Lord Dalhousie: Patron and Collector at the National Gallery of Canada
Ottawa - February 15, 2008
Discover extraordinary works from the early nineteenth century, commissioned by one of the first patrons of Canadian art. Most are being presented to the public for the very first time
Today, the National Gallery of Canada opens its latest special exhibition, Lord Dalhousie: Patron and Cllector. On view until May 11, 2008, it features 140 works – watercolours, sketches, lithographs, models, architectural drawings, and objets d’art – commissioned in the early nineteenth century by George Ramsay, 9th Earl of Dalhousie, when he was Governor-in-Chief of Upper and Lower Canada and Leutenant Governor of Nova Scotia. Organized by the National Gallery of Canada and presented with the support of the patrons of the National Gallery of Canada Foundation, this exhibition offers a unique portrait of one of the first patrons of Canadian art. Many of the works are being displayed to the public for the first time.
“We are thrilled to be bringing Lord Dalhousie: Patron and Collector to the public,” noted the director of the NGC, Pierre Théberge. “Visitors will discover a man who had a remarkable influence on Canadian culture. This exhibition takes a fresh look at a crucial part of our artistic heritage. We hope that it will encourage other initiatives aimed at highlighting patronage of the arts in Canada, past and present."
George Ramsay, 9th Earl of Dalhousie
Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia, from 1816 to 1820, then Governor-in-Chief of British North America until 1828, George Ramsay, 9th Earl of Dalhousie, lived in Canada for twelve years before returning to his native Scotland.
Excursions and journeys were the hallmark of Dalhousie’s approach to governing. While he was in Canada, he sponsored a number of artists who accompanied him on his official visits to the four provinces that formed British North America at that time, and who executed his commissions. Among the most prominent were James Pattison Cockburn, Charles Ramus Forrest, James Smillie, John Crawford Young, and John Elliott Woolford. The numerous landscapes painted by these artists, and by others, attest to the importance that the governor attached to having illustrations to accompany his journal notes. Thus, Lord Dalhousie laid the foundations for the visual memory of a fledgling nation.
Inspired by his love of art and the preservation of heritage, Lord Dalhousie left a rich artistic legacy composed of a large number of artworks and cultural accomplishments, making him the first true major art patron in Canada. Along with the many extraordinary artworks that he commissioned and collected, he was responsible for a number of major initiatives, including the oldest public monument in Québec City, the first library in Halifax – today the Cambridge Military Library – the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec, which is still active, and Dalhousie University, one of the oldest and finest institutions of higher learning in Canada.
The research conducted for this exhibition unearthed many treasures. Among them is a superb addition to Collection of the NGC: 17 rare watercolours and prints, including a famous, first-edition, double suite of aquatints by James Pattison Cockburn. These works were acquired thanks to a fund-raising campaign launched in 2006 by the NGC Foundation.
"We are proud to be associated with this exceptional exhibition which illustrates an important chapter in Canada’s history and heritage. We are particularly grateful to the numerous donors who, through their support, are following in the footsteps of Lord Dalhousie, one of the most famous patrons of the arts in Canada," said the president and CEO of the NGC Foundation, Marie Claire Morin.
One Exhibition, Eight Themes
Visitors to Lord Dalhousie: Patron and Collector will have the opportunity to appreciate the scope of Lord Dalhousie’s legacy in eight thematic groupings: George Ramsay, 9th Earl of Dalhousie, which paints a portrait of the man – his career and his cultural and historical interests; A Traveller and His Artists, concentrates on the principal artists whose work Lord Dalhousie collected and with whom he maintained ongoing relationships; The Human Landscape, bringing together works that depict the villages and towns in the territories under the governor’s jurisdiction; Projects in Architecture, Engineering, and Urbanism, which presents an important aspect of Lord Dalhousie’s contributions in these areas; Grand Estates, a selection of works portraying estates and their majestic residences in Nova Scotia and Quebec – reminiscent of the Scottish and English estates of the period; The Other: First Nations and Canadians, displays objets d’art and artworks testifying to Lord Dalhousie’s curiosity and interest in cultures different from his own; Lithography, Engraving, and Silver, including remarkable objects and engravings; and The Spectacle of Nature, which assembles watercolours and washes showing the wealth and diversity of virgin nature. A number of works are accompanied by excerpts from Lord Dalhousie’s journals and quotations by his contemporaries.
