- 1928-1989 (Creation)
Level of description
Extent and medium
8.5 cm of textual records and other material
Name of creator
The Tovell family of Toronto, in particular Harold Murchison Tovell (1887-1947), Ruth Massey Tovell (1889-1961) and their son Vincent Massey Tovell (b. 1922), was active in art circles in Toronto for several decades following the First World War. Harold Tovell and Ruth Massey married in 1910 and in 1913-1914 travelled in Europe, visiting the major art galleries. Returning to Toronto, they lived on the eastern edge of the city in Dentonia Park, the Massey estate, until 1936 when they moved to the city centre. The Tovells built a collection of works by Canadian and European artists. In France in 1926 they met French painter Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) through their friend American author and artist Walter Pach (1883-1958). In 1928 they purchased a painting by Duchamp’s older half-brother Jacques Villon (1875-1963) at an exhibition in New York. They met Jacques and Gaby Villon in Paris in 1930 and corresponded with them until the 1960s. The Villons befriended Vincent who visited them in France in the years before the Second World War. From 1941 to 1947, the Tovells lived near Port Hope, Ontario. After her husband’s death, Mrs Tovell returned to live in Toronto. Harold and Ruth Tovell had three other sons: Walter (b. 1916), a geologist and Director of the Royal Ontario Museum 1972-1975, Freeman (b. 1918), diplomat and historian, and Harold (1919-2002), a physician. They bequeathed many of their artworks to the Royal Ontario Museum, the National Gallery of Canada and the Art Gallery of Ontario.
Name of creator
Name of creator
Immediate source of acquisition or transfer
Donated by Vincent Tovell in 1992.
Content and structure area
Scope and content
Fonds consists chiefly of correspondence received by Harold Murchison Tovell, Ruth Massey Tovell and Vincent Tovell, most notably from their friends the French artist Jacques Villon and his wife Gaby from 1928 to 1962. Other correspondence concerns the lending and donation of family artworks. Also included are catalogues for exhibitions of the works of Jacques Villon and his brother Raymond Duchamp-Villon as well as inventories and photographs of Tovell family artworks and furnishings. The fonds comprises ca. 83 items. Fonds is comprised of the following series: 1. Harold Murchison Tovell correspondence 2. Ruth Massey Tovell correspondence 3. Vincent Tovell correspondence 4. Jacques Villon exhibition correspondence 5. Jacques Villon exhibition catalogues 6. Tovell collection photographs 7. Tovell collection inventories
Appraisal, destruction and scheduling
No further accruals are expected.
System of arrangement
Conditions of access and use area
Conditions governing access
Open. Access to Special Collections is by appointment only. Please contact the reference desk for more information.
Conditions governing reproduction
Copyright is held by the creator or his heirs. Copyright belonging to other parties, such as that of photographs, may still rest with the creator of these items.
Language of material
Script of material
Language and script notes
Physical characteristics and technical requirements
Allied materials area
Existence and location of originals
Existence and location of copies
Related units of description
Includes 4 photographs, 2 prints and 1 pressed flower.
Previously known as Tovell Family papers.
Tovell family correspondent Jacques Villon, French cubist painter and graphic artist, was born Gaston Emile Duchamp on July 31, 1875, in Damville, Normandy. He adopted the name Jacques Villon in 1895. Villon died on June 9, 1963 in Puteaux, a suburb of Paris, at the age of eighty-seven. The Art Gallery of Ontario holds 15 works by Villon.