Saskatchewan Art Patrons prior to 1950

This post is devoted to shining a light on a number of articles I found reporting on commissioned/ purchased works of art in the province.  I also want to bring forward the names of people and groups whose support of the visual arts in the province made an impact on individual artists and public collections in Regina and Saskatoon. Three major art collectors in Saskatchewan are dealt with in my previous post Art Collectors in Saskatchewan prior to 1950.

In the absence of dedicated art galleries, government offices, large schools and public libraries often were the recipients of donated works of art,.  These were places of public business and were accessible to the public, although their main purpose was not to display art.  The provincial government and the civic government had a limited mandate and usually a budget to collect art documenting their services. The schools generally did not, with the exception of the University of Saskatchewan and some private schools. Public libraries did not actively collect art but were grateful for donations and by the late 1940s, with the persistent absence of places to display art exhibitions, libraries became a safe and welcoming place for art to be displayed.  The Dunlop Gallery in Regina eventually developed into a separate art gallery from its beginnings in the Public library and the Frances Morrison library  (Saskatoon’s public library)  has had a dedicated space for rotating art exhibitions for many years.  It appears that the Moose Jaw Library also had a gallery space prior to 1950.

Some notes on these collections:

Saskatchewan Legislature Art Collection begun in 1910. See website:  This website doesn’t seem to be active any more although it was in operation in 2014.  There is now a flickr page for some works from the Legislative Art Collection but no artists’ names or image details are featured with the images on the new site.  Fortunately, the photos on the flickr page are bigger than the tiny thumbnails that were featured on the older website so you can actually look at the art without a magnifying glass.  The Legislative building, itself, has a photo gallery, although only one interior shot of the building is included. It does show the mural mentioned in an article below. Here are some reports on items commissioned or collected by the legislature prior to 1950.

Sep. 20, 1905 Montreal sculptor Louis-Phillipe Hebert visit to Regina – he obviously left some macquettes behind, see: follow up Mar. 7, 1933 LP, Oct. 13, 1908, Jul 15, 1910 (scroll right and up). Oct. 15, 1910 (scroll left), Feb. 19, 1914 Morning Leader, May 13, 1916 Morning Leader, Jul 19, 1918 Morning Leader, Aug. 10, 1920 Morning Leader, Apr. 5, 1928 SSP & Apr. 19, 1933, Jan. 28, 1933, Jun. 16, Jun 17, 1933, Apr. 16, 1934, Sep. 5, 1947 RLP, Apr. 1, 1957 SSP

Civic government collections, mostly painted portraits of local dignitaries, purchased by respective cities and towns from at least the first decade of the twentieth century and hung in their public spaces.  Nov. 1 (scroll down column) and Nov. 8, 1913 RLP – note that the second article refers to James Henderson, artist, but he was so new to Regina at that time that the reporter got his name wrong. There is a little bit more about Regina’s early civic collection in my post: Odd Art Stories in Saskatchewan prior to 1950

I would include public libraries as civic collectors, since they were supported by civic governments.

Regina Public Library :  The Regina Library offered display space for artworks purchased by various groups for a future collection.  The library also collected art. Sep. 29, 1908, Oct. 29, 1948, Jan. 4, 1950

Saskatoon Public Library – Like the Regina Public Library, the Saskatoon Public Library hosted craft exhibitions and related initiatives prior to 1950. Feb. 28, 1934,  Dec. 6, 1938, SSP (scroll down).  The Saskatoon Arts and Crafts Club had a display corner in the children’s section of the library for a number of years in the late 1930s and early 1940s before the Saskatoon Art Centre opened.

University of Saskatchewan Art Collection, begun in 1911, still active. Considered to be an educational collection housing examples of Canadian and international art with some samples of early Saskatchewan art. See website:    And  Little is known about the beginnings of this collection but early works were probably bought at the discretion of the first University president, Walter Murray (term of office 1909-1938).  He favoured Saskatchewan paintings by Gus Kenderdine and James Henderson.  The art purchasing committee did not become truly official until long after 1950. Walter Murray and professors Alfred J. Pyke of the Mathematics department and Richard A. Wilson of the English Department were very active in raising the profile of the visual arts and deserve to be noticed as patrons of Saskatchewan art. The University began hosting National Gallery of Canada travelling art exhibitions in the early 1920s.

