Library & Archives Collection

ABOUT THE COLLECTION

The collections of the Edward P. Taylor Library & Archives provide a research context for the collection, exhibitions and public programs of the Art Gallery of Ontario.

In addition to supporting general art research, the library’s 380,000+ volumes include rare books and artists’ books and multiples. Archival collections include the archives of the Art Gallery of Ontario and extensive special collections (artists’ archives and related collections).

Book collections can be searched in the library’s online catalogue. Special collections holdings may be browsed using the AGO AtoM database, with links to detailed online finding aids where available. Please contact the reference desk for further information about AGO archives holdings.

Please visit the Edward P. Taylor Library and Archives page for information on access, finding aids, and visiting hours.

SEARCH THE ONLINE CATALOGUE


Main Collections

General art literature

The library’s 80,000+ volume main collection reflects the collecting strengths of the AGO, and includes both books and periodicals. Areas of concentration include photography, artist-run publications, and museum serials.

Exhibition catalogues

A particular strength of the library collection is exhibition catalogues, with an emphasis on Canadian art institutions. The library includes even the smallest exhibition publications in our online catalogue, resulting in searchable, richly detailed documentation of art activity in this country.

Artist files

Some 14,000 artists are represented in the library’s artist documentation files collection, which was initiated in 1912 when the Art Museum of Toronto sent biographical questionnaires to living artists. Files typically contain exhibition invitations, press clippings and artist CVs. The collection is focused on artists active in Canada, and takes an inclusive approach without regard to whether an artist’s work is represented in the AGO’s art collection.

Rare Books

Illustrated books

The greatest strength of the Library’s rare collection is illustrated books and book design from the 15th century to the present.  Significant Canadian holdings include illustration relating to early exploration, work by the Group of Seven and their contemporaries, and abstract illustration in Quebec.  Highlights of our holdings of English illustration are the Georgian period (Blake, Stothard, and circle), the wood engravings of the 1860s, and Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau book design.  We also have a concentration of photo-illustrated books of the 19th century.  A significant collection of some 100 Russian Constructivist and Futurist books includes works by Rodchenko, Telingater, and Burliuk.

Travel literature

Travel guides are an invaluable resource for art historical research. They document works of art and architecture at specific times and in specific places, making them a source of information on art works that have been lost or moved and for buildings destroyed by war. They illustrate taste and fashions at the time of publication. The Library has a collection of some 1000 guidebooks from the firms of Karl Baedeker and John Murray, and in the Blue Guide and Augustus Hare series. Illustrated view books form a visual counterpart to this collection.

Auction catalogues

Auction catalogues are an essential resource for art provenance research. In addition to contemporary catalogues from major auction houses, the library has a significant collection of annotated historical catalogues, largely from the Hotel Drouot auction house. These were acquired and accumulated by five generations of the Catroux Gallery in Paris, 1790 to 1975, when Paris was a major centre for the international art trade. Where applicable these have been identified by the relevant number in Frits Lugt’s Repertoire des catalogues de ventes publiques

Artists' Books and Multiples

Contemporary artists’ books

The library’s artists’ books collection includes significant examples by both international and Canadian artists from each decade since the 1950s, representing an excellent overview of the history and evolution of this area of artistic practice. Within the collection is a concentration on historical and contemporary photographers’ books, with significant holdings for a select number of photographers including Robert Frank, Geoffrey James, Rinko Kawauchi, and Taryn Simon. In addition, we have eight titles from the important series of artists’ books commissioned by the Museum of Modern Art’s Library Council, donated by Nance Gelber and Dan Bjarnason.

Multiples

The library has a representative selection of over 400 artists’ multiples by Canadian, American, and International artists from the 1950s through to the present day, including significant works by Marcel Duchamp, Fluxus, and General Idea. The “multiple” represents a field of artistic practice where the rigor of the formally realised work of art destined for the museum or collector gives way to a freer, more informal, playful and often humourous working out of  ideas and concerns, and where the very idea of the object can be subverted, challenged, and redefined. Multiples undermine the aura of the unique and singular work of art in favour of reaching a larger and more diversified audience.

AGO Archives

Learn more

The AGO Archives document the history of the Gallery since its formation in 1900, and of The Grange house since 1820. Popular series include exhibition and programming files, publicity scrapbooks, architectural plans, photographs, records of the Gallery School, and correspondence with art dealers, artists, collectors, and scholars. These archives are a rich resource for research into the activities of the Group of Seven, the Canadian Group of Painters, the Ontario Society of Artists, and other artists’ groups and associations that regularly held exhibitions at the Gallery.

Special Collections

Learn more

The Special Collections are one of the most significant concentrations of archival material on the visual arts in Canada. There are over 150 individual collections, ranging in date from the early 19th century to the present day, and documenting major artists, art dealers and collectors, artist-run galleries, and other people and organizations who have shaped the Canadian art world.

 

COLLECTION HIGHLIGHTS


COLLECTION RESOURCES

E.P. Taylor Library & Archives

The E.P. Taylor Library & Archives is open to the public Tuesday to Saturday. Access to the Archives and Special Collections is by appointment. Book collections are searchable through our online catalogue. Special collections holdings may be browsed online.

Marvin Gelber Print & Drawing Study Centre

This state-of-the-art facility is open to the public and dedicated to the study of prints, drawings and photographs. It houses a collection of over 70,000 works which date from the 13th century to the present day. Find out more about the AGO's prints and drawings collection.

Image Licensing

Find the image you need from the Art Gallery of Ontario, one of the most distinguished art museums in North America. AGO Images licenses to scholarly and commercial clients worldwide. Be inspired by Tom Thomson, James Tissot, Kennth Noland, Walter Trier and many more amazing artists.

Requests for Loans

The Art Gallery of Ontario is committed to broadening access to its collections and supporting educational initiatives that promote a new understanding of art, through a program of outgoing loans. 

Conservation at the AGO

Conservation is the care and protection of cultural objects. As the caretakers of collections, conservators examine, research, clean and repair artworks, while also taking action to prevent future deterioration. Here at the AGO, the Conservation Team includes conservators, mat makers, framers and mount makers. These specialists work together to ensure each work will look its best not only for today, but also for generations to come.

Provenance Research Project

The AGO is committed to investigating the provenance of works in its permanent collection, particularly as it pertains the ownership history of European painting and sculpture during the 1933–45 period. The purpose of this is to increase awareness and understanding of the spoliation of works of art by the Nazis and others.

The AGO's Deaccessioning Policy

The Art Gallery of Ontario cares for its collections according to the highest standards. Its resources should only be devoted to works of art that serve its mission and are worthy of such care. This occasionally demands that works be judiciously and carefully deaccessioned from the collections. The proceeds from this are reinvested in new works of art.

Artefacts Canada

Thanks to the important contribution of this country's heritage institutions, the Artefacts Canada database contains close to 4 million object records and approximately 800,000 images from Canadian museums.

 

Be the first to find out about AGO exhibitions and events, get the behind-the-scenes scoop and book tickets before it’s too late.
You can unsubscribe at any time.