Who was Doris McCarthy?

Doris McCarthy (1910-2010) was one of the best-known Canadian landscape painters of the late 20th century. She began her artistic career in 1926 with a scholarship to the Ontario College of Art. McCarthy began teaching at Toronto’s Central Technical School in 1932.

She joined the Ontario Society of Artists in 1944 and became its first woman president in 1964. She was also elected president of the Canadian Society of Painters in Watercolor in 1956, and was inducted into the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 1974. McCarthy retired from teaching in 1972 and began devoting more time to her painting. Having travelled extensively, McCarthy leaves a legacy of work that has been exhibited and collected across Canada and abroad.

McCarthy was named a Member of the Order of Canada (1986) and the Order of Ontario (1992). She was a recipient of five honorary doctorates and an Honorary Fellowship to the Ontario College of Art and Design.

What is Fool's Paradise?

In 1939, Doris McCarthy bought a 12-acre (4-hectare) property overlooking the Scarborough Bluffs. Her mother called the property a “fool’s paradise” because she thought it extravagant that a young art teacher would spend more money than she earned in a year for undeveloped, isolated pasture land. McCarthy embraced the disapproving moniker and the property became known as Fool’s Paradise.

McCarthy designed and built her home herself, beginning with a small cottage in 1940 and moving in permanently in 1946. The property is an expression of McCarthy’s creativity and character. It is maintained essentially as she left it — in an effort to conserve and protect the spirit and fabric of the place.

McCarthy donated the property to the Ontario Heritage Trust in 1998 to conserve its scenic, esthetic, natural and cultural values, with the wish that it would become an artist-in-residence centre and venue for heritage activities following her death.

Fool’s Paradise is a unique heritage site that boasts a rustic, whimsical cottage, mature trees, an adjacent ravine, a pond and open space with expansive vistas above the majestic Scarborough Bluffs overlooking Lake Ontario. Quiet and picturesque, the site is just 21 km (13 miles) east of downtown Toronto.

In 2000, the pedestrian trail in the Bellamy Ravine on the east side of the property was officially named Doris McCarthy Trail in honour of her work. Several acres of land in the ravine were donated to the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority.