Five Decades: A Canadian Art Collection
An overview of the collection featuring significant works of art by some of Canada’s finest contemporary, modern, and historic artists, including selections from our extensive holdings on Robert Harris (1849-1919). Acquired since the Art Gallery opened in 1964, these works are touchstones of our history and culture.
This exhibition provides an overview of the collection of the Confederation Centre Art Gallery and features significant works by historic, modern and contemporary Canadian artists. When the Gallery was opened by The Right Honourable Vincent Massey on June 1, 1964, it had no collection. Its first director, Moncrieff Williamson, was thus faced with an immense challenge. The 1964 acquisition of contemporary murals for the newly constructed Confederation Centre of the Arts set an impressive tone for the development of a national art collection in Prince Edward Island. Jean Paul Lemieux’s emblematic Charlottetown Revisited was an important commission made possible with funds donated by Samuel and Saidye Bronfman, Montreal. The collection began with a gift and has continued to grow through the generosity of many donors and organizations like the Canada Council for the Arts. Perhaps the most significant single gift, the Robert Harris Collection and Archives, which includes Harris’s 1883 preparatory sketches for his famous painting of the Fathers of Confederation, was accepted in 1965 from the Robert Harris Trust. This acquisition of drawings, paintings, sketchbooks, letters and memorabilia numbering nearly 9,000 items, brought new research and exhibition priorities, and care and conservation responsibilities. It remains the largest category in the Gallery’s collections database of over 16,500 records.
While the Confederation Centre Art Gallery’s collection contains other important focal points such as the Expo 67 Craft Collection, the Kathleen Daly and George Pepper Collection, and the L.M. Montgomery novel manuscripts, its primary collecting focus is Canadian contemporary art—the hub of the Gallery’s research and exhibition program. Historic works of art are of interest to the Gallery, but they are not always available or affordable.
From public sculpture on the Confederation Centre plaza to paintings, photographs or installations of newer media, the collection reflects moments in the origins and evolution of Canada—its landscape and people. Five Decades is a tribute to many individuals and a consideration of an institutional legacy at the half-century mark—and it’s a selection we hope you enjoy.
Five Decades is co-curated by Kevin Rice and Pan Wendt.