The Permanent Collection
The Dalhousie Art Gallery’s Permanent Collection has been acquired
by purchase, donation or bequest over many years,
and is continually growing. It presently comprises over 1,000 works, including
contemporary and historical
paintings, drawings, prints, sculpture, photography,
mixed media works and artifacts, both Canadian and International in origin.
We hold the
collection in trust for the benefit and education
of the entire community.
The earliest donation of a work of art to Dalhousie was was an engraving
by John James Audubon (Rice Bird and Red Maple) . It was donated
by The Rev. Thomas McCulloch, the first President of
the University, in the 1830s
- long before the Art Gallery itself was founded. Other
gifts of art followed (see How a Collection grows),
so that by the time the University Art Group was formed
in 1943, there was a small but significant collection of works
scattered across the campus. The Art Group brought in
traveling exhibitions, showed films on art, and loaned
out its collection of framed art reproductions
to various university departments for a small fee. This
latter activity was a fore-runner of the Gallery’s present popular Loans
on Campus program.
The Dalhousie Art Gallery was formally named in 1953, and as it became
more established and better known, it began to acquire artworks in earnest.
In 1971 it moved to its current purpose-built facility in The Art Centre.
The collection was moved to a climate-controlled, secure vault, and full-time
professional staff began to bring the Gallery’s operations in line with
national museological standards. At this time, the business of sorting
and registering the collection intensified. In the early 1980s, the process
of appraising each piece for insurance purposes was begun - a process
that took many months, even though, at the time, the number of items in
the collection was less than half of what it is today.
In 1985, Gallery staff and members of the Advisory Committee developed
a collections policy manual, and all additions to the collection from
this time onwards have been approved by an Acquisition Committee composed
of Gallery staff and members of the Advisory Committee. For the past two
decades, the management and care of the Permanent Collection has been
the responsibility of a full-time Registrar/Preparator. She follows the
professional standards established by the National Gallery of Canada and
the Canadian Conservation Society, and keeps the collection records in
written and electronic files.
The collection does not languish in the darkness of the vault, however.
The Gallery’s Curator regularly organizes focused exhibitions of works
drawn from the collection,
which are often accompanied by illustrated catalogues and brochures. Works
loaned on request to other institutions, and are also
placed in secure offices and meeting rooms in various university buildings,
Loans on Campus program. The collection is also made
available to the university community, art students and scholars for formal
With a grant from the Canadian Department of Heritage’s Museum Assistance
Program, images of most of the collection have now been
digitized, and the collection database is available for research online.
In spite of limited acquisition funds, the continued growth of the
Permanent Collection is important to the long-term future of the Gallery.
Collectors, artists and Dalhousie Alumni periodically donate works, and
the classification of the Gallery as a category A institution encourages
gifts that qualify for “cultural property” designation under the Cultural
Property Export Review Board. Each year, specific works are acquired through
gift solicitation and targeted fund-raising, often with matching funds
obtained through the Acquisition Assistance Program of the Canada Council
for the Arts.
Public art collections represent the nation’s patrimony and heritage,
and we are conscious that we are entrusted with a resource that essentially
belongs to the whole community — it’s yours to enjoy! We encourage you
to browse the online collection, and also to visit the Gallery when Permanent
Collection exhibitions are on display.
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How a Collection grows
Not all public art collections start with a clear
mandate and a focused collecting policy. Some develop out of the personal
obsessions of individuals, who eventually
transform their private collection into the beginnings of a public
famous Ashmolean Museum began in this way). Some are the result of
a random assortment of gifts to an institution from many sources, accumulated
or centuries. Collections can grow in ways that are quite organic
and unpredictable, at least in the early stages. But eventually the
physical and financial pressures
that arise out of the need to house, record, rationalize, and care
for a collection make it important to develop collection mandates and
The Dalhousie Art Gallery’s collection began with various gifts made
to the University. Among the significant early acquisitions
are an important group of historic European prints donated by The Carnegie
1926, and three fine oil sketches by Group of Seven member
A.Y. Jackson, purchased with funds donated by Senator W.H. Denis in 1934.
When the Art
Gallery was officially formed, these gifts were enfolded
into the Gallery’s
collection, which then began to grow not only through
donations and bequests from friends and members of the University community,
but also by direct
purchases from artists and dealers. Arthur Lismer’s extraordinary painting
Halifax Harbour - Time of War was donated by the artist himself
in 1955, and this gift formed the core of the Gallery’s Lismer collection,
now through gifts and purchases to over a dozen works. Similarly, a carefully
selected group of Inuit sculptures was purchased in 1971
with funds donated
by the Class of 1929, and this collection has since been
joined by other gifts of Inuit carvings and stonecut prints. The Women’s
Division of the Dalhousie Alumni have been responsible for a number of
they donated funds to purchase a beautiful watercolour
by Paraskeva Clark in 1954 and two serigraphs by Alex Colville in 1958.
and alumni class reunions have also marked the occasion
by assisting in purchasing works of art for the collection. These gifts
make a fitting
and lasting contribution to the community.
