The National Gallery of Canada pays tribute to a friend Mr. Charles Mervyn Ruggles (1912-2001)
Ottawa, Canada - July 5, 2001
« Le Musée des beaux-arts du Canada rend hommage à un ami : Mr. Charles Mervyn ruggles (1912-2001) »
The National Gallery of Canada (NGC) is sad to hear of the death of a great man. Mr. Mervyn Ruggles, a pioneer in art conservation in Canada and the first professional art conservator to be hired by the National Gallery of Canada died Friday 29 June, after a brief illness. Mr. Ruggles worked for the Gallery as an Art Conservator and subsequently as Head of the Conservation and Restoration Laboratory, from 1938 until his retirement in 1978.
"I first met Mr. Ruggles in 1966 as a young Assistant Curator at the National Gallery of Canada. He was a man of great intelligence, a very talented inventor, extremely knowledgeable, with a wonderful sense of humour. He was totally devoted to the preservation and restoration of works of art in Canada and abroad. I also had the pleasure to work again with Mr. Ruggles in his capacity as Restoration Consultant at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts" said Pierre Théberge, Director at the National Gallery of Canada. "The Gallery has lost a very dear friend" added Pierre Théberge.
Influential in the development of the Canadian art conservation profession, Mr. Ruggles established conservation services and facilities at the National Gallery of Canada, and founded with others both the Canadian Association of Professional Art Conservators (CAPAC) and the International Institute for Conservation — Canadian Group (now CAC). He also participated in the creation of the Masters of Art Conservation (MAC) Training Program at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. During his career as a Conservator and as Head of the Conservation and Restoration Laboratory at the National Gallery, Mr. Ruggles advanced knowledge in the field of conservation and restoration by organizing conferences and undertaking treatments on works that are presently on view at the Gallery, such as the mural paintings in the MacCallum-Jackman cottage. An expert in radiography and microscopy, he pioneered the documentation of Canadian and European paintings in the Gallery's collections. He initiated the gathering of spare parts for contemporary works of art and was responsible for both the cleaning and lining of paintings at the Gallery for most of his career. Always concerned about preserving objects in the collections through the provision of stable environmental conditions, he designed the first micro-climate, metal boxes as housings for the most important European panel paintings. Along with the late Conservation Scientist Jim Hanlan and the past Curator of Prints and Drawings, Mimi Cazort, he developed a high quality matte board which was manufactured under the name Harumi.
Following his retirement, Mr. Ruggles held the position of Professor of Art Conservation at Queen's University until the fall of 1979. He kept active in his retirement by consulting with institutions such as the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and the National Gallery of Canada and travelled to India on behalf of UNESCO to help establish a conservation laboratory in Lucknow. His contributions to Canada through his war service and to the arts were honoured in 1978 when he was named as a member of the Order of Canada. Mr. Ruggles was a Fellow of the American Institute for Conservation (AIC) and of the International Institute for Conservation (IIC). He was named First Honorary member of the Canadian Group of ICC (now CAC) and was Senior Member of the Chemical Institute of Canada (CIC), as well as a member of the Canadian Legion.
Mr. Ruggles' enthusiasm for his chosen profession influenced his two daughters, Janet and Anne to take up art conservation as a career. Janet, the eldest is a graduate of the Art Conservation Program, at Buffalo State University in New York and is General Manager and Chief Paper Conservator at the Balboa Art Conservation Centre in San Diego, California. Anne graduated from the Art Conservation Program at Queen's University and is the Conservator of Paintings at the National Gallery of Canada.
His close friends and associates will also remember his wit, his charming sense of humour and his warm heart. In the words of Mr. Gyde Sheperd, former Deputy Director, National Gallery, "we are left with wonderful memories of a fine man, and a conservator of the greatest integrity". May his indomitable spirit live on in all of us.
Donations in his memory can be made in trust to the National Gallery of Canada, 380 Sussex Drive, Ottawa, Ontario K1N 9N4 (care of Charles Mervyn Ruggles in Trust).
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