Thus began the history of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, which came into being in 1860 as the Art Association of Montreal. In this city, where large numbers of art-lovers and art-collectors were to be found, and where a variety of artistic traditions flourished—some of them dating back to the time of French rule—there was no school of art and no museum, nor even any venue at which exhibitions could be mounted. And yet Montreal was the most important city in British North America at the time: it was the cradle of the Canadian industrial revolution, the hub of waterway, maritime, and railway transport, and the seat of the country’s great financial institutions. It was therefore not surprising that a group of wealthy public-spirited Montreal citizens should think of setting up an ‘association’ devoted to the spread of the fine arts, in line with a philanthropic tradition that was very widespread in North America. Unfortunately, the collectors’ resources fell short of their aspirations, and until 1879 the activities of the Art Association were confined to a handful of exhibitions and the occasional drawing-class.
1379 Sherbrooke Street, Montreal, H3G2T9