The Gallery slowly developed a collecting mandate which focused, in
order of priority, first on paintings, drawings, prints
and sculpture by artists who have made a significant contribution to the
the Atlantic region; second, on works of significance
by Canadian artists in general; and finally on relevant works by artists
from outside Canada.
In the mid-1970s, when the value of paintings began to
climb, the policy was amended to give priority to works on paper - these
being less expensive
to purchase and also easier to store in a vault with
limited space. Through this policy, the Gallery built up a very fine collection
of Canadian prints
and drawings, including works by Greg Curnoe, Lawren
Harris, Christopher Pratt, Michael Snow, Ruth Wainwright, Joyce Wieland,
and Susan Wood, to
name a few. Major gifts of works on paper from artists
such as Frank Nulf, Tony Scherman, Ron Shuebrook, and Harold Town have
enhanced our contemporary
holdings, but paintings and works in other media have
not been neglected. In recent years, the Gallery has acquired paintings
by artists Wayne Boucher,
Gerald Ferguson, Alex Livingston and Monica Tap - all
of whom have made significant contributions to the Nova Scotian art scene.
Within the collection are several smaller, focused areas of collecting.
One such is the Richard and Jocelyne Raymond Canadian Graphic Art
Collection, comprising over 20 prints created between 1910 and 1950
- a particularly significant time for Canadian printmaking. Another
is the E. Marie and Robert P. Parkin gift of pre-Columbian art and
artifacts from Central and South America. Recently, the Gallery
has cautiously embarked on a new collecting area, with the acquisition
of photographs and mixed-media photographic works by Suzanne Gauthier,
Susan McEachern, Lorraine Gilbert and Marlene Creates.
Sculpture is more difficult to acquire and look after, due to its scale
and mass. However, the Gallery has acquired several significant pieces
over the years (in addition to the aforementioned Inuit collection), the
most recent being Ned Bear’s magnificent carved masks (purchased in 1999),
Donna Hiebert’s three-part Containment, donated by Dr. Ravi Ravindra in
2000 (now permanently installed in the inner courtyard of the Faculty
of Arts and Social Sciences building), and John Greer’s marble Wasp’s
Nest, donated by the artist in 2001.
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Loans on Campus
The Dalhousie Art Gallery’s Loans on Campus program represents one
way in which members of the university community can share in the collection.
For a small annual fee (to cover handling and insurance) original art
works can be selected by Dalhousie Staff and Faculty to be placed in their
offices or meeting rooms.
How the Program works:
Potential borrowers contact the Gallery’s Registrar/Preparator, Michele Gallant,
to arrange for her to visit the location where the work(s) will be placed. This
is in order to ensure that the location is secure and safe for the work. (For
example, works should not be placed over a radiator or where direct sunlight
could damage them). Michele finds out something of the borrower’s tastes and
preferences, and then they make an appointment to visit the vault, where there
will be a selection of works to choose from.
The borrower is asked to sign a form agreeing to treat the work with
respect, not to remove it from its location and to call the Gallery if
it requires to be moved. Soon after the selection is made and the agreement
signed, Michele installs the work, which the borrower then enjoys for
the following 12 months. Depending on the nature of the work, the loan
can be extended for the following years.
Not all works in the vault can be loaned - some are too fragile or
valuable. Nevertheless, there are over 200 works on loan around the campus
presently being enjoyed by members of the Dalhousie community.
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Audubon, John James
Rice Bird and Red Maple
coloured by R. Havell
engraving on paper
Jackson, Alexander Young
Georgian Bay Shore (sketch) c. 1934
Oil on Wood Board
Halifax Harbour - Time of War c. 1917
oil on canvas,
conserved on to aluminum
Self Portrait 1937
Watercolour on paper
Colville, David Alexander
After Swimming 1955
serigraph, ed. of 27, paper
CURNOE, Gregory Richard
Map of North America 1972
Ink on Paper
Dress #6 1989
Mixed Media on Paper
Demolitions on the South Side 1960
Oil on canvas
Child's Punch Out in a Rear View Mirror 1971
serigraph, paper, edition 84/99