Collection LA.SC056 - Donald W. Buchanan-James Wilson Morrice collection

Identity area

Reference code



Donald W. Buchanan-James Wilson Morrice collection


  • 1924-1968 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

2 cm of textual records
4 photographs

Context area

Name of creator


Biographical history

Donald William Buchanan (1908-1966) was a Canadian author, art historian/critic and arts administrator. Born in Lethbridge, Alberta, he was the son of Senator W.A. Buchanan, publisher of the Lethbridge Herald. Donald Buchanan studied modern history at the University of Toronto and held a fellowship at Oxford University. In 1935, he founded the National Film Society of Canada (from 1950 The Canadian Film Institute). The following year, his biography of James Wilson Morrice was published in Toronto. Subsequently, he worked at the CBC (1937-40), Canadian Art Magazine (1942, as co-editor) and the National Film Board (1944-46), where he established the stills division. He was at the National Gallery of Canada from 1947 to 1960 and there founded the National Design Centre, eventually becoming Associate Director (1956-60) and afterward (1963) a trustee. In addition to the Morrice biography, Donald Buchanan wrote Educational and Cultural Films in Canada (1936), This Is Canada (1944), Canadian Painters from Paul Kane to the Group of Seven (1945), Design for Use (1947), The Growth of Canadian Painting (1950), Alfred Pellan (1962) and To Have Seen the Sky (1962). After leaving the National Gallery, he began a career as an artist/photographer; his work was exhibited successfully and appeared in published photo-essays. On his death in a car crash in Ottawa in 1966 his collection of artworks was bequeathed to the art gallery in Lethbridge.

Archival history

Ownership of the items in this fonds was transferred from Donald W. Buchanan to the Toronto art dealer and collector W. Blair Laing at an unknown date. Kenneth R. Thomson subsequently obtained them, again at an unspecified date, and donated them to the Art Gallery of Ontario in 1995.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

AGO credit line: Gift of Kenneth R. Thomson, 1995

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Collection consists of letters solicited by Donald Buchanan for his study James Wilson Morrice: a biography (Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1936). Correspondents include Léa Cadoret, W. Somerset Maugham, Gerald Faustus Kelly, Charles Prendergast, Elizabeth R. Pennell, Clive Bell, Walter Pach, David Morrice, Pavel Ettinger and Henri Matisse. Also included are a photograph of Morrice, a postcard from him to William Brymner, and photographs of three of his works.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


No further accruals are expected.

System of arrangement

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Original letters of Clive Bell, Henri Matisse and W. Somerset Maugham may only be accessed by researchers with special legitimate reason, with permission of the archivist. Access to Special Collections is by appointment only. Please contact the reference desk for more information.

Conditions governing reproduction

Various copyright holders. It is the researcher’s responsibility to obtain permission to publish any part of the collection.

Language of material

  • English

Script of material

Language and script notes

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

Sketchbooks of J.W. Morrice are in the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Montreal. Correspondence of J.W. Morrice to Newton MacTavish is held by Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa and by the Toronto Public Library (Canadiana Collection, North York Central Library).
Correspondence of J.W. Morrice to Edmund Morris may be found in the Canadian Art Club fonds (CA OTAG SC009) and the Edmund Morris fonds (CA OTAG SC007).

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Description control area

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Level of detail


Dates of creation revision deletion

Description and finding aid prepared 2005.


  • English



Archivist's note

Description and finding aid prepared by Gary Fitzgibbon.
Updated and adapted by Nirvana Chainani, 2019.

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