Some articles related to the acquisitions of this collection are:  Oct. 29, 1914, Morning Leader, Feb. 20, 1926 Morning Leader, Dec. 21, 1939 SSP, Jan. 12, 1940 SSP

Regina College collectionFeb. 4, 1915 &  Mar. 25, 1916, Morning Leader, and  Women’s Club activities noted below. Regina College was a privately-owned institution that received civic support until it, like other affiliated colleges, before and after, came under ownership of the University of Saskatchewan in 1934. It did not become a separate provincial university, the University of Regina, until 1974.  The bequest of Norman Mackenzie’s art collection to the University of Saskatchewan in 1936 was primarily intended to create a showpiece, a school and an art gallery for the city of Regina. Like the U of S, Regina College hosted travelling National Gallery art exhibitions beginning in about 1920.

Nutana Collegiate Memorial Art Gallery, begun in 1919 as a memorial to 29 former students killed in WW I. It is still an open collection containing Canadian works of art from the Edwardian period on.  See the published catalogue Nutana Collegiate Memorial Art Collection: permanent collection , 1995 with an essay by Donna Volden and online description of the collection at  For its role in the development of Saskatoon art, see my post Assorted Saskatoon art clubs to 1936. The collection was paid for primarily by students who collected money annually to buy paintings.   Alfred J. Pyke was the principal and curator of the art collection initially and then Aldis W. Cameron took over the position and guided the acquisitions after 1923. Cameron lobbied the civic government to provide funds for an art gallery in Saskatoon (May 22, 1928 SSP)and attempted to educate the Saskatoon public about contemporary Canadian art by bringing in National Gallery of Canada travelling art exhibitions to Nutana Collegiate, starting about 1921.

2016 update. Note that there is a fascinating series of letters written mostly by A.W. Cameron to artists and letters received from them regarding the Nutana Collection at SaskHistoryonline, a digitizing project at the University of Saskatchewan.

Regina Women’s club collection – This is a title I invented for artworks collected for institutions by the LCW Arts Committee and other women’s groups from  c.1920 to 1953 which were eventually housed in the Norman McKenzie Gallery (1953) or Dunlop Collection at the Regina Public Library.  Most were collected from 1920 to 1945 and hung in the Library, Regina College and other collegiates in the city until such time as a purpose built art gallery arrived in Regina. It was a public collection without a permanent home and without a name until 1953 when 23 collected paintings were donated to the Norman Mackenzie Gallery collection. or remained in the Public Library collection (it is now known as the Dunlop Art Gallery)

An early example of a report of this collecting activity is Mar. 6, 1924 Morning Leader

The extent of and contribution of specific women’s art clubs is discussed in my posts Regina LCW Arts Committee and Women’s Art Association of Saskatchewan, as well as in the individual biographies of artists mentioned in this post. My post on the craft organizations in the two major cities of Saskatchewan adds more names, including specifically Christina Murray and Vivian Morton of the Saskatoon Arts and Crafts Club, a major patron and sales facilitator for many craftspeople in the central part of the province.

Regina Women’s Educational Club , known after 1936 as University Women’s Club –  Oct. 27, 1920 (scroll to left under Social column) & Nov. 1, 1920 Morning Leader – Women’s Educational Club announces their intention to buy a work of art for the College annually.  Sep. 18, 1919, Feb. 26Mar. 1 & Mar. 5,1920 (scroll to left), Feb. 22, 1923, May 16, 1929, Dec. 2 (scroll down and to left), Dec.4 (scroll left), Dec. 5 (scroll right), Dec. 6, 1929, Apr. 19, 1930,  RLP


Elgar Club –  Feb. 13, 1926, Dec. 1, 1930, LP

In Saskatoon the University Women’s Club often had study sessions on the arts but they don’t appear to have collected art. eg. Jan. 22, 1935 SSP  The Saskatoon Arts& Crafts Club was associated with some collecting for the University of Saskatchewan Museum, particularly crafts.  The Ukrainian Women’s Association in Saskatoon also collected craft items as far back as the 1930s.  Saskatoon is now the home of the Ukrainian Museum of Canada, an institution these women founded with their volunteer effort and collections.

Saskatoon and Regina IODE (International Order of Daughters of the Empire) collected art for patriotic and educational purposes.  The IODE was particularly concerned with buying collections of photographic reproductions of British paintings and graphic work for the public schools and was very active during the World War I period with this function.

