Growing the National Collection: The Marvelle and Murray Koffler Gift of Canadian Art
The noble pursuit of art collecting is as much a story about the collectors as it is about the artists and the art. As eminent Canadian philanthropists, Murray and Marvelle Koffler nurtured a deep affection for the arts, embedded in their love for Canada.
Founders of both the Koffler Centre of the Arts/Koffler Gallery and the Toronto Outdoor Art Fair, Murray and Marvelle were ardent supporters of Canada’s artistic community. This enduring legacy, along with their gift to the Gallery, reflect their lifelong commitment to the promotion of Canadian culture, both at home and abroad.
The Koffler’s generous donation of five important works to the National Gallery of Canada is a tribute to their vision. These paintings date from 1912 to 1942, a period that reflects the development of the Canadian school of landscape painting. Examples of memorable originality in themselves, they also mark the modernist influences that would guide Canadian painters in the exploration of regional subject matter for the balance of the century.
Indigenous and Canadian Galleries A108
Forest Interior in Shafts of Light c. 1935-37
Carr sought seclusion in the remote areas of British Columbia, preferring to paint the mood and the spirit of the forest, akin to the destiny of humanity. A life of a tree is equated to the trials and tribulations of a human life on earth and further transformed into a symbol. Bathed in an atmosphere of tone that is at once tranquil and melancholic, the composition affords us a refuge from the burdens of modern age.
Gift of Murray and Marvelle Koffler, Toronto, 2019 (no. 49109)
Northern Lake c. 1912
This early sketch demonstrates Thomson’s artistic awakening in search of the spirit of Algonquin Park, a subject that consumed him until his death. Self-taught and lacking any formal instruction in art, his response to the splendour of the Ontario landscape was unique. What set him apart from others was his palpable sense of the land. Transcending the purely decorative effects, he transformed his immediate experience of nature into an abstract synthesis of its peace and tranquility.
Gift of Murray and Marvelle Koffler, Toronto, 2019 (no. 49111)
Saint Urbain in Winter 1940–42
Fortin had an undeniable reverence for the Province of Quebec. His paintings of country houses, created in all seasons, celebrated the quiet rural life in Quebec. He saw the houses as metaphors for the rhythmical forces affecting human existence. By the 1940s the painter had begun to reflect the romanticism and poetry of the landscape in his views of the Quebec countryside. Their distinct symphony of colour liberated him from any earthly attachments.
Gift of Murray and Marvelle Koffler, Toronto, 2019 (no. 49110)
Lawren S. Harris
Northern Lake II c. 1926
Although Lawren Harris' adventures into the Algoma country ceased by 1921, it is noteworthy that he would return to the subject and paint this work a few years later. A fine example of his modernist vision of tranquility and natural spendour, this scene exemplifies the iconic characteristics of the Northern Ontario landscape. The artist’s use of natural light imparts a mood that was occasionally introduced into his Algoma paintings.
Gift of Murray and Marvelle Koffler, Toronto, 2019 (no. 49107)
Something Unnamed 1937
With her forest paintings of the 1930s, Emily Carr responded to the common tradition of naturalism, creating images unsurpassed by her contemporaries. She had an infallible sense of her region and endeavoured to capture the force of the objects she represented in her works. Energy is the ultimate source of life, natural light impregnates the earth, triggering life into the trees.
Gift of Murray and Marvelle Koffler, Toronto, 2019 (no. 49108)