Yvonne McKague Housser

Fonds number:
Title: Yvonne McKague Housser
Dates of Material:
20 cm of textual records and other material
1 audio cassette tape
Biographical sketch

Yvonne McKague Housser (1898–1996) was an artist associated with the Group of Seven. She was born in Toronto, Ontario, the daughter of Hugh Henry McKague and Louise Elliott. She married Frederick Housser, the author of A Canadian Art Movement: The Story of the Group of Seven (1926), in 1935. She died in Toronto.

Housser studied at the Ontario College of Art in Toronto (1915–1920), stayed on to teach for a year, and then studied in Paris at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière, the Académie Colarossi and the Académie Ransom (1921–22). On her return to Canada, she resumed teaching at the Ontario College of Art under Arthur Lismer and first exhibited her work with the Royal Canadian Academy in 1923 and the Ontario Society of Artists in 1924, later becoming a member of both these organizations. After another year in Europe, Housser rejoined the staff of the Ontario College of Art in 1925. She was associated, along with Lismer, with the dissident Art Students’ League formed in 1926, but stayed on at the College. She exhibited in three Group of Seven Shows (1928–31). In 1930, she studied child art with Franz Cizek in Vienna. She made sketching trips to Northern Ontario in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. In 1939, she went to Taos, New Mexico, with Isabel McLaughlin to study dynamic symmetry under Emil Bisttram. She retired from the Ontario College of Art in 1949 but went on to teach at the Doon School of Fine Arts in Kitchener and at the Ryerson Polytechnical Institute in Toronto (since 2001 Ryerson University). She studied under abstract expressionist Hans Hofmann in Cape Cod, Massachusetts during two summers in the 1950s and made several trips to Mexico and the West Indies during the 1950s and 1960s.

Housser was a founding member of both the Canadian Group of Painters (1933) and the Federation of Canadian Artists. She was also a member of the Toronto Theosophical Society, the Ontario Society of Artists (1927), the Royal Canadian Academy (A.R.C.A. 1942–R.C.A. 1951), and the Heliconian Club. In 1965, Housser was awarded the Baxter Purchase Award at the Ontario Society of Artists’ 47th annual exhibition for Spring Stirs the Earth. She received the Order of Canada in 1984.

A colleague of the Group of Seven, Housser’s work explored aspects of Canada’s landscape and its beauty. Her work developed and evolved towards semi-abstract and abstract expressionism. Her paintings are in the permanent collections of the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, Ontario, the Art Gallery of Hamilton, Ontario, the McMichael Collection in Kleinburg, Ontario, the University of Toronto and Victoria University, Ontario, the Public Library and Art Museum in London, Ontario, and in many private collections.

Custodial history

At an unknown date, Yvonne Housser gave the records to Kathleen Coburn, who intended to write a biography of Yvonne Housser. She labeled the files for Coburn’s use.

The audio cassette tape was created by and held in the custody of Lora Senechal Carney, an art historian and professor at the University of Toronto.

The correspondence and notes relating to Rainer Maria Rilke were originally donated to the E.P. Taylor Library and Archives at the Art Gallery of Ontario. They were left unprocessed until they were discovered by the Collections Development Librarian Erin Rutherford, who offered them to the E.J. Pratt Library in 2023.

Scope and content

Fonds consists of Yvonne Housser’s journals and correspondence (1931–1980), including correspondence with her husband Frederick Housser (1931–37), and Arthur Lismer (1937) and notes on Theosophy (1953–1980); lectures, book reviews and stories (1933–1980); and documents and drawings pertaining to her travels and sketching trips (1939–1975) to Europe, the United States, Mexico, and Québec. Also included is a cassette tape of a conversation between Housser and Lora Senechal Carney.

Source of supplied title

Title based on contents of the fonds.


The fonds is stored in 3 boxes.

Immediate source of acquisition

Most of the material was acquired from Freda Gough, Executor of the Estate of Kathleen Coburn, in 1992 (together with the Kathleen Coburn fonds). The correspondence from Emily Carr was acquired from the same source in 1993.

The cassette tape was received from Lora Senechal Carney in November 2022.

The correspondence and notes related to Rainer Maria Rilke were transferred from Erin Rutherford, Collection Development Librarian at the E.P. Taylor Library and Archives, in March 2023.

Language of material


Access restrictions

Restrictions on access: No restrictions on access.

Finding aids

File list available

Access restrictions

A digitized audio file of the cassette in 2022.13, Box 1, File 1 is available for research purposes. Please contact victoria [dot] library [at] utoronto [dot] ca for permission to access the file.


No further accruals are expected.

Access points

Provenance access points: Housser, Yvonne McKague, 1898–1996
Subject access points: Theosophy

Related resources

Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa: Yvonne McKague Housser fonds (reference number: R2413-0-7-E; was: MG30-D305) nd other collections related to her.