Canadian prints and drawings before 1950
Prints and drawings by far dominate the gallery’s collection, accounting for about three-quarters of the total works acquired to date. The majority of these works were made by Canadian artists after 1950, but the collection includes an eclectic and substantial range of nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century Canadian works on paper.
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As with pre-war Canadian painting, the Frances and Jack Barwick bequest resulted in the acquisition of some especially important pieces, namely twelve works on paper by the acclaimed painter David Milne. Three are multiple-plate colour drypoints, a printmaking technique he invented, and the others are watercolours, including stunning works such as Snow and Mist (ca. 1917-18) and Poppies and Nasturtiums (1941), and the transcendent Ascension No. 12 (1947).
The graphic work of Milne’s contemporaries, the Group of Seven, is represented in the collection by several A.Y. Jackson drawings donated by his niece, Dr. Naomi Jackson Groves. Douglas Duncan, Frances Barwick’s brother and an important art dealer, collected the work of Milne and Lionel LeMoine FitzGerald. The handsome Old R.C.M.P. Barracks No. 1 (1924) documents the winter Milne spent in Ottawa, while the delicate Clouds (1936) and Prairie Sky (c.1940) are among the nine FitzGerald drawings that came from the Duncan and Barwick collections. The Toronto collector Norman Bell started acquiring works on paper in the early 1980s and donated several prints to CUAG, including Franklin Carmichael’s refined Snowberry and Edwin Holgate’s delightfully macabre Pierrot Hung (1923).
The painter Clarence Gagnon, later known for his Quebec landscapes, established his reputation as a printmaker early in his career. He favoured European over Canadian content in his etchings, as can be seen in the four prints from the early 1900s included in CUAG's collection. Horatio Walker and Thomas Garland Greene, in contrast, were attracted to rural Canadian subjects; both are represented in the collection by substantial numbers of pencil drawings, small studies documenting each artist’s working process.
In 2007 the gallery received a generous donation from Dr. Sean Murphy of the studio archive of his parents, the printmakers Cecil Buller and John J.A. Murphy, who made significant contributions to the revival of block printing in the early twentieth century. This important scholarly resource has already resulted in two exhibitions curated by art history students, Woman Imprinted: The Work of Cecil Buller (2005) and Black Against White: John J.A. Murphy, Master of the Modern Wood Engraving (2008).