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Art with ♥: Valentine’s Day at the AGO

February 4th, 2016

Henry Matisse, La Coeur, date unknown, stencil print on paper, 42.1 x 65 cm. Art Gallery of Ontario, Gift of Mr. Arthur Gelber, 1986

Henry Matisse, La Coeur, date unknown, stencil print on paper, 42.1 x 65 cm. Art Gallery of Ontario, Gift of Mr. Arthur Gelber, 1986

See more (he)artful AGO works on our #ValentinesDay Pinterest Board.

Toronto is loaded with options for Valentine’s Day — spas, restaurants, bars  — but if you’re looking for something unique (or some art to get you through the day), make it a day and night at the gallery, in the company of Frank Stella, Helen Frankenthaler, Christi Belcourt and Henri Matisse.

Share your experiences by tagging #HeartAGO

1. Take the Valentine’s Tour (and the Not-so-Valentine’s Tour)

February 14, 2016, 11am–5:30pm
Artful discussion and themed tours of the AGO’s collection — what’s not to love? In the company of a knowledgeable and engaging AGO Gallery Guide, you’ll visit masterworks that explore themes of romantic love, love of celebrity, love of food, love of nature, break-ups/scorned love, and more. Highlights include works by Alex Colville, Rembrandt, Andy Warhol, and Emily Carr.

1-Hour Highlights Tours (every one is different!): 11am, 12pm, 1pm, 2pm, 3pm. Meet in Walker Court, Level 1 (If you need directions, head to the Info Kiosk at the entrance.)

On the Dot Tours: Quick, 10-minute art chats. Meet in front of the work On the Dot:

11:30am “Soldier and Girl at Station” by Alex Colville, Room 206
11:30am “The Death of Elaine” by Homer Watson, Room 125
1:30 PM “The Idea Lab,” Room 114
2:30 PM “The Marchesa Casati” by Augustus Edward John, Room 125


2. Give someone some AGO♥

(clockwise from top): Valentine’s Day cards ($4–$5). Umbra Pongo Table Tennis set ($40). Keith Haring box of chocolates ($26). Alessi AL13002 Red Leather Strap Watch ($200).

Finding a Valentine’s Day present may be tricky, but it doesn’t have to be bewildering. Here are few thoughtful and unconventional shopAGO gifts, from playful tokens of friendship for PAL-entine’s Day to over-the-moon romantic gestures for the more-than-just pals.

Where: shopAGO, online or in person


3. Commit… to a 1+1 Membership

Gift of Membership

Say “I want to spend more time with you (and great art)” with a one-year dual-membership ($145).

Where: Online or in person at The Membership Info Desk, Lobby


4. Tell them “I like you a latte”


(Photo: @daneshhanbury)

When the way to their heart is through their coffee, head to the Galleria Italia Espresso Bar for European cappuccinos, lattes, gelato and treats, and a stellar view of Dundas Street West. Perfect to enjoy ensemble or solo.

Where: Level 2, Galleria Italia


5. Visit Drawing, Je t’aime


(Robert Motherwell, Je t’aime, 1955, Ink on paper, Overall: 38.1 x 27.3 cm (15 x 10 3/4 in.). Purchased with funds from an Anonymous Donor, with support from the Dedalus Foundation, 1998)

“Robert Motherwell, a self-admitted Francophile, used this romantic phrase to express his deeply felt passion for artmaking. The calligraphic elements and interplay of text and image produce, in the artist’s words, ‘a desperate cry for love.’”

–Brenda Rix, Manager, Print and Drawing Study Centre

Take in over 100 rarely seen drawings by Jacopo Tintoretto, Edgar Degas, Henri Matisse, Robert Motherwell, Joyce Wieland and Annie Pootoogook, and draw your sweetheart’s self-portrait at our portraiture stations. Free with general admission. Share your #DrawingAGO photos with @agotoronto on Instagram and Twitter.

Where: Level 1, Eaton/Gelber/Elliot Galleries


6. Spiral up the stairway


According to some, architect Frank Gehry designed the Baroque spiral staircase narrower at some points so that “two people, one going up and the other going down, would pass each other closely and fall in love.” Share your #GehryStaircase photos with @agotoronto on Instagram and Twitter.

