BMO Gift Announcement
February 22, 2013
Main Gallery | Centre for the Arts | W600

BMO Gift Announcement

The University of Lethbridge Art Gallery is pleased to announce the generous donation by BMO Financial Group of 67 portraits by Nicholas De Grandmaison. A selection of the works will be presented in an exhibition that opens May 2nd, 2013.

University of Lethbridge Press Release:

BMO Financial Group donates collection of de Grandmaison portraits to University of Lethbridge Art Gallery

LETHBRIDGE, ALBERTA – FEBRUARY 22, 2013 – BMO Financial Group is donating 67 original pastel portraits by Nicholas de Grandmaison (1892-1978) from its art collection to the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery in Alberta.

The collection, which is valued at more than $1.66 million, spans a period of over 30 years and traces the development of de Grandmaison’s talent and facility as one of the most important painters and portraitists of western First Nations people in Canada.

“The University of Lethbridge already owns one of the most comprehensive collections of artworks and artifacts by this important Canadian portraitist,” said Robert Hayes, Senior Vice President, Prairies Division, BMO Bank of Montreal. “We are excited to enhance this collection with a gift that will allow it to continue to serve as a resource for students, faculty and independent scholars.”

De Grandmaison created portraits of southern Albertans and Canada’s First Nations populations for over 45 years. After immigrating to Canada from Russia (by way of England) in 1923, de Grandmaison spent much of his life touring around the prairies, painting the people he met. De Grandmaison was well-known and beloved in this area, and before his death in 1978 he was made an Honourary Chief of the Peigan Nation.

The 67 pastel portraits are part of a portfolio of 100 works by Nicholas de Grandmaison that were purchased by BMO in 1978 from the artist’s family after his death.

University of Lethbridge President Mike Mahon says the portraits gifted by BMO Financial Group are of special significance due to the fact that de Grandmaison created most of his work in Southern Alberta capturing the individual histories and personalities of those he painted.

“I find it fascinating that the communities Nicholas de Grandmaison was passionate about are the same communities the University remains passionate about today,” says Mahon. “The University of Lethbridge takes seriously what it means to be entrusted with these cultural treasures, and we look forward to sharing these works with our students, our community, our country and beyond in future initiatives.”

Director/Curator of the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery Josephine Mills says University the gallery is already contemplating the many opportunities that will arise from this gift.

“I am excited to present an exhibition of the portraits in May and to work on further possibilities for exhibitions and research with the works from BMO and our existing collection of de Grandmaison artwork and archives,” says Mills. “Future projects include conducting an oral history project about the artist and the First Nations subjects in the portraits as well as commissioning First Nations artists to produce new work in response to the BMO donation. This generous gift will significantly enhance our collection, exhibitions, and public programs and thus be an excellent resource for our community”.

Included in the gift is $50,000 to care for and create access to the works. Mills says an oral history project that focuses on the artist and sitters will be created and that the Gallery will commission Aboriginal artists to create a response to the works. The money will also be used to showcase the works nationally and possibly internationally.

The University of Lethbridge Art Gallery houses one of the most significant art collections in Canada. Numbering over 14,000 objects, the holdings include works from Canada, America and Europe, span the 19th and 20th centuries and continue to grow with 21st century additions. The gallery’s major strength is the diversity of the collection, which not only represents a wide range of geographic locations, but also the full spectrum of media, artistic movements and genres.

The University of Lethbridge Art Gallery has scheduled an exhibition of selected works from the BMO gift from May 2 to June 27, 2013.

About the Gift
These drawings are high quality, original artworks that are indicative of Nicholas de Grandmaison’s practice of depicting the First Nations peoples of the Canadian prairies. These works are of outstanding significance in their relationship to other pieces in the University of Lethbridge Art Collection created by de Grandmaison, as the University has become recognized as the foremost archive of de Grandmaison’s work and personal notes, sketchbooks, papers and photographs.

De Grandmaison’s art practice consisted primarily of portraits of Southern Alberta citizens. Some were commissioned; others were more spontaneous, on the spot drawings of friends or acquaintances. De Grandmaison is especially known for his mastery of the pastel medium. Many of his drawings have a gestural, unfinished quality, while also capturing the warmth in the sitters’ eyes, or particular aspects of their personalities. The 67 works included in this gift are of no exception: though the sitters are no longer alive, the viewer gets a sense of their personalities and individual histories when presented with de Grandmaison’s careful colour selections, precise compositions and gentle lines.

This gift of 67 works from the Bank of Montreal joins over 170 drawings, paintings and personal archival items (most of which have been previously deemed to be of outstanding significance and national importance) currently housed by the University of Lethbridge Art Collection and Archives.

About the Artist
Nicholas De Grandmaison created portraits of Southern Albertans and Canada’s First Nations populations for over 45 years. After immigrating to Canada from Russia (by way of England) in 1923, de Grandmaison spent much of his life touring around the prairies, painting the people he met. De Grandmaison was well known and beloved in this area, and before his death in 1978 he was made an Honourary Chief of the Peigan Nation. His prolific practice stands today as a document of 20th century life on the prairies, and the convergence of two cultures. De Grandmaison’s work, including the 67 works in this gift, are of outstanding cultural significance at regional, national and international levels as excellent representations of the lives of Canadians from a variety of cultural backgrounds.

The U of L’s De Grandmaison Collection
In addition to this gift, the art collection of the University of Lethbridge holds over 170 of de Grandmaison’s artworks and archival items, primarily pastel drawings that were created between 1925 and 1970. As the single largest holding of de Grandmaison’s work in a public collection, the University of Lethbridge has the responsibility of being as complete an archive as possible for the local, regional and national cultural communities. Because the University of Lethbridge Art Collection is used as an educational resource available to students, faculty and visiting artists, the acquisition of many works by a single artist is extremely important to illustrate the progressive shifts that occur over the duration of a professional artistic practice. De Grandmaison’s personal history with Southern Alberta furthers the importance of this gift as a testament to the artistic legacy of the region.

About the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery
The University of Lethbridge Art Gallery has a dual responsibility to serve the general public and the campus community. The Art Gallery is a key component of the university’s public face and reaches audiences from Lethbridge, within Alberta, and across the country while also playing a central role for learning and community engagement at the university. By making art works and the activities of the Art Gallery highly visible, the gallery attracts members of the public to campus, giving them access to contemporary and historical exhibitions, to professional visual arts programming, and to research produced at the Art Gallery. The vision for the U of L Art Gallery is a forum for the exchange of ideas: a site that supports and invites interdisciplinary discussion; a place for contemplation; a meeting point for students, faculty and staff; a connection point between people on and off campus; and a partner in or producer of interdisciplinary projects. The ideas and issues addressed in the art works we display, manage, reproduce, and interpret are a source for this kind of exchange and build on existing interdisciplinarity.

The U of L Art Gallery houses one of the most significant art collections in Canada. Numbering over 14,000 objects, the holdings include works from Canada, America, and Europe, span the 19th and 20th centuries and continue to grow with 21st century additions. The gallery’s major strength is the diversity of the collection, which not only represents a wide range of geographic locations, but also the full spectrum of media, artistic movements, and genres. The U of L Art Gallery embraces our role as a major collecting institution and strives to: increase public access to works in the collection through exhibitions, publications, and our web page; foster research on the artists and their works in the collection; and support inquiry into the concepts involved with collecting in a contemporary context.

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