The RMG’s collection is rooted in its original focus on Painters Eleven, following the first major gift of thirty-seven works of art from the collection of Alexandra Luke in 1967. That initial gift would grow to a permanent collection that now houses over 4600 works. Over eighty percent of those works are donations: indeed, most public institutions rely on the largess of collectors to enhance their holdings.
In this exhibition we are focusing on key donors like Alexandra Luke and Isabel McLaughlin who have been instrumental in shaping the collection. While Luke’s donation included work by each of the members of Painters Eleven (P11), which would ultimately lead to the RMG’s focus on mid-century modernism, McLaughlin collected the work of friends and colleagues. The majority of the RMG’s important Group of Seven works came through the generosity of Miss McLaughlin. Luke and McLaughlin would gift significant work that covered many of the major movements within Canadian art in the 20th century.
The Gallery’s collection also includes work by international “heavy hitters”. Works by artists such as Hans Hofmann (whom many of the P11 artists would study with in his Provincetown, Massachusetts studio), David Hockney, Robert Frank, Gerhard Richter, and Andy Warhol not only compliment works in the Canadian collection but expand our knowledge base beyond our borders. The generosity of donors once again making important works available for exhibitions and research.
Those who have donated to the RMG collection understand that their gift keeps giving throughout generations. The works so generously given to the gallery are used for exhibitions not only at the RMG but across Canada and internationally; these gifts are reproduced in publications and research, building on scholarship that has gone on for decades, and their gifts help in creating what is now Canadian art history.
With this exhibition, we salute, with gratitude, our donors’ generosity over the past fifty years.