Joanne Tod – Biography and Curriculum Vitae.

Joanne Tod is a leading Canadian artist based in Toronto. Her paintings have been exhibited nationally and internationally for over four decades and are included in the collections of such major art institutions as the Art Gallery of Ontario, National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, and Vancouver Art Gallery.

Tod studied in Toronto at the Ontario College of Art during the mid-1970s, at the height of conceptualism ­– a period in art when painting was being questioned for its indebtedness to the traditions of representation. Tod embraced the theories of the time by examining the role of painting through painting itself. While her realism carries on conventions of the medium, her subject matter is firmly tied to contemporary discourse and ideas, with themes that critique such topical issues as social and ethnic identity, cultural appropriation, feminism, and corporate and political power.

Her earliest paintings were ambitious renderings of interiors mixed with images gleaned from subculture magazines and current news. In 1978, for her first solo show, held at YYZ Artists’ Outlet in Toronto, Tod exhibited Mao: Six Uncommissioned Portraits, based on newswire photographs of the Communist Chinese leader Mao Tse Tung shaking hands with visiting dignitaries, including U.S. President Richard Nixon in 1972. The series rendered Mao and his political counterparts with the kind of clarity associated with propaganda posters, though they appear on backgrounds of flat abstract colour. The visual contrast between foreground and background reads as a critique of the theoretical shifts happening in the art world at that time, between representation and abstraction. Many of the ideas explored in the Mao series are still at the core of Tod’s practice, especially her fascination with the visual and intellectual friction between popular imagery and the fine art world in which she inhabits, as an artist, a professor, and board member of various art institutions.

Another element that characterizes her work is scale. Her paintings are oftentimes massive and communicate authority, while also referencing a similar spatial presence like a movie screen or billboard. Interiors, which are a recurring subject, especially institutional hallways, have been referred to as “walk in” spaces, due to the sensation of being able to step right into the frame. Technically, they are rendered to near photographic likeness, yet her measured brushstrokes remain visible, allowing realism and the artist’s hand to cohabitate. A similar kind of frisson appears in her titles, which are lyrical and poetic rather than descriptive, as if to remind us that interpretation isn’t restricted to the artist’s intention.

Portraiture has been a constant in her work, and she is among Canada’s leading artists of portrait commissions for high-ranking politicians and leading intellectuals. In 2001, she painted the Honourable Sir Mackenzie Bowell, Prime Minister of Canada (1894-1896), which now hangs in the House of Commons in Ottawa; and in 2003, she painted Honourable Henry Jackman, Chancellor of the University of Toronto. In each, visual metaphors can be found that hint at a particular time and place, or reveal cryptic details about some personal aspect of the subject that future custodians of the work might puzzle over. For the official portrait of Margaret MacMillan (2007), former Provost of Trinity College at the University of Toronto – and the first female to hold that position – MacMillan is shown wearing a bold purple dress that’s visible from underneath her academic gown, as if she is breaking free of the ivory tower constraints. There is also an illuminated public exit sign behind her right shoulder.

Simultaneously, Tod continues to paint those who are part of the zeitgeist. They cover a range of popular figures, from domestic diva Martha Stewart and wrongly convicted Guy Paul Morin to young socialites of the Toronto art scene. In her most recent exhibition, Once Removed, she painted the entire lineup of the Toronto Raptors. One of her best-known projects is Oh, Canada – A Lament. Between 2007 and 2011, Tod documented Canada’s involvement in the Afghanistan mission by painting every soldier who fell during that period, using their obituary photo as a visual source. The final installation consists of 156 portraits interspersed with other painted panels arranged to resemble a fragmented Canadian flag. The project was featured in The Walrus magazine, and has been exhibited across Canada.

Until 2019, Joanne Tod taught in the Department of Visual Studies, DFALD, University of Toronto. She is a member of the Advisory Board for Sotheby’s Canada and a board member of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Toronto. She is represented in Toronto by Nicholas Metivier Gallery.

Curriculum Vitae


1974 Ontario College of Art
AOCA Honours

Solo Exhibitions (1991 – Present)

2019 Once Removed, Nicholas Metivier Gallery, Toronto
2015 Slipstream, Nicholas Metivier Gallery, Toronto
2012 University and Spadina, Nicholas Metivier Gallery, Toronto
Invited Invasion, Gardiner Museum of Ceramics, Toronto
2011 Oh, Canada – A Lament
    ‐ Harbourfront Centre, Toronto
2010     ‐ Canadian Heritage Warplane Museum, Mount Hope, Ontario
    ‐ Royal Conservatory of Music, Toronto
2009 Kingdom Come, Nicholas Metivier Gallery
2004 Current Account, The Spoke Club, Toronto
2002 Vanity Fair, Sable-Castelli Gallery, Toronto
2000 The Republic of Private, Sable-Castelli Gallery, Toronto
1997-98 Sable-Castelli Gallery, Toronto
1996-98 Equinox Gallery, Vancouver
1995 Margaret Lipworth Gallery, Boca Raton, Florida
1993-94 S.L. Simpson Gallery, Toronto
1993 Stefan Stux Gallery, New York
Leonard and Bina Ellen Art Gallery, Montreal
1991 The Canadian Cultural Centre, Paris, curated by Marc Mayer
Joanne Tod, The Power Plant, Toronto (10 year survey exhibition curated by Bruce Grenville)
The Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver

