Ken Tolmie graduated from Mount Allison University with a BFA in 1962. After early experiments with surrealism, conducted while he was travelling and living in England and Spain in the mid 1960s, he returned to Canada and began to develop a realist style. Living and working in Ottawa for a decade, where his work was shown at The Wells, Lofthouse and Wallack Galleries, as well as the National Gallery of Canada, he decided to undertake a long series with a sociological focus, capturing a part of Canadian life which had rarely been explored visually. The result was the Bridgetown Series, a series of over 500 works to date, which occupied the artist for more than twenty-five years and first necessitated the development of his own gallery. He moved to the Nova Scotia village of Bridgetown and chronicled its small-town life in paintings: local people, farms, domestic scenes, animals. As such, the series is a visual record of a small agricultural community of a kind now rendered extinct by the pressures of globalization. The Bridgetown Series participated in a documentary trend in Canadian art of the 70s and 80s dedicated to memorializing regional consciousness; it is a visual analogue to the fiction of Alice Munroe or Margaret Lawrence, although the artistic vocabulary it draws on is American, the tradition of Andrew Wyeth and Edward Hopper. Many works in this series are featured in A Rural Life, published by Oberon Press in 1986, and the series was featured on CBC and TVO several times throughout the 80s. The Owens Art Gallery of Mount Allison University and National Museums Canada sponsored a trans-Canada touring show of the series 1982-84.

During his residence in Nova Scotia, Ken Tolmie was active in the artistic and cultural affairs of the province, serving on the Board of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, assisting in founding the James House Museum in Bridgetown, and donating many of his works to cultural and medical causes.

Ken Tolmie now lives in Toronto and operates a large studio, gallery, and film production space located amidst a number of major Toronto art galleries. He is currently working on his Window Series, works making use of a wide range of techniques, perspectives, and images, and dealing with the urban experience. The paintings from the first decade of this series are held in private, public, and corporate collections across Canada and the United States, and in Europe and Japan. He owns the Tolmie Gallery in Toronto, first established in Nova Scotia in 1976, and Tolmie Productions, created in 1998 to develop, produce, and market the documentary and feature films that he is making. He has received support from the Nova Scotia Film Development Corporation.

Awards, Publications, Films

Awards
  • Nova Scotia Film Development Corporation, 1999
Publications
  • Author: A Rural Life: An Artist’s Portrait (Ottawa: Oberon Press, 1986).
    Contains 60 colour plates of paintings from the artist’s Bridgetown Series.
  • Author and Illustrator: Tale of an Egg (Ottawa: Oberon Press, 1974).
    Selected by the National Library of Canada as one of the ten best Canadian children’s books, 1974.
Films
  • Executive Producer and Director: Yes, We Do Windows (2002).
    An 8-minute pilot on the artist’s Window Series, filmed in the Tolmie Gallery and broadcast on CBC’s experimental late-night programme ZeD.
  • Producer and Director: Painting Hilda (2000).
    A twenty-four minute documentary supported by the Nova Scotia Film Development Corporation.
  • Executive Producer: It’s for You (2000).
    Digital feature film directed by Bruno Lazaro Pacheco. Shot, produced, and edited on Tolmie Productions equipment and facilities. Currently circulating at European and Asian film festivals.
Documentary Films on Ken Tolmie
  • “Profile of Ken Tolmie,” CBC-TV, for the national series Seeing It Our Way (1981).
    Half-hour documentary.
  • “Ken Tolmie,” CBC-TV, for the programs Newsday, Profile, Take Thirty, and View from the Atlantic (1981).
    Half-hour documentary.
  • The National, CBC-TV (4 January 1981, 9.00 pm and 11.00 pm).
    One-minute forty-second feature on the Bridgetown Series paintings.
  • Nova Scotia As It Is, CBC-TV (10 October 1981).
    A half-hour documentary shown on the national network, containing a five-minute interview with Ken Tolmie on the Bridgetown paintings.
  • “The human Link”, TVOntario, for the series Visions: Artists and the Creative Process(1982).
    Half-hour documentary on Ken Tolmie, Joe Fafard, and Esther Warkov.
  • “The Massive Mirror”, TVOntario, for the series Visions: The Critical Eye (1983).
    Half-hour documentary including Ken Tolmie’s work and views.

