Toronto Revealed | Exhibit Digest

August 17, 2020 | Nicole

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Installation shot of Toronto Revealed exhibit showing large framed paintings.

This post reproduces the introductory panel and selected captions from the Toronto Revealed exhibit, which was on display in TD Gallery at Toronto Reference Library from February 10 to April 22, 2018.

The exhibit presents art that captures Toronto's quickly changing streetscape from the mid-twentieth century to the present day.

Find more items from the exhibit in our Digital Archive..



Painting of a city street. Painted from perspective of standing in the middle of the road looking towards a distant horizon with a crosswalk in the foreground.
Crosswalk, Queen Street East, David Marshak. Oil on panel, 2012. Gift of the Metcalf Family in Honour of Robert F. Reid.

Toronto Revealed

The Toronto Public Library’s collection of documentary art captures Toronto’s changing streets and built environment through a variety of artists’ works.

This exhibition presents art that captures the city’s quickly changing streetscape from the mid-twentieth century to the present day: homes and alleyways, diners and corner stores, markets, parks, and community hubs. 

These paintings, drawings and prints preserve fleeting glimpses of a city in constant flux. Some views are familiar, while others capture scenes that would otherwise go unnoticed or that have already been lost and forgotten. 

Artists such as Aba Bayefsky, Albert Franck, Brian Harvey, Vello Hubel, David Marshak and Rebecca Ott offer unique insights into the character of the city’s built environment, forcing us to reconsider our surroundings in a new light. 

Interior image of the gallery with large framed paintings on the wall.
Inside the gallery during Toronto Revealed.


Capturing an Emerging City

Image of city’s skyline looking southwest from north of St. Michael's Cathedral. Background is a wash of subtle warm colours. At the time, the skyline was dominated by the Canadian Bank of Commerce. To its right, you can see the Royal York Hotel.
Toronto Downtown, Looking Southwest. Nicholas Hornyansky, 1896-1965. Colour aquatint. 1938.

Hungarian-born Nicholas Hornyansky (1896-1965) studied art in the Academy of Fine Arts, Budapest. He was already an accomplished portrait painter when he immigrated with his family to Canada in 1929. Hornyansky is known for his remarkably detailed etchings and aquatints. He captured Toronto with a quiet dignity as the city emerged from the Great Depression.


Colourful painting of a residential street during winter.
Brookfield and Humbert Streets. Albert Franck, 1899-1973.Oil on masonite, 1962.

Albert Franck, a Dutch emigrant, arrived in Canada in 1926. As a painter, he found his subject in the city’s old brick homes and snowy laneways, rendering the mundane with richness and character.


Toronto Underground

Dark image shows trucks underground transporting excavated material out of a tunnel while men direct.
Yonge Street Subway, Shuter Street Ramp. Aba Bayefsky, 1923-2001. Pen, ink and grey wash, 1949.

The Yonge Street subway, the first in Canada, opened in 1954. Aba Bayefsky (1923-2001) sketched on his breaks while working on the excavation team. His stark pictures depict the arduous manual methods used during the construction.


A deep excavated hole is seen surrounding Trinity Anglican Church. Trucks and equipment appear below.
Eaton Centre Excavation. Walter J. Coucill. Brown ink and watercolour, 1975.

A moment of great transformation for the downtown core, this view shows the excavation of the site for the Toronto Eaton Center shopping mall. The Holy Trinity Anglican Church can be seen at centre.


Four yellow and red cranes shoot up into the sky surrounded by several high rise buildings.
Cranes. Rebecca Ott. Oil on canvas. 2011. Gift of the Metcalf Family in Honour of Robert F. Reid.

As of January 2017, Toronto had the distinction of being the “crane capital” of North America with a total of 81 construction cranes in operation around the city.


A car and taxi drive passed the brightly illuminated signage of Honest Ed's department store at night. The road appears wet and reflects the signage and street lights.
Honest Ed’s. Brent Arlitt. Acrylic on canvas. 2015. Gift of the Metcalf Family in Honour of Robert F. Reid.

Honest Ed’s – a no frills discount store operated by Ed Mirvish – opened in 1948. An immediate success, the eclectic shop remained an iconic part of the Annex neighbourhood until its closure in 2016. The block is in process of a massive redevelopment that will include 1,000 rental apartments, a permanent public market and retail space.


A photorealistic painting that focuses on the signage and empty parking lot in front of a dry cleaners.
Four Seasons Cleaners. Alison Fleming. Oil on wood, 2011. Gift of the Metcalf Family in Honour of Robert F. Reid.

This partial view captures Bestway Cleaners at the corner of Donlands and Mortimer Avenues in Toronto’s East End.


An empty gas station with red signage is in the foreground and a large green industrial building appears in background.
77.5 cents. Jerry Campbell. Oil on panel. 2011. Gift of the Metcalf Family in Honour of Robert F. Reid.

Campbell captured this unassuming gas station near Dupont Street and Ossington Avenue. Dupont Street long functioned as an important industrial corridor for the city because of its proximity to the Canadian Pacific Railway tracks.