Laughing Kathy is a portrait of Kathleen (“Kathy”) Gormley McKay, the founding patron of the Varley Art Gallery. Kathy was a good friend of and muse to Fred Varley. When his health declined, Kathy and her husband, Donald, invited him to live with them. The three later moved to the house that is now the McKay Art Center. Upon his death, Varley left many art works and a collection of his belongings to Kathy. She in turn agreed to donate her collection to the then Town of Markham; under the condition that a gallery be built to house the collection, and thus, the Varley Art Gallery was built. Sadly, Kathy passed away mere months from the official opening of the Varley Art Gallery of Markham, though she was able to see the progress along the way.
F.H. Varley, Laughing Kathy, c. 1952–53, oil on board , 38.3 x 30.0 cm, Collection of the Varley Art Gallery of Markham, Gift of the Estate of Kathleen Gormley McKay, 1996.1.78
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