Collections containing Ken Tolmie’s Work

  • The National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
  • The Montréal Museum of Fine Arts, Montréal
  • The Confederation Centre and Art Museum, Charlottetown, PEI
  • The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Halifax
  • The Nova Scotia Art Bank, Halifax
  • The Owens Art Gallery, Mount Allison University, Sackville, NB
  • The Macdonald Stewart Art Centre, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON
  • The Mcintosh Gallery, University of Western Ontario, London, ON
  • The Burnaby Art Gallery, Burnaby, BC
  • The University College of Cape Breton, Sydney, NS
  • Carleton University Art Centre, Ottawa, ON
  • The California College of Arts, Oakland, CA
  • Dofasco, Toronto
  • Procter And Gamble, Ltd., Toronto
  • Husky Oil, Ltd., Calgary, AB
  • Slater Steels, Ltd., Toronto
  • Canada Packers, Toronto
  • Crownx (Extendicare), Regina, SK
  • Oxford Frozen Foods, Oxford, NS
  • Blake, Cassels, & Graydon, Toronto
  • Blois, Nickerson, Palmeter & Bryson, Halifax
  • Mr. And Mrs. Thor Eaton, Toronto
  • The Hon. Margaret McCain, Toronto, ON
  • Many other corporate, public, and private art collections

Exhibitions

2001-present Tolmie Gallery, Toronto, ON
Permanent exhibition of Tolmie’s Window Series
1996 Lunenburg Art Gallery, Lunenburg, NS
Solo exhibition
1996 Zwickers Gallery, Halifax, NS
Solo exhibition
1977-1996 Tolmie Gallery, Bridgetown, NS and Mahone Bay, NS
Annual Summer Exhibition
1995 Sackville Art Association and Owens Gallery, Mount Allison University, Sackville, NB
Group exhibition
1995 North of the Border (Group exhibition)
Wiregrass Museum of Art, Alabama, USA
1988 Kaspar Gallery, Toronto, ON
Solo exhibition
1986 Beckett Gallery, Hamilton, ON
Solo exhibition
May, 1982-March, 1984 Ken Tolmie: The Bridgetown Series (Touring solo exhibition sponsored by the Owens Art Gallery and National Museums of Canada)

Originating Gallery:

  • Owens Art Gallery, Mount Allison University, Sackville, NB
    10 May-15 June 1982

Itinerary:

  • Acadia University Art Gallery, Wolfville, NS
    15 July-22 August 1982
  • Galerie Restigouche, Campbellton, NB
    6-25 September 1982
  • Confederation Centre Art Gallery and Museum, Charlottetown, PEI
    11 October-14 November 1982
  • Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Halifax, NS
    1-30 December 1982
  • New Brunswick Museum, Saint John, NB
    15 January-15 February 1983
  • McIntosh Art Gallery, University of Western Ontario, London, ON
    27 July-28 August 1983
  • Regina Public Library and Art Museum, Regina, SK
    10 September-16 October, 18 October-23 November 1983
  • BCentre d’exposition l’imagier, Aylmer, QC
    15 January-20 February 1984
  • Centre d’exposition de Mont Laurier, Mont Laurier, QC
    1-31 March 1984
1982 Midwest Watercolour Society, 6th Annual Juried Exhibition (Group exhibition)
West Bend Gallery, West Bend, IL, USA
1981 Nova Scotia Art On Paper (Touring group exhibition)
Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Halifax, NS

Shell Atlantic (Group exhibition)
Shell Gallery, Calgary, AB

Art at Mount Allison (Group exhibition)
Gallery One, Moncton, NB

1979 The Graphic Connection (Touring group exhibition)
Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Halifax, NS
1978 Four Artists (Group exhibition)
Zwickers Gallery, Halifax, NS
1975 Paintings by Ken Tolmie (Solo exhibition)
Wells Gallery, Ottawa, ON
1974 Contemporary Canadian Graphics (Group exhibition)
Art Gallery of Brant, Brantford, ON

Paintings by Ken Tolmie (Solo exhibition)
Wells Gallery, Ottawa, ON

1973 Burnaby Biennial (Group exhibition)
Burnaby Art Gallery, Burnaby, BC

Canadian Society Of Graphic Arts (Group exhibition)
McIntosh Gallery, University of Western Ontario, London, ON

Canadian Printmakers’ Showcase (Group exhibition)
Carleton University Gallery, Ottawa, ON

1972 Paintings by Ken Tolmie (Solo exhibition)
Wallack Galleries, Ottawa, ON
1969 Paintings by Ken Tolmie (Solo exhibition)
Lofthouse Gallery, Ottawa, ON
1967 Atlantic Award Exhibition (Group exhibition)
Dalhousie University Gallery, Halifax, NS
1966 Canadian Watercolours, Drawings and Prints (Group exhibition)
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, ON
1964 Magic Realism in Canadian Painting(Group exhibition)
Public Library and Art Museum, London, ON
1964 Canadian Watercolours, Drawings and Prints (Group exhibition)
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, ON
1963 Ken Tolmie: Works on Paper (Solo exhibition)
Dorothy Cameron Gallery, Toronto, ON

New Images from Canada (Group exhibition)
Banfer Gallery, New York, NY

Royal Academy Juried Exhibition (Group exhibition)
The Royal Academy of Arts, London, UK

New English Art Club Juried Exhibition (Group exhibition)
The Galleries, London, UK

Works on Paper by Ken Tolmie (Solo exhibition)
Zwickers Gallery, Halifax, NS

1962 The Art of Ken Tolmie (Solo exhibition)
Zwickers Gallery, Halifax, NS