Canadian painting and sculpture after 1950
The earliest works in the gallery’s collection were paintings. Duncan de Kergommeaux’s 1966 request to five Ottawa artists to donate an example of their work resulted in an influx of contemporary painting. The following year, Alan Wilkinson donated one painting each by Guido Molinari and Goodridge Roberts. In the ensuing decades, the collection was curated by volunteer members of the art history faculty and, due to budgetary constraints, was comprised largely of works on paper. That changed in the 1980s, when Malcolm and Donna Welch made the first of several donations of their sizeable collection of contemporary Canadian paintings. The Welch gift features artists working in a realist vein, such as Tim Zuck, Conrad Furey, Medrie MacPhee, and Dan Hudson, but also includes the work of numerous abstract painters active in the 1980s, including Jaan Poldaas, Robert Youds, Ric Evans, and Doug Kirton.
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Numerous paintings by significant pioneering abstractionists from across Canada are featured in the collection, notably the Regina School artists Ted Godwin, Art McKay, and Ron Bloore, and a wide-ranging group of Ken Lochhead works donated by the artist, including the striking Blue Accent (1967). Important Québec abstract painters represented in the collection include Rita Letendre, Jacques Hurtubise, Guido Molinari, Jean McEwen, and Claude Tousignant. Among the highlights are Molinari’s Parallèles noires (1962), Letendre’s Schema d’un peril (1962), and Tousignant’s Decembre (1961).
The Ottawa gallerist Pierre Luc St-Laurent has donated numerous painting by a later generation of Québec artists, including Michael Joliffe, Paul Béliveau, Tom Hopkins, and Dominique Sarrazin. Many other painters of import are represented in the collection, among them John Hartman, Peter Dykhuis, Leslie Reid, Greg Curnoe, Claude Breeze, Joseph Drapell, Duncan de Kergommeaux, Alex Wyse, Molly Lamb Bobak, Ron Martin, Jane Martin, and Richard Gorman, allowing a broad representation of different artistic currents and regions of the country.
The strength of CUAG’s small collection of sculpture, apart from that made by Inuit artists, is in abstract works. The most monumental is Robert Murray’s Tundra (For Barnett Newman) of 1971, a welded-steel sculpture installed outdoors, adjacent to the St. Patrick’s Building, which houses the gallery. Other significant pieces include Gord Smith’s Sceptre (1966) and Optic Screen #1 (1969), Things as They Are, September/October 1990 by the Albertan Catherine Burgess, and Twist (1980) by Kosso Eloul. Sculptors Henry Saxe and the late Gunter Nolte are each represented in depth: key Saxe pieces include Tractor (1966), Grid (1969) and Prop (1975), while ambitious works by Nolte include Red/Red: Red/Green (1969) and Step Up and Over (1988-89).