National Gallery of Canada / Musée des beaux-arts du Canada

Annual Bulletin 5, 1981-1982

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by Joseph Martin

Article en français

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The National Gallery went through two periods in 1981-1982 without a permanent director. After the departure of Miss Hsio-Yen Shih on 31 March, temporary direction of the Gallery was assumed by Michael Bell, Assistant Director, Public Programmes. Mr Bell then resigned his position to become Director of the McMichael Canadian Collection, and from 1 July the Board of Trustees gave me the task of directing the Gallery in an acting capacity.

During this year the National Gallery appears to have recaptured the spirit and vitality that had suffered somewhat from the uncertainty created by the successive departures of the institution's directors. After a necessary period of adjustment, the staff were able to regain the enthusiasm that normally characterizes their activities. The three Assistant Directors have assured the efficient and effective administration of the Gallery, and all departments have performed their duties with diligence and competence. I would like to thank the staff for having contributed so directly and consistently to the satisfactory operation of the institution.

Public Programmes have constituted an important part of the activity of the Gallery, and certain exhibitions, because of their content and their quality, merit particular mention. We had La Pierre Parle: Lithography in France 1848-1900; a retrospective of the work of Greg Curnoe; an exhibition on The Comfortable Arts: Traditional Spinning and Weaving in Canada that brought together works from across the country; an overall survey of Bolognese Drawings in North American Collections; and a remarkable collection from Germany entitled From a Mighty Fortress: Prints. Drawings and Books in the Age of Luther.

We sent a group of works representing twentieth-century Canadian painting to Japan, which was exhibited in four different cities in that country. Several remarkable exhibitions of high quality photographs have testified to the importance we attach to our own collection and the increasingly prominent role of great photographers over the past hundred years.

The collections of the Gallery were enriched through generous donations and select acquisitions. To mention the most important works that were added to our Canadian art collections: Beach Scene. West Indies by James Wilson Morrice, Biskra by Maurice Cullen, Moon Over Tobermory by Paterson Ewen, Untitled September 16, 1979 #1 by Ron Martin, and Gloria by Lisa Steele. The European art collections were complemented by two particularly significant works: Return of the Prodigal Son by Salvator Rosa and The Glass of Absinth by Georges Braque. The Prints and Drawings collections acquired a number of works of which the most outstanding are: The Celestial Venus by Abraham Bloernaert, L'Enfance du Christ: The Rest on the Flight into Egypt by Fantin-Latour, Woman (The Sphinx) by Munch, and Weeping Woman by Picasso. The scope of the Photographs collection was broadened by numerous donations, and a bronze Buddha was added to the Asian art collection.

Thanks to the joint efforts of curators and editors, the catalogues, journals, pamphlets, and other printed material relating to the exhibitions have come out on time.

Throughout the year extensive work was done on the interior and exterior of the Lorne Building in order to maintain the required level of environmental quality. We tried to carry out this work without undue inconvenience to our visitors.

It was with great pleasure and enthusiasm that we learned of the decision of the government to construct a new National Gallery and Museum of Man. The appointment of Jean S. Boggs, former Director of the Gallery, as Chairman of a new Corporation responsible for the construction of the buildings gives us every reason to believe that this undertaking will be successful and that the National Gallery will at last have a decent home. A review by the entire staff made it possible for us to bring the programme of the new Gallery up to date, to redefine the requirements, and to identify the museological needs of the Gallery for the present and, let us hope, for the future as well.

The Gallery staff, under the impetus of Gyde Shepherd, Assistant Director, Public Programmes, and Project Leader, New Building, and Deborah Tunis, Executive Assistant to the Director, have performed a tremendous task in only a few months and may be justly proud of having developed and finalized the new National Gallery programme. Despite the difficulties caused by the prevailing economic situation, and despite the reductions in financial resources that the Gallery must face, we are, I feel, carrying out an important task to the very best of our abilities, thus helping by our efforts to bring about a better future.

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