Where: Walker Court, Level 2


7. Have dinner at FRANK

We call this piece, “The AGO’s FRANK restaurant Valentine’s Day Menu”: Seared scallops with honeycrisp apple in butter froth. Yuk Hwe beef tartare with kimchi and grilled ciabatta. Smoked sabayon and king oyster mushroom ravioli. Duck with roasted butternut squash and port plums. Dark chocolate ganache cake and poached pear tarte. ($85 per guest; or $100 per guest including recommended wine pairings, taxes and gratuity)

When: February 12 & 13, 2016

Where: FRANK Restaurant, Level 1


8. Sip on Afternoon Tea at the Grange


If nothing but the finest recreation of a Downton Abbey high tea will satisfy, then treat yourself (and maybe them too) at the Grange. February 13 & 14, by reservation only; Members’ exclusive only. 

When: February 13 & 14, 2016

Where: Norma Ridley Members’ Lounge, Grange House, Level 1


9. Get crafty with the kids at AGO Family Sundays

Little ones can get in the spirit by creating heart-shaped suncatchers during our special Family Sunday artmaking workshop. Included with general admission.

Where: Weston Family Learning Centre, Concourse Level

Rethinking The Grange Kitchens

February 24th, 2011

The historic kitchens in The Grange were a dynamic part of the Iris Haussler installation “He Named Her Amber“. Here visitors experienced the mysterious world of a fictitious maid who hid waxen globules under floor bricks and in the walls. Once the installation was over, I needed to re-imagine another world, one that still involved The Grange servants, but in a different way.

Grange kitchen

With the house no longer restored as an historic house museum, I also had to find a way to make the period kitchens relevant to our visitor. Three themes became immediately apparent—the lives of the servants; the work that they did; and, how kitchen technology changes over time. With these themes in mind, I began to imagine how to illustrate them with the artifacts that I had.

One of the important bits of work was obviously cooking and I had lots of artifacts to illustrate that. I was able to set up several other work related “stations” including cleaning, the work involved in lighting a house and laundry. Obviously there was more work done than just these, but I had the artifacts to demonstrate these activities. The previous historic kitchen did not effectively show the presence of servants in the basement, so I turned one room into a servant’s hall, setting a table as if for a meal and putting in a day bed for them to sit on.

Changing technology was also straight forward as we could contrast the open hearth cooking of the early part of the 19th century to the cook stove technology of the mid-century. The servant’s bells and the rising cupboard are other examples. Changing technology, in our case, refers to the first half of the 19th century due to our collection. In the future, it might be possible to show further changes through archival material.

Grange dining room

Two things have not changed, however, just as The Grange cooks used seasonal and local ingredients, so to does Anne Yaramovitch and her team of chefs in the AGO kitchens. And, just as The Grange was a social centre of the city (parties held here were written up in the newspapers) so to is it a place for members to gather for food and conversation.

Jennifer Rieger, Historic Site Coordinator of The Grange, Art Gallery of Ontario

The History of Tea

January 21st, 2011

Tea is the most culturally and economically significant non-alcoholic beverage in the world, after water. Mostly grown in China and India (tea cultivation in India was begun in the 19th century by the British), 98% of teas are black teas created through a fermentation process. Popular in Europe from the 17th century it reached its height of popularity in the 1880s. The tea bag was invented by Thomas Sullivan in 1908 and iced tea became popular after it was served at the St. Louis World Fair of 1904. Tea was considered an appropriate drink for women, as drinking alcohol was not ladylike. The term teetotaling actually meant an abstinence from alcohol.

In the early part of the 19th century, the Boulton family at The Grange and their friends would usually have had two meals—breakfast and an early supper. As the century moved on and men went out to offices to work, a midday meal would have been served and supper would have been much later. Afternoon tea (or low tea) helped fill the gap between lunch and supper. This tea would have consisted of cakes, cookies, and small sandwiches. There are references to Harriet and Goldwin Smith having tea together in The Grange library. High tea, or meat tea, was a much more sustaining meal eaten as an early supper around six in the evening. This is still common in agricultural communities where lunch is the main meal of the day.

If that has whet your appetite for tea, please join us at one of our upcoming tea inspired events.