Nov. 20 & 21, 1916 SP, Jun 22, 1916 SP, Dec. 2, 1919 SP,  Jun 1, 1933 SP

Mar. 20, 1918 Morning Leader, Sep 27, 1919 RLP

Various Churches across the province – The major Catholic churches in Saskatchewan collected art and also commissioned artists to make art in the province. The Cathedral at Gravelbourg and St. Peter’s Church at Kronau were decorated primarily by artist priests in residence but other churches in the province, like the Anglican church at Cannington Manor were decorated by the congregation who either made or imported fittings for it.  There were a succession of artists in Saskatchewan who specialized in church painting. Berthold von Imhoff, for example, who lived near North Battleford, was responsible for painting the decorative program of many Catholic churches in the northern half of the province.  These collections were privately owned by the Church but the churches were open for all the public to see. There is more on this in my post Ecclesiastic Art in Saskatchewan prior to 1950.

I recently found evidence that the Anglican church in Saskatchewan also had an early art collection: Jan. 28, 1933 RLP

The Saskatchewan Arts Board was formed in 1948 and soon started exhibiting and collecting May 15, 1950 RLP. Today, it has a significant collection of art and craft made in Saskatchewan.


Art transactions

While scanning the newspapers prior to 1950, I ran across a number of miscellaneous articles on art transactions, acquisitions and dispositions.  These would be of particular interest to curators and registrars.  A. Perring Taylor, Oct. 11, 1915 Morning Leader, Henderson, Mar. 9, 1917, David Payne, Oct. 22, 1930 LP, Imhoff – Jul 26, 1933 LP, Kenderdine – Jun 1, 1934, LP,  Minton – Jun 4, 1934 SP, Thornton,- Sep. 29, 1934 LP, Kenderdine – May 20, 1936 SP, Kenderdine, May 19, 1938, SP,  Lindner & Steiger, Sep. 24, 1941, SSP, O’Neill –  Sep. 25, 1941 SP, Sheldon- Williams,May 5, 1942 LP, Effie Martin & Ruth Pawson – Aug. 28, 1945 LP, Edith Shane, Jan. 23, 1947, RLP.  Many other reports of art transactions are linked or mentioned in my posts on the biographies of individual artists.

And Private Collectors

Mention of private collectors of art in both cities is often found in the earliest reports of local art exhibitions where collectors showcased what they owned.  In the case of Regina, reports on the RSAALS exhibitions give us information on the names of collectors and what they owned. Another source is the first Regina LCW art exhibition  in 1920 which featured works of art owned by collectors. In Saskatoon, the first city art exhibition in 1915 also featured works of art owned by local collectors and I have also found a Saskatoon Phoenix clipping  in my research files from 1921 about a travelling National Gallery exhibition of Canadian art at Nutana Collegiate. In the report there is a list of  local collectors who exhibited paintings they owned alongside them.  The report on this exhibit also gives an indication of the state of the Memorial Collection at Nutana in 1921 because it enumerated the paintings in the collection on display at that time.

1921 Ex at Nutana


Patrons of the arts

A number of people deserve mention for being benefactors or promoters of art in the province. In Regina, I have selected the following people, based on mention of them in the newspaper and on the Internet. They were what might be described now as power couples:

Francis N. Darke – Frank Darke May 26, 1924 Morning Leader – Opening of Darke Hall Nov. 6, 1928,  Jan.7, 1929  & Jan. 8, 1929 Morning Leader. Annie Darke is profiled in my Club Women artist Biographies and her name can be found as an active participant in reports on many of Regina’s art and craft organizations.

Darke Hall - October 30, 2014 - 3

Darke Hall, Regina

Dr. Hugh & Susan MacLean – Hugh MacLean was a social activist in the fields of Medicine and politics. He has been described as the “godfather of Medicare in Saskatchewan.” He and his wife Susan were also art collectors and donated 11 paintings to the Norman Mackenzie Art Gallery in 1953. The MacLeans, who had moved from Regina to California in 1938, also offered to donate their substantial house at 2930 Albert Street in Regina to the University of Saskatchewan in 1940, hoping that it could provide space for a much needed art gallery building in the city. Their home was never used for that purpose but I have found a drawing and brief history of the house on the Regina Walking Tours website (p,116, 117).  Articles on Dr. Hugh MacLean:  Jan. 4, 1958 SSP, Jul. 14, 1944, RLP, Sep. 26, 1953, RLP. Susan is profiled in my Club Women artists biographies and her name can be found in articles related to the Women’s Art Association and other cultural organizations. – eg. Dec. 14, 1933 RLP, Feb. 27, 1935 RLP

