National Gallery of Canada

The National Gallery of Canada (NGC) in Ottawa houses the largest and most important collection of Canadian art in the world, along with many outstanding examples of international art as well.

This gallery is a major Ottawa tourism attraction and a must-see for culture-vultures.

National Gallery of Canada

Even before you enter the gallery you'll see some cool art. This giant statue of a spider by Louise Bourgeois is a popular tourist photo op!


Once inside the museum you'll find a vast "web" of different rooms and courtyards displaying art in various media.

One of my favourite parts of the gallery is the sun-filled Sculpture Court, where you'll find this lovely life-size portrait of an Inuit mother, entitled Inuit Mother and Child, carved by Frances Loring, one of Canada's most famous 20th century sculptors.

Inuit Mother & Child, National Gallery of Canada

Nearby is this charming statue of an infant counting his toes:

statue, National Gallery of Canada

Types of art at the National Gallery of Canada

The gallery’s works by Inuit and First Nations artists include some of the oldest Canadian art (decorated ritual objects) as well as modern pieces such as prints by Kenojuak Ashevak, soapstone sculptures by John Tiktak and paintings by Norval Morrisseau.

Quebec’s artists, including Jean-Paul Riopelle, are well represented, as are the paintings of Ontario’s Tom Thomson, British Columbia’s Emily Carr and Alberta-born William Kurelek.

In the older, 18th and 19th century European-influenced Canadian art, you’ll notice many works with religious themes, which reflects the large role Christian churches played in art-patronage and in the daily lives of everyday Canadians.

Landscape paintings at the National Gallery of Canada show the diverse geography and scenery of this huge country: the prairies of Saskatchewan, the forests of Northern Ontario, the ice fields of the Arctic. You’ll feel like an “arm-chair traveller” when you tour the landscape collections.

For a uniquely Canadian approach to presenting nature, look for paintings by the Group of Seven, Canada's most famous 20th century artists. By studying antique portraits, paintings of famous events and sketches of city scenes, you'll gain a sense of how Canadians lived in the past.

You'll also find international works of art at the gallery including pieces by van Gogh, Rubens, Rembrandt, Picasso, Bourgeois and Pollock.

One of the more surprising features of the gallery is the Rideau Street Convent Chapel. Here you'll discover the interior decorations of a 19th century chapel that was demolished. The ceiling, columns, altars, are all here, reassembled ... it's sort of eerie, almost like seeing the mummy of a building.

In addition to its permanent collection, the Gallery mounts several temporary exhibits each year. 

The gallery offers guided tours for all ages, as well as special activities for children. 

The architecture

The gallery building itself is unique. Built by Moshe Safdie, it opened in 1988, although the institution goes back to 1882. It's a tall, regal-looking glass building with a majestic setting.

Stop into the cafeteria and enjoy the view of the Parliament Buildings across the water.

For more information about the National Gallery of Canada

For current info about admission fees and hours, see the gallery web site

Ontario Travel Secrets  > Ottawa Tourism > National Gallery of Canada