Jennifer Rieger, Historic Site Coordinator of The Grange, Art Gallery of Ontario

Restoration of the Grange Steps

November 19th, 2010

by Jennifer Rieger, Historic Site Co-ordinator

The portico work is moving to its end. The foundations have been rebuilt and parged and the work of setting the treads back in has begun. When the portico began to shift the mortar between the steps cracked and the steps also shifted. The task now is to realign the steps with a smaller space between them. This has resulted in the steps becoming more tightly placed in relation to the foundation. A lip of the foundation now extends beyond the bottom step. As this is below grade it is not a problem as it will be covered with gravel; however, we do need to be careful to restrict any moisture from getting into the foundation structure while still allowing any moisture that does to escape. While attaching a flashing to the base of the bottom step and the overhang is one solution, we have decided to parge the area. The parging material is made of lime and cement (similar to the lime mortar we used on the chimneys) and will be placed so it slopes away from the steps. This material will be breathable so any moisture that enters can escape.

Grange Restoration

Grange Restoration

Grange Restoration

Update on the Grange Restoration

November 8th, 2010

by Jennifer Rieger, Historic Site Co-ordinator

It has been a while since I last posted, my apologies, but there was nothing really new to share and we had some short weeks with Thanksgiving and rain. The final chimney is being repaired. The others are complete and the flashings and caps have been installed. Painting is 75% complete—we are holding off on areas where other work needs to be done. The sofitt that was rotting has been repaired and painted. All the brick has been cleaned. There is some efflorescence (white flakes) on one wall that will be checked again at the end of the project. The portico step foundation has been reset on the south side and parging has been applyed. Parging is the application of a thin layer of mortar cement to the part of the portico that will be underground. This will help protect the structure from moisture build up. The north west portico pier has been rebuilt using concrete block. The south piers are being repaired with concrete brick. We could not use the original as there was too much damage and we needed more support.

Stay tuned. I will have photos next week.

repairing the soffit

repairing the soffit



portico repair

portico repair

The Grange restoration work continues

September 30th, 2010

We don’t have much to report on this week although work is continuing. Under the portico, the air intake duct has been removed on the west side and we have a clearer view of the situation with the foundations. The pier next to the house has been badly impacted by the duct and we will likely have to replace it with concrete bricks. The outermost pier is in better shape and we can use a mix of replacement stone, existing stone and concrete brick. The question still to be answered is how far down we need to go. The reason for using concrete brick rather than normal brick is that the former is less effected by moisture and will last longer.

Cleaning of the walls of the house continues and painting of the windows has begun.

Under the portico

pier next to house

Under the portico

front (south) pier

Under the portico

central view under portico showing remaining air intake duct covered with plastic

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The Grange Architecture

September 27th, 2010















The Grange was built in 1817 for D’Arcy Boulton Jr., his wife Sarah Anne and their children. In 1912, The Grange was transformed into the Art Museum of Toronto (later the AGO). The original house, designed by an unknown architect, was Georgian in style, two storey’s high and 60 x 40 feet in area.

In its original configuration, the front door opened onto a central hall with the dining room on the left and the drawing room on the right. The rooms on the north side of the main floor were likely bedrooms and the circular staircase was likely a simple stair with a landing. At the back of the house and on the second floor were bedrooms for the family.

On the second floor, it is likely that the room over the front hall was originally smaller and probably served as the dressing room to the bedroom adjoining it (they were once connected). When work was being done in this space, evidence of a blocked-up door and a stove pipe in the chimney were uncovered.

There were also four large rooms in the attic, probably for the servants. The kitchen, bakeroom, wine cellar, larder, food storage areas and scullery were in the basement.

More information on The Grange can be found here.

Stabilizing and analyzing The Grange portico

September 24th, 2010

The focus of work these last two weeks has been on stabilizing and analyzing the portico. The support beam is in place and steel beams have been inserted along the main slab. Jacks at each corner under these beams have raised the slab very slightly so the rest of the steps could be removed. We now have a clear view under the structure. The foundations are stone and the piers, or supports under the pillars, are brick. The condition varies across the space. What has also become clear is why the portico shifted. During the 1970s restoration, air intake ducts on either side of the portico were inserted through the porch foundation, thus weakening the support structure. Think of putting a large hole in a wall for a duct; the wall is no longer as strong as it was. In order to work under the portico, the duct will have to be removed temporarily.

Cleaning the Bricks

The team has also been washing The Grange! During Transformation AGO, slurry, caused by the drilling for the support piles, splashed on the east and west sides of the house. This clay has to be gently removed as the nineteenth-century bricks are very soft and will not tolerate power washing. Unlike other brick cleaning techniques, using an environmentally and brick friendly solution will not change the old look of the house. The patina of age will still be there.

Generously sponsored by:

Masonry work on The Grange chimneys

September 12th, 2010

Masonry work on The Grange chimneys

The masonry work on the two south chimneys and one of the west chimneys has been finished. The north east chimney is being rebuilt and is almost done. Scaffolding will be moved to the north west side of the building so re-pointing can be done on the final chimney. Caps and flashings will be added (see below) next.

Masonry work on The Grange chimneys

Structural engineers from Jewell Engineering have developed a strategy for shoring up the portico so that the foundation can be rebuilt. The entablature (the part of the portico above the columns) will be supported with a beam running from the steps foundation at the south side of the middle slab to the concrete part of the west side air duct. Then the slab and columns will be shored using steel angles at the edges of the slabs. Once this is done, the piers under the slab can be rebuilt and the foundations for the steps repaired and pointed.

A heritage construction moment.

Chimneys have developed and changed over the years but share a number of different parts—the stack, the flue, the wythe, the corbel, chimney pot, flashing, caps, and cowls. By the 19th century, the usual dimension for a brick flue came to be 9 x 9” or one brick by one brick. The wall between the flues, the wythe, was usually 4 ½” or half a brick. The north west chimney of The Grange, for example, has two whythes with the second wythe around the flue being constructed on edge.

As mentioned in previous blogs, water in concentration is extremely damaging. Corbels, or areas near the top of the chimney, were built out to shelter the lower sections from water. Unfortunately, they themselves collected water. Flashing, a type of metal skirt, is added to drain the water off. Chimney pots, or extensions to the flue, placed on top of the chimney, were an inexpensive way to extend the length of the chimney to improve the draft (or ability for smoke to exit). A chimney cowl can be placed on top to prevent birds and squirrels from nesting. They often feature a rain guard to keep rain from going down. A cowl might also be a wind cap that rotates to align with the wind and prevent a backdraft of smoke and wind back down the chimney. We will be closing the unused chimneys with a cap (see image below).

Masonry work on The Grange chimneys

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Excavations on The Grange portico

September 7th, 2010

Excavations on the Grange portico

Excavations on the portico continue. As we dug further under the slab we ran into some problems. There is an air duct on both sides that run under the porch and then into the building. When this was installed, some of the porch foundation was removed weakening the structure. On the west side, the portico slab is actually no longer supported resulting in the slab physically sitting on the step. At this point we are waiting for an engineering review to determine how to brace the whole portico and raise it up very slightly so that the step can be removed and we can work on the foundations.

The south east chimney is now finished. It was taken down to the roof level. Work on the south west chimney is almost complete. The final step will be installing the caps and new flashing. We had an unexpected problem during the very hot days this week. The mortar was drying too quickly and not able to cure properly. In a few places cracks were forming. The masons had to soak the bricks prior to laying them, spray the new masonry with water every hour and cover completed work with damp burlap for at least 72 hours after installation. The cracked areas had to be repointed.

Excavations on the Grange portico

A Heritage Construction Moment

How do we make decisions? In the case of the portico, it would be easier and cheaper to remove the old foundation and pour a new concrete one—so why don’t we? After all, no one will see it. We are guided by several documents. The Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada provides a common set of standards that are to be used throughout Canada in the preservation, rehabilitation and restoration of heritage buildings. There are 9 standards that apply to all projects. These identify the need to retain all the character defining elements of a building. Because The Grange is a national historic site, the AGO agreed to follow Parks Canada’s “Cultural Resource Management Policy”. This policy lays out principles and practices for managing a cultural resource. Again, the focus is on preserving the character defining and heritage attributes of the building. There are a number of international charters that deal with preservation, but the most commonly used one is the Burra Charter. Developed in Australia, this Charter provides guidelines on determining cultural significance, conservation policy, procedures and ethics. Reviewing these three documents can help us make and justify decisions. As enough of the original fabric and construction technique remain of the portico foundation, these documents support the restoration the foundation rather than replacement of it.

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