2930 Albert Street MacLean residence

George and Ethel Barr–  Ethel Barr is profiled in my Club Women artists biographies and her name can be found in posts dealing with the Regina LCW Art Committees and the Regina Art Centre Association. – Oct. 9, 1954, RLP. As I have said elsewhere, her contributions to the Regina art world included chronicling early Regina art and leading a campaign for an art centre in Regina, in addition to maintaining a sustained volunteer career in many arts organizations for over 30 years.  George Barr was active in art affairs as both an artist and a prominent member of the Saskatchewan Art Association . He also was most vocal about raising the provincial status of Regina College.  See the following articles about him: Jun 22, 1955 RLP, Feb. 9, 1960 RLP, Apr. 1, 1960  and a sample of his guest editorials in the Leader Post on the issue that consumed many other Regina community leaders  and educators of his vintage. Feb. 16, 1954, RLP  Feb. 17, 1954, RLP.

Lorne and Evelyn Johnson –  I offer a short biography of Evelyn here and some articles on her activities but the biographies of both she and her husband should be consulted at the Johnson Foundation website, linked below.  – Sept. 27, 1933, Oct. 22, 1948 RLP


Evelyn Madill Vrooman Johnson (Mrs. Lorne) (b. 1 Nov 1883 Ontario – d. 25 May 1977, Regina, Sask.)

Evelyn Madill Vrooman Johnson, wife of Lorne Johnson, m. 1916. Evelyn was the daughter of James L. Vrooman and was born in Vroomanton, Ontario.  A 1912 graduate of the Toronto Conservatory of Expression, Evelyn was a founding member of the Regina LCW Fine and Applied Arts Committee. Although she was not an artist, Evelyn Johnson was often on the executive and was an active participant in the committee’s art shows, hanging many of them.  She and her husband lived in Regina from World War I and had no children.  Both were very active in the arts and culture sector and established the Johnson Foundation in Regina over 50 years ago which is still offering funds to support the arts and culture in Regina. The Johnson Foundation website offers biographies of both of them which highlight their public service. Note how many times her name is mentioned in connection with LCW art exhibits on my post.  Also see online: Pioneers and Prominent People of Saskatchewan for an earlier biography of the two.

Evelyn Johnson photo from ancestry Mr. and Mrs. Lorne Johnson from a photo on

The story of art patronage in Saskatoon is quite different.  There were art patrons and collectors, as in Regina, but none of them apparently had the wherewithall or felt the need  to fund buildings, endowments or public collections until Fred Mendel pledged funds to the city for an art gallery in 1960. I found almost no reports of art acquisitions or art patronage in Saskatoon’s newspapers as opposed to Regina’s newspapers. However, in Saskatoon there were many more reports of the individual achievements of artists and lots of reproduced images of local artwork, something seldom seen in Regina’s Leader Post until after 1950.

You can read the reports associated with the “non-gendered”  art organizations in Saskatoon, like the Saskatoon Art Club and its successor, the Saskatoon Art Association to see the efforts that many artists put forward to create a space for the visual arts in their city and in Saskatchewan. Apart from the few Regina women mentioned above, there weren’t many other visual artists in Regina, who can be noted as patrons or activists in the arts .  Barbara Barber was an exception. She is profiled in my club women’s biographies and in my post on the Women’s Art Association of Saskatchewan, an organization that she spearheaded. She also was the founder of the Regina Beach Art Centre and one of the few Regina artists who made a concerted effort to have works by her fellow artists shown outside the province.  In the sense that she broadened the horizons for Saskatchewan art, she was the equivalent of Ernest Lindner in Saskatoon, although they were very different people doing different things. Lindner strove to raise the standards of art in Saskatchewan by forming artist associations, opening up venues for artists to show their work and by promoting better educational opportunities for Saskatchewan artists. A number of reports on the activities of Barber and Lindner (Saskatoon Art Association and Saskatchewan FCA) can be seen in the posts I have on the organizations they played a major role in.

Interest in the arts in Saskatoon was driven by educators and artists and this is clear when you look at newspaper reports.  In Regina there are many reports of people donating money, effort and time to local institutions, whereas in Saskatoon people primarily donated their time and effort prior to 1950. Regina artists were often passive recipients of the benevolence of women’s art clubs, who made efforts to show all artists’ work to the public, but Saskatoon’s visual artists were more likely to initiate exhibitions and shows themselves. The Saskatoon Art Centre, which opened in 1944, was the result of the combined volunteer efforts of artists and concerned citizens who did not have the assistance of wealthy benefactors.  I would add that the Saskatoon Star Phoenix deserves credit for treating art activities and events as important cultural news, highlighting local activities with photographs and art columns in the 1940s. The newspaper distinguished itself nationally in that way.

