Caroline (d. 1923; from 1881 Mrs William Forsyth Grant) and Augusta herself (from 1898, Mrs Stewart Fielde Houston). Stewart Bagnani’s greatgrandfather was Sir John Beverley Robinson (1791–1863), Chief Justice of Canada West (now Ontario) from 1829 to 1862. (Mary Augusta) Stewart Houston attended school in England and in Toronto (Bishop Strachan School), and later studied art history in Rome, where she met Gilbert Bagnani.
After her marriage to Dr Bagnani in Toronto in 1929, Stewart Bagnani worked beside her husband in the excavations at Tebtunis entrusted to the Royal Italian Archaeological Expedition in Egypt of which Dr Bagnani was director. On site, she drew and painted watercolours (now at Trent University) of early Coptic church frescoes, and recorded observations of excavation workers and of local customs to accompany Dr Bagnani’s photographs. When Gilbert and Stewart Bagnani moved to Canada in 1937, they worked at enlarging the farmhouse on their estate Vogrie to accommodate collections of books and works of art. In the 1950s, a mural was commissioned for a room in the house from Canadian artist William Ronald (1926–1998) of the Painters Eleven. In 1951, while her husband was teaching at the University of Toronto, Mrs Bagnani became head of Extension at the Art Gallery of Toronto, a position she held until 1963. When Dr Bagnani accepted a post at Trent University in Peterborough, Ont. in 1965, Mrs Bagnani gave lectures there on fine art, worked on promoting the Mackenzie Gallery at the university and volunteered at Kingston (Ont.) Penitentiary. A pamphlet and transcripts of two lectures by Stewart Bagnani are in the library collection of the AGO.
After her husband died in 1985, Stewart Bagnani lived in Toronto until her death in 1996 at the age of 93. She was buried with her husband Gilbert in Cobourg (Ont.).
Iain Baxter, Canadian conceptual artist, was born in 1936 in Middlesbrough, England, and moved to Calgary, Alberta with his family one year later. While studying biology at the University of Idaho, Baxter met Elaine Hieber, whom he married in 1959. Following studies in the U.S. and Japan, the Baxters moved to Vancouver in 1964, when Iain accepted a teaching position at the University of British Columbia. In subsequent years, he also taught at Simon Fraser University and the Emily Carr College of Art. Early collaborative art ventures culminated in the development of the N.E. Thing Company in 1967. The company functioned as an “aesthetic umbrella,” allowing Iain and his wife to work collaboratively and anonymously to produce a wide range of art forms and projects. The N.E. Thing Co. was formally incorporated in 1969, with Iain Baxter as President and Elaine as Vice President; the two later became co-presidents. Elaine Baxter adopted Ingrid as her preferred name in 1971. Among the company’s projects was the Eye Scream Restaurant, in operation from 1977 to 1978. Following the Baxters’ divorce, the company dissolved in 1978. Iain Baxter returned to Calgary in 1981, where he taught at the Alberta College of Art. For a brief period (1983-84), he was employed as Creative Consultant to the Labatt Brewing Company. Since 1988, Baxter has lived in Windsor, Ontario, where he teaches at the University of Windsor. He married Louise Martin in 1984. Baxter’s work is particularly informed by the ideas of Marshall McLuhan and communications theory. He also cites the art of Giorgio Morandi, Zen Buddhism, and his early studies in biology and ecology as conceptual influences. Baxter has explored a broad range of media and genres, including vacuum-formed plastic, inflated vinyl, telex, polaroid prints, environmental art and multimedia installation. His work is included in the collections of numerous major Canadian and international galleries.
Paul Bennett was hired as the AIO’s first Field Director / Adviser in 1959, and remained in this capacity until 1964. He then became Director, serving until 1968.
