Carleton University Art Gallery CUAG

A Leap of Imagination: The Barwick Gift

Curated by Sandra Dyck

09 May – 22 August 2010

In the summer of 1964, Jack and Frances Barwick “worked out” their new wills together “with much care and thought.” The couple made Carleton University the main beneficiary of both their estates – their collection of 57 works of early- and mid-twentieth-century Canadian art and a major financial bequest that ultimately resulted in the founding of Carleton University Art Gallery in 1992. This exhibition celebrates their generosity to and faith in a young university – their “leap of imagination.”

Over the course of their marriage, the Barwicks developed a superb art collection. The driving force in its establishment was Frances’s brother Douglas Duncan. Founder in 1936 of Toronto’s Picture Loan Society, Duncan promoted emerging and established Canadian artists for three decades, presenting two-week exhibitions of their work and making frequent purchases from the shows. The Barwicks thus had ready and intimate access to the work of many artists including David Milne. “Several times,” Frances recalled, “I was privileged to see the latest batch of Milnes, fresh from the artist’s possession.” The collection eventually included 16 Milnes, as well as significant works by such artists as Emily Carr, L.L. FitzGerald, Will Ogilvie, Pegi Nicol MacLeod, Arthur Lismer, A.Y. Jackson, and Louis Muhlstock.

Frances Barwick remarked in 1971 that, “I am extremely interested in the welfare of Carleton, as was my husband. We watched it start, and were delighted by its progress.” In early 1984 (she died late that year), Frances Barwick expressed her hope that her estate would be combined with the proceeds of her husband’s bequest to fund at Carleton “buildings, equipment, courses, or special activities” related to music or the fine arts. The Barwicks’ collection was prominently featured in the inaugural exhibition at Carleton University Art Gallery in September 1992. They would never see the gallery they were so instrumental in founding, but their memory lives on within its walls.

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