Author, curator, and art historian Joan Murray has played a significant role in developing the study of Canadian art. Starting in 1968, she worked at the Art Gallery of Ontario, first as head of education, then as the gallery’s first curator of Canadian art and as acting chief curator. From 1974 to 1999, Murray was at the helm of the Robert McLaughlin Gallery in Oshawa where she organized more than 100 exhibitions and assisted in fundraising for the gallery.
Upon her retirement, she served as adjunct curator to the Varley Art Gallery in Unionville, as well as assisting the National Gallery of Canada and the Art Gallery of Ontario as one of the curators for a major retrospective of Tom Thomson. Murray also developed several exhibitions for leading Ontario galleries, including a major retrospective of Florence Carlyle for Museum London.
A leading scholar of Tom Thomson, Murray was responsible for bringing the paintings of the visionary Canadian painter to world attention through a series of exhibitions and books, including a biography. She has authored over twenty books on the history of Canadian art, notably Canadian Art in the Twentieth Century, Northern Lights: Masterpieces of Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven, and McMichael Canadian Art Collection: One Hundred Masterworks, and has published more than 200 articles on subjects ranging from folk art to contemporary artists in the Globe and Mail, Maclean’s, and other publications. She is a well-known lecturer, both in Canada and abroad.
Murray was elected to the Royal Canadian Academy in 1992; and in 1993, was honoured with the Senior Award from the Association of Cultural Executives for her outstanding contribution and dedication to Canadian cultural life. She received the Order of Ontario in 2003.