Toronto a century ago: the Great War was underway, temperance societies were succeeding in legislating prohibition throughout Ontario, and in Toronto, the Ontario College of Art was growing. What was life like at OCA in the 1910s? Scrapbooks of historical press clippings in the OCAD U Archives tell us what artists were talking about a hundred years ago.
- 1912: The College’s life drawing classes were graced by a celebrity model. Agatino Reggio, who styled himself Prince of Aci and Marquis of Genestre, made a special appearance in Toronto as part of a tour of art schools in the American northeast.
- 1912: The Reverend R.B. St. Clair, head of Toronto’s Vigilance Association, which sought to root out obscenity in the city, denounced the provincial art gallery, which shared a building with OCA. He was particularly shocked by the Greek statuary and a copy of Rubens’ painting Descent from the Cross. Lest we giggle at hundred year-old tastes, it might be noted that last year Facebook refused to run an ad by the Flemish Tourism Association which featured the same painting.
- 1916: The Toronto Star Weekly ran a contest to find a woman with proportions most similar to Venus de Milo. From among 1,000 candidates, the newspaper selected two winners. The women's height, weight and measurements were published next to their photos.
- 1918: The Canadian National Exhibition featured two rooms of art by the OCA. Among the still life paintings and landscapes were images by war artists of an emaciated child and a “whizz bang corner” in France.
- 1920: With the war finally over, Ontario could at last afford to expand the College. Premier Ernest Drury laid the cornerstone for a new building to be erected east of the Grange house. That building is now the George A. Reid wing of 100 McCaul Street.
OCAD U Archives' series of press clippings covers the years 1912 to 2008. It is just one of the resources you can find in Visual Resources and Special Collections at 230 Richmond Street West (accessed by appointment with the Archivist).