The one important provincial institution in Saskatoon was the University of Saskatchewan.  In Regina, the provincial interest was represented by the institution of the Legislature. Both held collections of art in trust for the people of the province. Neither of these entities were civic institutions, although the cities and art cultures they were located in certainly benefited from their existence. The big difference was the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon hosted travelling art exhibitions as part of its educational mandate from the early 1920s.  In Regina, a local college took on part of this role for its community around the same time, assisted by more than one volunteer women’s organization. The Legislature did not generally sponsor art exhibitions but it did provide commissions for artists and actually employed artists like J.H. Lee-Grayson and John Leman on its staff.

There were a number of civic institutions and local businesses who neither collected art nor made art exhibiting their major concern.  However, they were important in the growth of visual arts awareness in the province because they provided exhibition space in their organizations or businesses at a time when there were few other venues to welcome travelling or local shows.

Local art dealers didn’t get much press but they did advertise and deal in art and occasionally hosted local artists, particularly in Saskatoon during the period before 1944 when there were no solo exhibitions sponsored by local organizations.

Saskatoon:  Hazen-Twiss Stationery store, Hudson’s Bay Store and Eaton’s.  Tyries’ Art and Framing Store. YWCA, University of Saskatchewan, Nutana Collegiate, Bessborough & King George Hotel and various empty downtown buildings.

1928 Etching show at Tyrie Studios
















Regina: Willson’s Stationery Store, Glasgow House, Eatons & Simpsons department stores, City Hall, Regina College, various empty downtown buildings, Hotel Saskatchewan, Laubach’s Art Studio and later Clay’s Art Studio












Additionally, commercially sponsored art shows by such entities as the Elson Co. , Richardson Brothers Co. of Winnipeg, the Cooling Galleries and even major newspapers and IBM were hosted in these cities and private collectors sometimes came to town to sell works of art to the public.



1936 Connoiseur shows art collection ad


The National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa is and was an institution funded by Canadian taxpayers so in a way it also was a Saskatchewan institution.  Its policy of sending art exhibitions out across the country certainly contributed to art awareness in Saskatchewan, where access to significant art collections was very limited in the first half of the twentieth century. The Gallery may be faulted for having a very narrow conception of what constituted Canadian art during this period, limiting the bulk of their Canadian purchasing to favour one region of the country, but not for their education program which allowed Canadians from coast to coast to see not only Canadian work but also international art. Praise for the educational functions of Canada’s National Gallery can be found in an editorial in the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix Aug. 6, 1937

I was happy to find a series of articles on contemporary art patrons of Saskatchewan on the Saskatchewan Arts Alliance website.

©Lisa G. Henderson



3 thoughts on “Saskatchewan Art Patrons prior to 1950

  1. Anoosh Naderi


    I read this column and it was very informative and I enjoyed reading it. I have a question. Is there any painting from Mrs. Barbara Barber around? I am a collector of Canadian paintings.


    1. lisa g. henderson Post author

      Thank you for reading Early Saskatchewan Art in the News and on the Internet. I don’t know if you read the post called The Club Women Artists of Regina (go to the index and click on that link), which has a short biography of Barbara Barber, but in it I lament the fact that it is very difficult to find an artwork online by Barber and she doesn’t appear in any art sale sites. She must have made hundreds of paintings over her 70 year art career but where they went to is a mystery. I do know that she lived at Regina Beach for the last part of her life and perhaps an art centre or antique shop there might have some pieces by her. Without anything to look at, it is very hard to judge her artistic achievements. Best of luck. Let me know if you find anything.


  2. Wayne Morgan

    I have one acquired in the 1970s when I directed the Dunlop Art Gallery and was doing a lot of research on folk, self taught and popular art. It is from the Regina Beach years in the then popular form of the period, a diagonal slice of a tree with the bark still attached. Souvenir art.The image is a lake scene. But you are right. Where did they go?

    In the 1970s, particularly, a lot of artists and curators such as myself were hunting down folk & outsider art in all the dusty corners of SK. Perhaps the emphasis on folk art left an interest in her behind. I pursued the popular forms because I was interested in class, the lower class that I came from. That is also when I began to collect Levine Flexhaug now the subject of an exhibition of almost 500 works touring Canada.



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