GOING BIG WITH REMBRANDT
The decade opens with the passing of the new National Gallery Act, and closes with a move to the $6-million Lorne Building. In between, the Gallery joins company with the world’s preeminent art institutions with the purchase of eight major European paintings, including Rembrandt’s Heroine from the Old Testament (Esther or Bathsheba).
The National Gallery Act replaces the National Gallery of Canada Act of 1913. It establishes a purchase account and facilitates long-term planning of purchases, which allows the Gallery to finally acquire numerous and significant works of art. The Act also places the Gallery within the jurisdiction of the Department of Citizenship and Immigration.
A Canadian architecture competition is announced to design a new Gallery building to be erected on Cartier Square.
The Gallery purchases eight major European paintings from Prince Liechtenstein’s prestigious collection. These purchases are considered a historic event that “lifted the National Gallery of Canada from the stature of an interesting smaller collection into the company of the world’s most important collections.” The acquisitions include: Rembrandt van Rijn’s Heroine from the Old Testament (Esther or Bathsheba); two panels from the Esther series by Filippino Lippi and works by Hans Memling, Quentin Matsys, Barthel Beham, Nicolaes Maes and Francesco Guardi.
The competition for a new building is stopped, and the Lorne building on Elgin Street is to be adapted for temporary use by the Gallery.
Alan Hepburn Jarvis becomes the new Director of the National Gallery of Canada. Mr. Jarvis is a sculptor.
Jarvis, a sculptor himself, recognizes that the collection has been primarily one of pictures and seeks to remedy the situation by purchasing a number of modern sculptures. Jarvis is also responsible for consolidating the collection of French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings.
The Gallery’s first professional librarian, Christa Dedering, is appointed in 1956.
The National Gallery of Canada Association, now known as the Volunteer’s Circle of the National Gallery of Canada, is founded.
An enthusiastic group of prominent Ottawans, many with their own extensive art collections, want to do more to promote the Gallery. In March, with the blessing of Alan Jarvis and the strong support of the chairman of the Board, C.P. Fell, a group forms a provisional executive committee and becomes the National Gallery Association of Ottawa. The Association aims to raise the awareness of art as an essential part of country’s culture.
This gathering takes place in Alice Dexter’s house, and many founders are present, including Fay Loeb, Alan Gibbons, Lila Rasminsky, Doff Dunton, Rosita Tovell, Jane Dobell, Maurice Fyfe, Jack Barwick, John Trotman, and Hamilton Southam, who is appointed first president by the group.
In December, the National Gallery of Canada moves its entire collection to the Lorne Building, its new home on Elgin Street. The seven-storey, $6-million facility has five times as much floor space and three times as much hanging space as the Gallery’s previous location, the Victoria Memorial Museum. The Lorne Building boasts 33 gallery areas, as well as offices, conservation laboratories, a library, a 450-seat auditorium, workshops, and storage rooms.
Originally conceived as a government office building, the new facility is designated a temporary site for the Gallery, with special temperature and humidity controls ensuring the protection of the Gallery’s valuable collection.MAJOR CHANGES
The Marquis of Lorne, John Douglas Sutherland Campbell, is officially recognized and honoured as the founder of the National Gallery of Canada when the current Governor General Vincent Massey lays the cornerstone of the Lorne Building.
For the first time in the Gallery’s 80-year history, a full public presentation of Canada’s great national collection of art is made possible.COLLECTIONS
When the Gallery moves its entire collection to the Lorne building, it boasts 1,255 paintings, 83 sculptures, and some 4,500 drawings and prints.