The Founder's Collection

Vancouver Art Gallery - October 5 1931

Editor's note: the following article is transcribed from the exhibition catalogue for the inaugural exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 1931.

     The purpose of the founders was to provide a nucleus collection of works of art which would be good in quality and comprehensive in appeal and to this end in April, 1931, Mr. H.A. Stone and Mr. Charles H. Scott were commissioned by the founders to proceed to Europe.
     To get together such a collection, much thought was given in the matter and advice sought from directors of art galleries and others, both in Canada and Britain. After the consideration of all the factors involved it was decided that a collection be formed which would aim at a history of British and Canadian painting. In making this decision it was felt that such a collection would immediately give the Gallery an individuality and completemess which would be lacking were any other policy pursued.
     The first part of this policy, viz, the collection of British works, has, with one or two notable exceptions, been adhered to; the second part - the collection of Canadian works - remains to be made, and in this connection it is noted that the founders have set aside a sum of money for the purchase of Canadian works.
     In viewing the collection, therefore, chronologically, and in the light of the policy decided upon, it will be apparent that there are several blanks.
     Such blanks, it is to be hoped, will be filled in due course and in this respect the founders would urge the Art Gallery Association to carefully consider the filling of these blanks in future purchases and so continuing the policy set, until such time as it is thought fit to enlarge the scope of the Gallery collection. There is also an opportunity here for friends of the Gallery to associate themselves with the filling in of notable gaps.
     No examples of the great British portrait painters are as yet contained in the collection. Many blanks exist because no good examples were in the market at the time of buying.
     In the domain of landscape, a branch of painting in which Britain was an early and great leader, such notable names as Wilson, Constable and Crome are absent. A beginning has been made, however, in the collection of English water-colour drawings and in this connection the founders would acknowledge the help so generously given by Sir Charles Holmes (late Director, National Gallery, London), and by Mr. A.J. Finberg, Turner is represented within this small group but only in his early phase. Taking 1610-1646 as the lifetime of one of the earliest British oil painters, Wm. Dobson, it will be observed that there is a gap of 100 years before the founders' collection begins with Morland, 1763. From the latter date onwards the collection offers a fair purview of British art.
     There is a wide range in the subject matter and technique of the various artists chosen. No bias has been exercised in favour of one school of painting or another - the aim has been to faithfully portray as far as was possible the history and development of British art.
     Early figure painting is shown by W. Etty and a small picture - artist unknown - but reminiscent of Sir Joshua Reymolds.
     British "genre" is represented by Wilkie, Frith, Nicol and Faed.
     Sea painting by John Callow, Napier Henry, and Frank Brangwyn.
     Landscape by Cos, Fisher, Cameron, Hughes-Stanton, Bateman, and others.
     Animals by Morland and Munnings (over 100 years separating these two lovers of the horse).
     Later figure work, flower paintng, and still-life is represented by Clausen, Sims, Laura Knight, Harold Knight, Grant, Strang, and many others.
     Two pieces of sculpture have been bought, both bonuses: one by Jacob Epstein and the other by E.W. Colton, A.R.A., notably different in outlook and technique.
     The collection includes a number of drawings, a class of work in which Britain at this period stands very high. It is regretted that this branch of work is not more fullly represented. There are, however, notable examples by Augustus E. John, Sir Wm. Orpen, Muirhead Bone, Kramer, and one or two others.
     British etching, which also stands high at this period, is represented by W.L. Griggs, Rusbury, Nixon and others.
     The section of drawings and etchings has many blanks and again offers an opportunity for donors to fill in.
     The few pictures in the collection by other than British artists offered themselves at desirable prices and it was thought advisable under such circumstances to deviate from the general policy set.
     In the matter of reproductions there has been acquired a collection of framed Medici prints from the Old Masters, a few reproductions of drawings by Holbein from the Windsor Castle collection, a large group of Almari reproductions of paintings and drawings by the Old Masters of the European Schools. These should form a source of study for all interested in the history of art.
     The founders' collection as it now exists consists of: 58 oil and panel paintings, 54 water colours, 2 sculpture, 9 drawings, 23 etchings, 178 reproductions.
     This collection is gifted to the City by the founders with the hope it will be found worthy, and with the further hope the policy set, viz, to have a fully representative collection of British and Canadian art, will be continued until omissions in the collection, already alluded to, are filled.
     The founders would also gratefully ackowledge the many courtesies and willing help extended to their representatives, Mr. Stone and Mr. Scott, by the National Gallery of Canada, Mr. Constable, of the National Gallery of London, England, and by many other directors of galleries in Canada, Britain, and Europe.
     Mr. Stone and Mr. Scott left Vancouver in the middle of April, 1931, and returned to Vancouver at the end of July, 1931. During that period of absence from the city stops were made at the following cities and towns: Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, London, Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Southpost, Blackburn, Bradford, Leeds, Nottingham, Amsterdam, Berlin and Paris.