Our next Artist You Need To Know is Joanne Tod.

She is a Canadian contemporary artist and teacher whose paintings have been exhibited nationally and internationally for the past thirty years.

From the Canada Council Art Bank : “Evolving from an early interest in Pop art and documentary photography, Tod is widely known for her subject of social critique in the guise of high realism paintings….Joanne Tod is a figurative painter who rose to fame during a time when many in the art world considered painting to ‘over’, or ethically unjustifiable. However, with quick wit and critical eye, Tod employs irony in her paintings to challenge stereotypes, assumptions, and expectations, while continuously aware of her medium’s implications and historical context. She continues to use her medium to confront and critique a variety of social issues through the guise of high realism paintings.”



Tod attended the Ontario College of Art in Toronto from 1970 to 1974. She often works on a larger scale, playing between high realism and an element of illusion in her works. As a painter, she also has been aware – in her choice of subject matter and style – about the contested narratives around the history of painting in Western art, often employing a feminist lens in this arena.

Recurring themes in her work have been both interior spaces and portraits of women. In this manner, she “comments on the ironies of image, power, and glamour in our culture.” (from here)



Tod is perhaps best known (in the larger cultural milieu of Canada) for a series titled Oh, Canada – A Lament which offered portraits in remembrance of Canadian soldiers who died (during the period of 2007 – 2011) in the war Afghanistan : there are 159 portraits. Afghanistan was the longest military operation in Canada’s history, but also resonated with Tod on a personal level. From The Walrus : “With this project Tod sought to capture the individuality of each soldier, an objective partly inspired by her uncle, James Tod, who served and died in the Second World War. As she explains, “He was an unknown soldier to me, and it’s the same thing with the people I’m painting now. I’ve never met them, but when I see their photographs, I feel as if I’ve known them a little bit.””

The installation of these portraits were accompanied by other painted works to look like a ‘fragmented’ Canadian flag. This was on view in several major galleries across Canada, including the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum, Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre and the Winnipeg Art Gallery.

The images below are from this body of work. More about this series can be seen here.



Another of her work in series is titled Rogues and Leaders. Informed by the #MeToo movement and executed primarily during COVID, these works are direct and simple in execution but are a response to larger narratives in both the political and cultural sphere. To counterbalance the more insidious subjects of this series, Tod balanced them with a selection of respected and significant female leaders from around the world.

“Ultimately, both series are about women. The first is about men who have harassed them (and worse), and the second celebrates what women have achieved, and can accomplish for themselves and the world.” Below are a number of images from Rogues and Leaders and more about this body of work can be seen here.



Tod is a teacher in the Visual Studies program at the University of Toronto. She has exhibited widely, including at the Art Gallery of Hamilton, Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Leonard and Bina Ellen Art Gallery, Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, Robert McLaughlin Gallery, National Gallery of Canada, Art Gallery of Ontario and the Vancouver Art Gallery. She has earned awards from the Canada Council and the Ontario Arts Council as well.



Her artworks can be found in the permanent collections of the National Gallery of Canada, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal, the House of Commons (Ottawa), McGill University (Montréal) and the McLaughlin Art Gallery (Oshawa) and many other public and private collections. She was elected to the Royal Canadian Academy in 2002, and in 2005 was awarded an Honourary Fellowship from OCAD University.

Critic Gary Michael Dault has written that Tod’s works offer a “dizzying realism” with “high sensuous, meditative brushwork that abstracts its subject at the very same time as it nails it down.” He further states that Tod “[is] a virtuoso, with meticulously detailed enigmatic paintings that are “lushly crafted.””

A more complete listing of her accomplishments can be seen here, at her site, which also offers more images and information about the artist.