A Variety of Processes and Techniques
The works on display are well preserved and rare. They demonstrate the diversity of processes and techniques used by artists of the time, including watercolours, engravings, silverware and drawings. The exhibition’s curator selected these works, among other things, for their fine quality and excellent condition.
A catalogue accompanies Lord Dalhousie: Patron and Collector. Written by René Villeneuve, curator of the exhibition, this 173-page book in colour includes 140 plates of the works in the exhibition. Available in French and English, the catalogue is for sale at the National Gallery of Canada Bookstore for $49.95, plus taxes, and at http://www.shopngc.ca/, the NGC’s online store.
Meet the Curator
On Friday, February 15, from noon to 3:00 p.m., the public is invited to take a guided tour of the exhibition with its curator, René Villeneuve, who will explain Lord Dalhousie’s perspective and the importance of his work to Canada. Included with NGC admission.
Lecture by the Right Honourable Earl of Dalhousie
At 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, February 16, the public will have an opportunity to meet the Right Honourable Earl of Dalhousie, a descendant of George Ramsay, 9th Earl of Dalhousie, when he gives a lecture at the NGC Auditorium. This presentation, given in English, can also be heard in French through simultaneous translation. Cost: Adults $5, Seniors and full-time students $4, Members $3. Visitors under age 12 free (ticket required). NGC admission not included.
Admission and NGC hours
Tickets are now on sale at $9 for adults, $7 for seniors and full-time students, $4 for youths aged 12 to 19 years, and $18 for families (two adults and three children). Admission is free of charge for children under 12 and for Friends of the Gallery. This includes admission to Lord Dalhousie: Patron and Collector and the NGC Collection. Tickets are available by telephone at 613-998-888 or 1-888-541-8888 and at http://www.shopngc.ca/.
The NGC is open Tuesday to Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Thursdays until 8 p.m. Closed Mondays, except for March 3 and 10, during the school holiday, and Easter Monday. Closed Good Friday.
Curator of the Exhibition
René Villeneuve, associate curator of early Canadian art at the NGC, is the curator of the exhibition Lord Dalhousie: Patron and Collector and author of the catalogue that accompanies it. Mr. Villeneuve has worked at the NGC for more than twenty years and has made an important contribution to the enhancement and exhibition of the Gallery’s collection of early Canadian works. He has also written a number of books and articles on Canadian art. His detailed research on Lord Dalhousie’s collection and works over a six-year period unearthed previously undiscovered works, including seventeen that now belong to the NGC.
About the National Gallery of Canada
The National Gallery of Canada is home to one of the most important collections of historical and contemporary art in the world. In addition, it has pre-eminent collections of Inuit, Western and European Art from the 14th to the 20th century, as well as American and Asian Art. Created in 1880, it is among the oldest of Canada’s national, cultural institutions. For more information, visit http://www.gallery.ca/.
About the National Gallery of Canada Foundation
Established in 1997, the National Gallery of Canada Foundation is dedicated to supporting the National Gallery and its affiliate, the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, in fulfilling their mandates. By fostering strong partnerships, the Foundation provides the Gallery with the additional financial support required to lead Canada's visual arts community locally, nationally and internationally. The blend of public support and private philanthropy enables the National Gallery of Canada to preserve and interpret Canada's visual arts heritage. The Foundation welcomes immediate and deferred gifts for special projects and endowments. To find out more about the NGC Foundation, visit http://www.ngcfoundation.ca/.
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