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National Gallery of Canada Acquires Rare Prints by Rembrandt, Durer, D.Y. Cameron, Piranesi and Whistler

Thanks to a generous gift from the collection of the former medieval historian, writer, lecturer and Order of Canada recipient Dr. Margaret Wade Labarge (1916-2009), the National Gallery of Canada (NGC) has acquired four prints by Dutch artist Rembrandt van Rijn, two by German artist Albrecht Dürer, one by British artist David Young Cameron, one by Italian artist Giovanni Battista Piranesi and one by American-born, British-based artist James McNeill Whistler. All nine are featured in the NGC’s exhibition Art of the Print: Recent Acquisitions from Rembrandt to Picasso, on view until January 2, 2011 in Gallery C202B.

“Our Mother had explained to us the artistic significance and value of these works,” said Margaret Wade Labarge’s son, Paul C. Labarge. “What we also learned to appreciate was their fragility and the need to ensure their maintenance. She felt strongly that they should be available to the public and scholars in an environment that would ensure their continued preservation for future generations. We knew that these works would degrade outside a museum environment and that keeping them meant eventually losing them. We could not think of a better tribute to a historian than to ensure the survival of these works by donating them to a national institution for the benefit of Canada, the country that she had adopted as her own with such enthusiasm and dedication.”

“The Wade Labarge collection is one of great art historical significance and we are honoured to accept this generous gift from the family,” said NGC Director Marc Mayer. “All nine prints were produced by master artists of historical and aesthetic importance and are of the highest quality. They are a wonderful complement to other works in the National Gallery of Canada’s internationally respected print collection.”

The nine exceptionally rare prints donated to the NGC’s collection are:
Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669), The Windmill, 1641. Rembrandt scholars long believed this beautiful and subtly detailed etching represented the artist’s birthplace; it is now known that this was not the case and that the mill, located at the time on the outskirts of Amsterdam, was used for making chamois leather. The work deepens the NGC’s holdings of the Dutch master’s landscape views. Also included in the gift are two of Rembrandt’s most sought-after portrait etchings, Clement de Jonghe, 1651, and Lieven Willemsz. van Coppenol, writing master: the larger plate, c.1658, printed c. 1790, as well as his dazzling Christ appearing to the Apostles, 1656.

Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528), St. Jerome in his Study, 1514. A compelling image of contemplative life, this print is known as one of the German Renaissance artist’s three “master engravings”. The other engravings — Melancholia I, 1514 and The Knight, Death and the Devil, 1513 — are in the NGC’s collection and this gift completes the series. Also donated is Dürer’s The Nativity, 1504, an engraving that demonstrates the artist’s exceptional skill at architectural perspective. The print complements the artist’s Adam and Eve of the same year, considered a study of ideal human proportions and also in the NGC’s collection.

Sir David Young Cameron (1865-1945), St. Laumer, Blois, 1903. Although today the Scottish artist David Young Cameron has been all but forgotten, during his lifetime he was considered a leading light in what is known as “the etching revival”. This exceptional print of a mysterious and atmospheric church interior adds to the NGC’s British holdings, one of the recognized strengths of the print collection.

Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1778), The Fontana di Trevi, 1751. Piranesi is known for his engravings of Roman vedute (or views) and this magnificent print captures the Trevi fountain as it was nearing completion in 1751. The work strengthens the NGC’s holdings of other celebrated vedute prints by this renowned Italian artist.

James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903), The Kitchen, 1858. In August 1858, Whistler travelled through France to produce a set of etchings that would become known as his “French set.” This scene of a rustic kitchen was one of many that preoccupied him.

Dr. Margaret Wade Labarge
The late Margaret Wade Labarge was born in New York City and earned a Bachelor of Literature at Oxford in 1939. Known for her distinguished career as a medieval scholar, she was a part-time lecturer at University of Ottawa’s Notre Dame College and Carleton University in the 40s, 50s and 60s. She has nine books to her credit, including biographies of St. Louis (1968) and Henry V of England (1975). A recipient of three honorary degrees, she was named to the Order of Canada in 1982 both for her work as an historian and a volunteer on behalf of nurses and the aged. She passed away at the age of 93 in August 2009.

The Wade Labarge Collection
The Wade Labarge collection began in the early 20th century. Margaret Wade Labarge’s father Alfred B. Wade, a former New York stockbroker, acquired most of its holdings.

Image: Albrecht Dürer, The Nativity (1504), National Gallery of Canada. Gift in memory of Margaret Wade Labarge from her collection, 2010

About the National Gallery of Canada
The National Gallery of Canada is home to the most important collections of historical and contemporary Canadian art in the world, including the extensive collection of the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography. The Gallery also maintains Canada’s premier collection of European Art from the 14th to the 21st century, as well as important works of American, Asian and Indigenous Art and renowned international collections of prints, drawings and photographs. Created in 1880, the National Gallery of Canada has played a key role in Canadian culture for well over a century. Among its principal missions is to increase access to excellent works of art for all Canadians. To do so, it maintains the largest touring art exhibition programme in the world. For more information, visit

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