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Telling images: the Bader gift of European paintings to Queen's University.

Telling Images: The Bader Gift of European Paintings to Queen's University

Over the past 20 years, Alfred and Isabel Bader have donated European paintings by old masters to the Agnes Etherington Art Centre at Queen's University, Kingston, Ont. Now the highlights of that collection are going on a cross-Canada tour.

The collection started out at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, on display from October 30, 1988 to January 8, 1989 and then it went on the road. Next stop was the Art Galley of Hamilton, where it stayed from April 23 to May 21, 1989. The collection was at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton from September 17 to October 29, 1989.

Over the next 18 months, the Bader Gift Collection will be at the Vancouver Art Gallery from December 20, 1989 to February 5, 1990. Then it's on to the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia in Halifax, March 3 to April 9, 1990. The collection has the summer off before going on to Wolfville, NS where it will be on display from October 19 to November 26. Its final stop on this tour will be the Winnipeg Art Gallery where it is tentatively scheduled for viewing from February 2 to March 24, 1991.

The Baders explain much of the philosophy behind their art collection and its cross-country tour in the preface to the Bader Gift Catalogue, portions of which are reprinted here. The catalogue is now available. For more information regarding the catalogue or the Bader Gift Collection, contact Dorothy Farr, Curator, Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Queen's University, Kingston, Ont. K7L 3N6, 613-545-2190.

Donors' Preface


One of the main questions in art is: what is true quality? Numerous art historians, many of whom have become our good friends, have helped us find the answer. Egbert Haverkamp Begemann, Ellen and Walther Bernt, Anthony Clark, Ulrich Middeldorf, Benedict Nicolson, Konrad Oberhuber, William Robinson, Seymour Slive, Werner Sumowski, Astrid and Christian Tumpel and of course that human masterpiece, Wolfgang Stechow. No collector is an island unto himself; it is easy to distinguish a good from a bad painting, but it is much more difficult to distinguish a truly great from a fine painting. These friends and so many others have helped to make this distinction and have spent thousands of hours with us widening our knowledge of paintings and enriching our lives.

As all who know him realize, Robert Swain's enthusiasm is really infectious, and when he suggested a travelling show to share the best of our gift with many more Canadians, from Victoria to Halifax we were just delighted. Our family is spread from Vancouver to Halifax, and we have a vision of sharing our love of painting with our nephews and nieces, many of whom are Queen's people, past, present and future. And why 36 paintings? Eighteen in Hebrew is Chai - life - and there are two of us, two times 18 is 36. Superstitious? Hardly, for it does not guide our actions, except in the choice of numbers, such as here. None of us really understands how great art and great music affect our lives, though we are sure they do - two of God's greatest gifts. Our lives would be so much poorer without them - they are part of life, Chai, 18.

The collection of old masters already permanently at Queen's, from which these 36 are picked, is as good as it is because we found in David McTavish a friend whose eye, scholarship and judgment we value, and with whom we have discussed numerous possible acquisitions. In the field of art so many collectors and particularly museums are often influenced in their purchases by the name of the artist rather than the beauty of the work involved. An ugly Renoir is worth many thousands of dollars; a beautiful unsigned and unattributed painting of the same period may be impossible to sell, at least to a museum. The signature of Renoir, one hopes, guarantees authenticity, and that may be more important to an acquisition committee and to many a collector than beauty, which is so difficult to measure. That is where collectors like us have a chance. We have always tried to buy on quality only, preferring unattributed paintings in the hope that in time art historians will discover the artist. We will die with many such puzzles, in our estate -- things of beauty that challenge and tantalize, and with many more paintings to which the right names have come during our ownership.

As you will see, puzzles abound in this exhibition. Who painted the first painting we gave to Queen's University, the Salvator Mundi, surely Venetian, and one of the earliest works here? Or that other 16th century masterpiece, the Jesus with the Crown of Thorns dated 1538, attributed to the master of the Neudorffer Portraits, whoever he was? The portrait of a girl - a sad princess, loosely attributed to Clouet, is beautiful - but is she French or Italian or Flemish or perhaps English? The Blind Belisarius is such a moving depiction of a gripping story, but we do not even know whether the artist was Venetian or Genoese or just strongly influenced by that art. And who painted that invitation to kindness, The Good Samaritan, a marvel in colour, surely Dutch, done early in the Golden Age? A firm attribution would greatly enhance its commercial value, but as it is not for sale, this does not matter. Some day an art historian will have a wonderful time recognizing the artist and publishing the discovery.

