Lecture | If Walls Could Talk: A Short History of McGill’s Art Collection
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Lecture given by Gwendolyn Owens, Director, McGill Visual Arts Collection
Art at McGill has a long history. From 19th century portraits of James McGill and other benefactors, to large–scale embroideries presented on behalf of Alexandra, the Queen Consort and wife of Edward VII of Great Britain, to a sculpture by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney unveiled in 1931, and a major collection of Canadian paintings given in the 1960s, art has been present at McGill almost from the day it was founded.
This lecture will centre on the highlights of the collection’s history: the unique objects that are found in corridors and classrooms, offices, lobbies, and in our new Visual Storage Gallery and the people (such as Group of Seven member Arthur Lismer) who had a hand in shaping the collection. Now numbering more than 3000 works of art, the collection is, in some cases, better known to scholars than to our own community who pass the objects, often without “seeing” the art or knowing the unique histories. Much of the art has come through donations, often made by bequest, as alumni and friends have often seen their art collection as their legacy; something that will go on beyond their lifetime to continually enrich campus life.