The Robert McLaughlin Gallery (formerly the Art Gallery of Oshawa) was established by a group of artists and citizens of Oshawa, Ont, in February 1967. Shortly thereafter C. Ewart McLaughlin, husband of Alexandra Luke of Painters Eleven, provided funds for the gallery's first building and in 1969 Jeremy Watney was appointed Director.
By 1985 the gallery had outgrown its original building space and in 1987 a new facility designed by Arthur Erickson was officially opened. The new galleries, which provided an increased exhibition space of almost 11 000 square feet, were enhanced by an important gift from Isabel McLaughlin (artist/patron granddaughter of Robert McLaughlin, for whom the gallery is named), who donated a major collection of Canadian, international and native art.
In its exhibition and collection programming, the Robert McLaughlin Gallery has paid particular attention to the work of the Painters Eleven group of artists, which was founded in Oshawa/Whitby in 1953. The gallery has also exhibited a range of other contemporary Canadian art, particularly under the guidance of Gallery Director Joan Murray, who was appointed to this position in 1974.