Skip to content Skip to main navigation

Sir Daniel Wilson (1816-1892): Ambidextrous Polymath

Painting of village

Sir Daniel Wilson (1816-1892): Ambidextrous Polymath

September 4–November 10, 2001

Curated by Robert Stacey

University of Toronto Art Centre

This major exhibition focuses on the art of the University’s first president, anthropologist Sir Daniel Wilson (1816-1892). Before coming to Toronto from his native Scotland in 1853 (to take up a post as professor of history and English literature at University College) Wilson had worked as an engraver. Guest curator Robert Stacey amassed a great deal of fascinating research on Wilson’s career as a visual artist, and located some outstanding examples of Wilson’s work in engraving.

Once Wilson arrived in Canada, he changed medium, switching from engraving to watercolour, and from city views to painting the North American wilderness on his annual summer canoe trips. The artist’s watercolours are brilliant, jewel-like depictions of these travels.

Wilson was a true, two-handed polymath and renaissance man; not only a gifted artist, he was an historian, ethnologist, poet, literary critic, and museum maker.

Featuring some 150 works, this exhibition is the first opportunity for public viewing of Wilson’s work in Toronto since the memorial 1920 exhibition of his watercolours at the Art Gallery of Ontario. A full-length, full-colour catalogue accompanies the exhibition.

Opening Reception

Tuesday, September 11, 2001, 6-8pm
University of Toronto Art Centre


Our Supporters

We gratefully acknowledge the project support of the Museums Assistance Plan of the Department of Canadian Heritage, The National Archives of Canada, Abraham and Malka Green, H. Donald Guthrie, Q.C., Cassels, Brock & Blackwell, at the University of Toronto: the Office of the Vice-President of Human Resources and Administration, the Offices of the President and Provost, the Office of the Vice-President of Government Relations, the Office of the Vice-President of Advancement, University College, the School of Graduate Studies, the Office of the Dean of Arts and Science, and the Office of the Chief Financial Officer.

Title Image: Sir Daniel Wilson, Marquette, Lake Superior, 1855. Watercolour and pencil on paper. 14 x 23 cm.




Upcoming Exhibitions