Recent Group Exhibitions

2020 Realisms: Canadian Art, 1850 to the Present, Museum London, London, Ontario
2019 Peindre la Nature Avec un Miroir, Museé d’art contemporain, Montréal
2016-17 Form Follows Fiction: Art and Artists in Toronto, Art Museum at the University of Toronto, Curated by Luis Jacob
2016 Toronto: Tributes + Tributaries 1971-1989, Art Gallery of Ontario, Curated by Wanda Nanibush
2013 Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, work from the permanent collection
2012 Builders: Canadian Biennial 2012 (Oct. 2012), National Gallery of Canada
Second Biennial of Contemporary Art Acquisitions, National Gallery of Canada
2010 Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Queen’s Univeristy
New Canadiana – The Chancellor Richardson Memorial Fund and Art as Social History,
curated by Jan Allen, Alicia Boutilier, Dorothy Farr
2008 Mischief and Malice, exhibition curated by University of Toronto Museum Studies graduating class
2007 The Altered Image, Equinox Gallery, Vancouver
2006 Return to the Real, curated by Daniel Borins at the Drake Hotel
2004 Dot Fifty-One Gallery, Miami
About Face – Identities: Canadian Portraits, The McMichael Collection, Kleinburg, Ontario
The Longstaffe Collection, Vancouver Art Gallery

Books and Catalogues

2015 Slipstream, exhibition catalogue, essay by Tom Smart
2012 Builders, Canadian Biennial 2012, Jonathan Shaughnessy
Quebec and Canadian Art, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts Collection
Remembering Postmodernism, Mark Cheetham and Linda Hutcheon, 2nd ed., Oxford University Press
Invited Invasion, essay by Peggy Gale, Gardiner Museum of Ceramics, Toronto
2009 Kingdom Come, exhibition catalogue, essay by Margaret MacMillan
2008 Canadian Paintings, Prints and Drawings, Anne Newlands, Firefly Books
2006 Joanne Tod seen by Elise Turcotte in Capsule 2, Concordia University, Montreal
2004 Racism, Eh?: A Critical Inter-Disciplinary Anthology of Race and Racism in Canada, edited by Camille A. Nelson and Charmaine A. Nelson, Captus Press
2000 Canadian Art: From its Beginnings to 2000, Anne Newlands, Firefly Books
1999 Canadian Art in the 20th Century, by Joan Murray, Dundurn Press
1991 Joanne Tod, essays by Bruce Grenville and Stan Douglas, Power Plant, Toronto

Organizational Affiliations

2014 – Board of Directors, Museum of Contemporary Art, Toronto
2001 – Advisory Board, Sotheby’s Canada
2002-2004 Interval House Capital Campaign steering committee
2002 Elected to the Royal Canadian Academy
1999-2002 Governing Council, Ontario College of Art and Design, Toronto
1997-2002 Board of Directors, Art Gallery of Ontario
1991-1994 Board of Directors, The Power Plant, Toronto


2007 Invited by Adrienne Clarkson and John Ralston Saul, for the Institute of Canadian
Citizenship, to design an image to be sent electronically as a greeting to new Canadian citizens.
2005 Honourary Fellowship, OCAD University

Selected Public and Corporate Collections

Art Gallery of Ontario
Caisse de dépot et placement du Québec
Concordia University, Montréal
Hamilton Art Gallery, Hamilton
House of Commons, Ottawa
Hydro Québec
McGill University, Montréal
McLaughlin Art Gallery, Oshawa
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
Musée d’art contemporain, Montréal
Oakville Galleries, Oakville
Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario
Royal Bank of Canada
The National Gallery, Ottawa
The Portrait Gallery, Library and Archives Canada
University of Lethbridge, Alberta
University of Toronto
Vancouver Art Gallery


2011 Canada Council Project Grant
2000 Canada Council Senior Artist Creation/Production Grant
1993 Ontario Arts Council, Senior Artist Grant, Research/Production
1983 Canada Council B Grant
Ontario Arts Council Project Grant

Teaching Experience

2000- 2020 Professor Emeritus, DFALD, University of Toronto

Scholarly and Professional Activities

2020 Landscape Artist of the Year Canada, contestant judge for the TV series produced by Makeful, airing February 2020
2019 Interview with Marc Mayer, former Director, National Gallery of Canada, regarding Once Removed, at Nicholas Metivier Gallery
2019 Design and production of a commemorative artwork dedicated to E.B. Eddy mill workers, Gatineau Québec. W. Garfield Weston Foundation
2018 Juror, CAMH public art competition
2018 Fundraising initiative for Ensemble Made In Canada
2015 University of Guelph MFA Program End of Semester critiques (April 13, 2015)
Interview with Kathy Armstrong for her Master’s Thesis:
Participatory Encounters in African Drum and Dance Ensembles in Canada (March 14, 2015)
2014 Conversations from the Toronto Art World, University of Toronto, School for Continuing
Studies (November 2014)
Graduate student critiques, University of Western Ontario (November 27, 2014)
2013 Uncreative Writing, writing workshop with Kenny Goldsmith (June)
2011-2012 Contacted Frank Shimada, a polio vaccine researcher who worked in the Connaught
Laboratories at 1 Spadina. Collaborated with Blue Moon Films to create a short
documentary about Frank Shimada’s work at 1 Spadina
2010 Cover art for The Walrus magazine
“The Painting that Changed Canadian Art” (November)
Juror, RBC Canadian Painting Competition
2009 Lecture, Toronto Friends of Art
Studio visit with the Board of the Gardiner Museum of Ceramics
Symposium participant, Facing the Screen, University of Toronto
Symposium participant, Issues in Contemporary Painting, University of Ottawa
2008 Juror, Arts and Letter’s Club annual members’ show
Lecture, Women’s Art Association
Lecture, Toronto School of Art
Host, International Festival of Authors (Discussion between Don Thompson and Mark Kingwell)
1997 Director Observer on Reluctant Angel, feature film directed by John Helliker
1990 Different Backgrounds, short film director with music by Bill Cahn (Nexus)
1984-90 Founding member of Flaming Dono, semi-professional drum and dance group specializing in the music of Ghana