Finding the Dutch Masters in Kingston
Stephen Borys, Director & CEO, exhibition curator
The 100 Masters research trip to the Agnes Etherington Art Centre at Queen’s University in Kingston in June 2012 was focused on the renowned Bader Collection, a corpus of over one hundred primarily Dutch and Flemish paintings, assembled by Alfred and Isabel Bader of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Over the years, much of their collection was gifted or is on long-term loan to the AEAC. David de Witt, the Bader Curator of European art, who I had met years before when I was a curator at the Allen Memorial Art Museum at Oberlin College, Ohio, gave me a tour of the permanent collection galleries to see some recent acquisitions from the Baders. It was in the galleries that we viewed two portraits by Jan Lievens and Michiel Sweerts (a rare self-portrait), both gifts of the Baders, and both on the WAG’s shortlist. Having secured the magnificent Rembrandt portrait from the National Gallery of Canada, I was able to concentrate on the other Dutch masters at Queen’s. In the vaults, David was excited to show me a large landscape from the 1660s by the Dutch painter Philips Koninck, which had just arrived from the Bader Collection and had not yet been put on display. As I was hoping to borrow the two portraits by Lievens and Sweerts, I did not expect to be able to have the Koninck as well, but was very pleased when David said it was a possibility.
After an extended vault tour, I headed off to Toronto, deeply grateful for the time spent in Kingston with what has become home to one of Canada’s pre-eminent university art museums supported by respected art history and art conservation programs. It was only after my return to Winnipeg, still in pursuit of a painting by Jack Bush for the show, that I came across his Spot on Red from 1960 in the AEAC’s collection, a gift of Sam and Ayala Zacks. One of Clement Greenberg’s favourite Canadian artists, who was included in his seminal exhibition, Post-painterly Abstraction in 1964, I was coveting the Kingston picture for my show. When I called Janet Brooke, who was director of the AEAC at the time, to ask about the work she understood immediately why it might be on the list and promised to expedite the review process, which led to the approval.
Philips Koninck, Dutch, 1619–1688, Panoramic River Landscape with Hunters, c. 1664. Oil on canvas,
105 x 135 cm. Gift of Alfred and Isabel Bader, 2012 (55-005). Lent by: Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Queen’s University, Kingston