Over the Bay of Fundy towards the Atlantic
Stephen Borys, Director and CEO, exhibition curator
I returned to the East Coast again in June 2012 to visit museums in Fredericton and Halifax lending to 100 Masters. A series of delayed flights from the west found me arriving at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton five minutes before closing. It was my good fortune that colleagues Bernard Riordon, Director of the Beaverbrook, and Terry Graff, Chief Curator, offered to stay late so we could tour the galleries and vaults, and strategize on loans. Any expectations to borrow some major paintings were tempered by the fact that their own international touring exhibition of masterworks would be on the road at the same time as 100 Masters, and thus key works would not be available for loan. I took some consolation in knowing the WAG would be one of the hosting venues for the tour in September 2014. However, given the strength of the British collections at the Beaverbrook, we had little difficulty finding three gems including landscapes by Thomas Gainsborough and Graham Sutherland, and a beach scene by Laurence Stephen Lowry, an artist whose work is a rarity in Canadian collections.
Flying directly from Fredericton to Halifax takes you over the Bay of Fundy, which, on a clear summer evening, is particularly enchanting with the view of low tide and the stunning red clay banks. Images of the sea, particularly the waters of the Atlantic, would figure prominently in the selections from the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia in Halifax. Arriving at the AGNS, I was intent on borrowing two works in particular by Alex Colville and Tom Forrestal, both acquisitions made possible thanks to the support of Christopher Ondaatje, and as such, on long-term display in the Ondaatje Gallery. Colville’s Ocean Limited, named for the CN passenger train that ran between Montreal and Halifax, connects us to the Maritimes and to the artist’s world of Magic Realism. The Island in the Ice by Tom Forrestal, a student of Colville’s, features a massive ice floe that had developed right in Halifax harbour when Forrestal lived in the city. An unexpected surprise was the suite of view paintings of Halifax by the eighteenth-century French artist Dominic Serres, which were on Ray Cronin’s (the AGNS director) short list. After the gallery visit, I toured the citadel and harbour, which reconfirmed the decision to borrow the paintings by Serres, the views being integral to the history of the founding of Halifax.
Tom Forrestall, Canadian, 1936– , Island in the Ice, 1987. Egg tempera on masonite, 72.5 x 214.5 cm.
Acquisition made possible with funds provided by Christopher Ondaatje, Toronto, Ontario, 1994; 1994.19. Photo credit: Steve Farmer Photography. Lent by: Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Halifax