We know what a glorious experience that is, as it has happened to us many times. In fact, we have found that here, as with everything in life, the harder we work, the luckier we become. The Education of Mary came to us attributed to Parmagiannino, a most unlikely attribution. Cleaning revealed the signature of Francois Verwilt, not a familiar name, even to art historians. But an artist who painted that beautifully deserves to be better known; we are among the first `friends of Verwilt'. Imagine our delight when our restorer told us that the Raising of Lazarus is signed by Jacob Pynas and dated 1624, the very time that Rembrandt studied with Pynas. Or when Professor Sumowski, who has done more than anyone else for the study of Rembrandt's students, told us that catalogue 18 is indeed by Jan Lievens, and one of his finest works. Lievens' greatest work, the Job, is at the National Gallery in Ottawa: look at that, and you will understand our belief that until the early 1630s Lievens was as able an artist as Rembrandt.

Our main interest has been paintings of the School of Rembrandt, preferably of biblical subjects. For many years hundreds of fine works had been attributed to Rembrandt which are now recognized as being by his students. The corollary is often overlooked; many of Rembrandt's students were great artists.

It is such a joy to get to know an artistic personality - what fun Thore-Burger must have had discovering Vermeer! Jan van Noordt was almost unknown before Professor Sumowski's recent essay, yet the Falconer in the Wallace Collection, and the Massacre of the Innocents are masterpieces by any standard, foreshadowing art of the 18th and even the 19th century.

We have acquired paintings for Queen's for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes for sheer beauty. Look at the Bourdon, The Finding of Moses on the catalogue's cover. Not our idea of Moses in the wilderness, but it is such a happy painting. It makes you feel good all over. Sometimes we have acquired a painting for historical reasons - no one can call Jacob Pynas' Stoning of Stephen a beautiful painting, though it is one of his most important works. It is the link between Elsheimer's masterpiece of the same subject in Edinburgh and Rembrandt's almost wooden, primitive effort now in Lyon. Often we have chosen a work because we thought it a really good example of a particular kind of art and that it would be useful to Queen's students in art history.

The prime force behind all our efforts for the Agnes Etherington Art Centre has been our hope that the excellence of its collection, and the quality of the Queen's art history and art conservation departments will combine to make Queen's the best school in the visual arts and its history in Canada. Even now, no other Canadian university museum has such resources, and when a PhD programme in art history is established, as we hope it will be, Queen's will have a chance of becoming a world-class school in that field. We hope that many Canadians who see this exhibition will share our enthusiasm, and perhaps even consider becoming students of art history at Queen's.

PHOTO : Landscape with a lake painted by Etienne Allegrain about 1700, is done in the classical

PHOTO : landscape style. His technique is derived particularly from that of Poussin. Art director:

PHOTO : Sylvia Quesnel.

PHOTO : Govaert Flinck studied with Rembrandt in Amsterdam during the mid-1630s. Later his style

PHOTO : changed to reflect the taste for Flemish painting, becoming more elegant in style and

PHOTO : lighter in colour. Shown here is The Sacrifice of Manoah painted in 1640.

PHOTO : One of a group now called Pre-Rembrandtists, Jacob Pynas was principally a painter of

PHOTO : historical subjects. The Stoning of St. Stephen was painted in 1617.

PHOTO : The son of painter Adriaen Verwilt, Francois Verwilt did landscapes in the style of

PHOTO : Poelenburgh. The Education of Mary has recently been restored at the Canadian Conservation

PHOTO : Institute in Ottawa. When first acquired by Bader, the painting was attributed to 16th

PHOTO : Century Italian painter Parmigiano. Bader was the first to see Verwilt's signature.

PHOTO : Jan Lievens was a contemporary of Rembrandt and the two studied together under Pieter

PHOTO : Lastman in Amsterdam. His later work became increasingly polished and elegant, reflecting

PHOTO : the taste for classical subjects. The "Penitent Magdalen", painted about 1630, is one of

PHOTO : his earlier works.
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Title Annotation:excerpts from preface to the Bader Gift Catalogue
Author:Bader, Isabel; Bader, Alfred
Publication:Canadian Chemical News
Date:Oct 1, 1989
Previous Article:La chimie analytique et la conservation des objets de musee.
Next Article:Parylene at the Canadian Conservation Institute.

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