John Bernard Boyle (1941- ) is an artist, activist, curator and writer who has lived and worked in St. Catharines, London, Elsinore, and Peterborough, Ontario. He married Janet Perlman, with whom he has one daughter, Emily. Boyle was educated at London Teachers’ College and the University of Western Ontario, and is self-taught as a painter. He taught elementary school in St. Catharines intermittently between 1962 and 1968. In 1974 he moved with his family to a converted church in Elsinore, Ontario (near Owen Sound), where he had his studio until 2002. He is currently based in Peterborough. Boyle began to exhibit his paintings in 1964, the same year he was inspired by meeting London artists including Jack Chambers and Greg Curnoe. In 1966 controversy arose at the London Public Library and Art Museum over Boyle’s exhibited piece Seated Nude. Boyle was an early participant in London’s 20/20 Gallery. In 1972 he designed sets for the play Buffalo Jump at Theatre Passe Muraille, Toronto; that same year he curated the first Billboard Show in St. Catharines. In 1980 Boyle completed the mural Our Knell for Queen Subway Station, Toronto. From 1973 through the 1990s, Boyle exhibited regularly at Nancy Poole’s Studio, Toronto. A key figure among the artist activists who established professional representation and rights for artists in the early 1970s, Boyle was the founding spokesperson of Canadian Artists Representation Ontario (CARO) in 1971. In 1970 he served as the first president of the Niagara Artists Co-operative (later Company). Boyle was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Art Gallery of Ontario, 1975-1977. Boyle has written extensively in journals including 20 Cents Magazine, Parachute, and Twelve Mile Creek. His regular column “According to Boyle” in CAROT (1975-78) dealt with challenges facing artists. Boyle has written three novels, No Angel Came (1995); and the unpublished The Gergovnians and The Peregrinations and Permutations of a Young Artist in Canada. His illustration and book design work includes The Port Dalhousie Stories by Dennis Tourbin (1987), as well as several magazine articles and book jackets. He initiated the discipline of “Canadology” in 1989 to record the social customs of the country. Boyle is a founding member (since 1965) and principal kazooist of The Nihilist Spasm Band. His work is represented in numerous Canadian collections, including the National Gallery, the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
Dr. Yehoshua (Shieky) Brownstone is a photographer in London, Ontario. He was formerly a Professor in the Biochemistry Department at the University of Western Ontario.
John Hamilton Bush (1909–1977), primarily known as Jack Bush, was a Canadian painter best known for his Abstract Expressionist style. Born in Toronto, he lived in London, Ont. and Montreal during his early years. Jack Bush began his career in advertising, working in his father’s firm, Rapid Electro Type Company in Montreal. During this time, he studied at the Art Association of Montreal with Edmund Dyonnet and Adam Sherriff Scott. In 1928, he transferred to the company’s office in Toronto, where he took evening classes under Frederick Challener, John Alfsen and Charles Comfort at the Ontario College of Art. Bush’s early work as a painter was influenced by Comfort and the Group of Seven, and throughout the 1930s and ‘40s he produced largely landscape and figurative paintings. His first exhibition was with the Ontario Society of Artists in Toronto in 1936.
In 1934, Jack Bush married Mabel Mills Teakle, a family friend from Montreal, and together they had three sons, Jack Jr (b. 1936), Robert (b. 1938) and Terry (b. 1942). In 1953, dissatisfied with Canada’s place in the international contemporary art scene, Bush and several other Toronto abstract artists founded the group Painters Eleven. William Ronald, another member of Painters Eleven, and an artist who had worked in New York, introduced U.S. art critic Clement Greenberg to the group, which led to a lasting friendship between Bush and Greenberg. The contact with Greenberg in 1957 led to Bush’s international breakthrough in the early 1960s, beginning with his 1962 exhibition at the Robert Elkon Gallery in New York. Between the late 1950s and mid ‘60s, Bush painted in loose brushstrokes with diluted oils, staining paint onto unprimed canvas. In 1966, concerned by the health hazards associated with oil-based paints, he switched to water-based acrylics, less textured than oils but more brightly coloured.
In 1964, Jack Bush’s work was included in Greenberg’s Post-Painterly Abstraction at the Los Angeles County Museum, an exhibition that travelled to Minneapolis and Toronto. Along with Jacques Hurtubise, Bush represented Canada at the Bienal de São Paulo (Brazil) in 1967. In the year preceding his death in 1977 (from a heart attack), he received the Order of Canada. That same year, the Art Gallery of Ontario mounted a retrospective exhibition of his abstract works that travelled to several Canadian galleries. Jack Bush’s work is in the collections of the Art Gallery of Ontario, the National Gallery of Canada, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, London’s Tate Gallery and others.