Wilhelmina McIntosh

Other Name: Wilhelmina Morris McIntosh

Wilhelmina Morris McIntosh was an art collector from London, Ontario who generously made three bequests to The University of Western Ontario to establish what is now known as McIntosh Gallery.

Born in Euphemia Township, Lambton County, Wilhelmina Morris McIntosh eventually moved to London, Ontario where she lived with her husband, John Gordon McIntosh. Mr. McIntosh’s family owned a prominent dry goods business in the city before it was sold to Robinson, Little & Co. and the couple relocated to Winnipeg when Mr. McIntosh was appointed its western territorial manager. They had no children.

The McIntoshes collected art throughout their marriage with particular emphasis on British and Canadian artists. Before her death, Wilhelmina made bequests to The University of Western Ontario in memory of her husband who had predeceased her in 1927: collection of 67 paintings, prints, and drawings; $50,000 to build a gallery on campus; and an endowment for maintenance of the building and the purchase of additional artworks. At the time, Mrs. McIntosh’s sister, Mary Elizabeth, was the widow of Dr. Walter H. Moorehouse, former Dean of Medicine and Vice-Chancellor of the University, a family connection which may have been a contributing factor to the bequest.

In her will, Mrs. McIntosh specifically instructed the gallery be completed and open to the public within two years of her death or the proceeds of her estate would be transferred to the University of Toronto. Her death in 1940 occurred after Canada had been plunged into the Second World War.  Yet, despite wartime rationing and a shortage of construction tradesmen and artisans, the deadline was met with one month to go to the deadline with a selection of First World War paintings on loan from the National Gallery of Canada.

In addition to the gallery itself which also briefly housed the Western Ontario Conservatory of Music, Mrs. McIntosh’s vision to support education also included legacy scholarships for public speaking, geography, business administration, and music.

Today, after celebrating its 75th anniversary as Ontario’s oldest university art gallery, its collection holds over 4,000 objects and continues to serve both the University and the larger community.

 

Sources:

Elliott Shaw, Catherine. “In the Beginning, 1942.” Behind the Lines: Canada’s Home Front During the First and Second World Wars. McIntosh Gallery, Western University, 2017. Exhibition catalogue.

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