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‘Five Decades: A Canadian Art Collection’ a Reflection On Canada’s Origins and Evolution

May 27, 2014

New exhibition explores nation's origins, art history, and cultural heritage

(Charlottetown, P.E.I.) - An overview exhibition of the Art Gallery's permanent collection has recently opened as part of Confederation Centre's 50th anniversary celebrations.

Five Decades: A Canadian Art Collection features significant works of art from some of Canada's finest contemporary, modern, and historic artists, including selections from the gallery's extensive holdings on Robert Harris (1849-1919). On display are rarities such as the preliminary oil sketch for Harris' career-making 1883 commission to paint a mural of the Fathers of Confederation, who assembled for the 1864 Quebec Conference. A charming genre painting, The Studio Boy's Private View, 1886, will also be on display along with examples of Harris' portraits, drawings, and sketchbooks.

Gallery Director and exhibition co-curator Kevin Rice notes, "The exhibition attests to the generosity of many donors and the collecting interests of various gallery directors and curators through the decades here at the Centre."

Five Decades looks at the development of the Centre's art collection, beginning with the emblematic Charlottetown Revisited, 1964, by Jean Paul Lemieux (1904-1990), commissioned for the opening of the complex in 1964. The overview continues through dozens of acquisitions, highlighting such significant works as The Yankee Gale, painted on P.E.I. in 1851 by George Thresher (1780-1857); and Portrait of Elizabeth Hamley Thomson, 1865 by Quebec painter Théophile Hamel (1817-1870).

Other works include a still life, Wild Roses, 1935, by David Milne (1882-1953) -- a bequest from Douglas Duncan, 1970; a large pastel Newfoundland landscape drawing, Small Wharf over the Pond, 1992 by Mary Pratt (1935-); an innovative photo-based installation, Book Sculptures: Three Generations (Female), 1993, by Micah Lexier (1960-); and the sculpture, Peace, Order and Good Government, by Mi'kmaq artist Teresa Marshall (1962-), which was purchased in 1997 with matching funds from the Canada Council, which also supported the purchase of National -- a 2003 drawing of contemporary domestic life in the North by Inuit artist Annie Pootoogook (1969-).

These works of art, and the permanent collection more generally, can be considered a reflection of the origin and evolution of our country-its landscape and people-and the diversity of ideas that artists explore in their art. Five Decades: a Canadian Art Collection will present these and many other works-all touchstones of our history and culture.

Appreciation is extended to Grant Thornton for sponsoring this exhibition. A gala public opening and launch will take place on June 28 at 7 p.m. and Five Decades: a Canadian Art Collection, which is which is co-curated by Rice and Pan Wendt, will remain on view until the end of 2014.

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Image cutline: Micah Lexier's piece Book Sculptures: Three Generations (Female), (1993, photographs, cardboard, wood, paper, 175.2 x 182.8 x 30.4 cm, purchased 1993), as part of the new Confederation Centre Art Gallery exhibition Five Decades: A Canadian Art Collection showing until January 4, 2015.