The formation of fine art in New France began with religious painting. The Jesuit priest Luke (1614-1685), who created paintings on biblical subjects, used them in missionary work.
Many artists of the XVIII century. earned a living by painting portraits of wealthy contemporaries. An outstanding representative of that era is Louis Dulonpre (1754-1843). The first professional artist of Ontario is considered to be Paul Kane (1810-1871).
His favorite theme was the Indians of Canada, whose perishing culture he captured in his paintings during his numerous trips around the country. In the XIX century. landscape painting has become popular. Its most prominent representatives are Corneli-Криs Krighoff (1815-1872) in Quebec and Otto Jacobi (1812-1901) in Ontario. In 1860, the Montreal Art Association was established to support artists. Later, the Museum of Fine Arts was formed on its basis.
To liberate itself from the influence of European canons, the Canadian Arts Club was founded in Toronto in 1907. An outstanding role in his activity was played by Maurice Külsn (1866-1934), who was not afraid to boldly experiment with light and colors. One of the pinnacles of Canadian painting is the work of Tom Thomson (1877-1917).
Its canvases full of expression depict the harsh Canadian nature. In 1920, several young artists founded the Group of Seven, which soon became a symbol of genuine Canadian art. In Quebec, however, the combination of art and national idea did not find a wide response. The ideas of the modernist group, led by John Lyman (1886-1967) and Marc-Aurel Forten (1888-1970), were based primarily on the concept of individual inspiration.
During the Second World War, the «automatists», the most prominent representative of which is Jean-Paul Riopel (1923-2002), laid the foundation for Canadian surrealism. Later, a Group of Eleven formed in Toronto, whose members developed their own abstract style.
Many contemporary artists are known outside of Canada — in particular, abstract artists Michael Snow (born 1929) and Ronald Bloor (born 1925) from Ontario, Charles Gagnon (1934-2004) and Yves Gaucher (born 1934) from Quebec.
Alex Colville (born 1920), who lives in Nova Scotia, gained particular fame: his naturalistic, photograph-like paintings at international exhibitions are among the most popular collectibles.