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BMO Financial Group Donates Collection of de Grandmaison Portraits to University of Lethbridge Art Gallery

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LETHBRIDGE, ALBERTA -- (Marketwire) -- 02/22/13 -- BMO Financial Group is donating 67 original pastel portraits by Nicholas de Grandmaison (1892-1978) from its art collection to the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery.

The collection, which is valued at more than $1.6 million, spans a period of over 30 years and traces the development of de Grandmaison's talent and facility as one of the most important painters and portraitists of western First Nations people in Canada.

"The University of Lethbridge already owns one of the most comprehensive collections of artworks and artifacts by this important Canadian portraitist," said Robert Hayes, Senior Vice President, Prairies Division, BMO Bank of Montreal. "We are excited to enhance this collection with a gift that will allow it to continue to serve as a resource for students, faculty and independent scholars."

De Grandmaison created portraits of southern Albertans and Canada's First Nations populations for over 45 years. After immigrating to Canada from Russia (by way of England) in 1923, de Grandmaison spent much of his life touring around the prairies, painting the people he met. De Grandmaison was well-known and beloved in this area, and before his death in 1978 he was made an Honourary Chief of the Peigan Nation.

The 67 pastel portraits are part of a portfolio of 100 works by Nicholas de Grandmaison that were purchased by BMO in 1978 from the artist's family after his death.

University of Lethbridge President Mike Mahon said the portraits gifted by BMO Financial Group are of special significance given that de Grandmaison created most of his work in Southern Alberta, capturing the individual histories and personalities of those he painted.

"I find it fascinating that the communities Nicholas de Grandmaison was passionate about are the same communities the University remains passionate about today," stated Mahon. "The University of Lethbridge takes seriously what it means to be entrusted with these cultural treasures, and we look forward to sharing these works with our students, our community, our country and beyond in future initiatives."

Director/Curator of the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery Josephine Mills said the gallery is already contemplating the many opportunities that will arise from this gift.

"I am excited to present an exhibition of the portraits in May and to work on further possibilities for exhibitions and research with the works from BMO and our existing collection of de Grandmaison artwork and archives," said Mills. "Future projects include conducting an oral history project about the artist and the First Nations subjects in the portraits as well as commissioning First Nations artists to produce new work in response to the BMO donation. This generous gift will significantly enhance our collection, exhibitions, and public programs and thus be an excellent resource for our community."

Included in the gift is $50,000 to care for and create access to the works. Mills says an oral history project that focuses on the artist and sitters will be created and that the Gallery will commission Aboriginal artists to create a response to the works. The money will also be used to showcase the works nationally and possibly internationally.

The University of Lethbridge Art Gallery houses one of the most significant art collections in Canada. Numbering over 14,000 objects, the holdings include works from Canada, America and Europe, span the 19th and 20th centuries and continue to grow with 21st century additions. The gallery's major strength is the diversity of the collection, which not only represents a wide range of geographic locations, but also the full spectrum of media, artistic movements and genres.

Pieces of BMO Financial Group's gift are on display in the University of Lethbridge Gallery and will be accessible at this evening's Donor Gala. The University of Lethbridge Art Gallery has scheduled an exhibition of selected works from the BMO gift from May 2 to June 27, 2013.

About the Gift

These drawings are high quality, original artworks that are indicative of Nicholas de Grandmaison's practice of depicting the First Nations peoples of the Canadian prairies. These works are of outstanding significance in their relationship to other pieces in the University of Lethbridge Art Collection created by de Grandmaison, as the University has become recognized as the foremost archive of de Grandmaison's work and personal notes, sketchbooks, papers and photographs.

De Grandmaison's art practice consisted primarily of portraits of Southern Alberta citizens. Some were commissioned; others were more spontaneous, on the spot drawings of friends or acquaintances. De Grandmaison is especially known for his mastery of the pastel medium. Many of his drawings have a gestural, unfinished quality, while also capturing the warmth in the sitters' eyes, or particular aspects of their personalities. The 67 works included in this gift are of no exception: though the sitters are no longer alive, the viewer gets a sense of their personalities and individual histories when presented with de Grandmaison's careful colour selections, precise compositions and gentle lines.

This gift of 67 works from BMO Financial Group joins over 170 drawings, paintings and personal archival items (most of which have been previously deemed to be of outstanding significance and national importance) currently housed by the University of Lethbridge Art Collection and Archives.

About the Artist

Nicholas De Grandmaison created portraits of Southern Albertans and Canada's First Nations populations for over 45 years. After immigrating to Canada from Russia (by way of England) in 1923, de Grandmaison spent much of his life touring around the prairies, painting the people he met. De Grandmaison was well known and beloved in this area, and before his death in 1978 he was made an Honourary Chief of the Peigan Nation. His prolific practice stands today as a document of 20th century life on the prairies, and the convergence of two cultures. De Grandmaison's work, including the 67 works in this gift, are of outstanding cultural significance at regional, national and international levels as excellent representations of the lives of Canadians from a variety of cultural backgrounds.

The U of L's De Grandmaison Collection

In addition to this gift, the art collection of the University of Lethbridge holds over 170 of de Grandmaison's artworks and archival items, primarily pastel drawings that were created between 1925 and 1970. As the single largest holding of de Grandmaison's work in a public collection, the University of Lethbridge has the responsibility of being as complete an archive as possible for the local, regional and national cultural communities. Because the University of Lethbridge Art Collection is used as an educational resource available to students, faculty and visiting artists, the acquisition of many works by a single artist is extremely important to illustrate the progressive shifts that occur over the duration of a professional artistic practice. De Grandmaison's personal history with Southern Alberta furthers the importance of this gift as a testament to the artistic legacy of the region.

About the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery

The U of L Art Gallery houses one of the most significant art collections in Canada. Numbering over 14,000 objects, the holdings include works from Canada, America, and Europe, span the 19th and 20th centuries and continue to grow with 21st century additions. The gallery's major strength is the diversity of the collection, which not only represents a wide range of geographic locations, but also the full spectrum of media, artistic movements, and genres. The U of L Art Gallery embraces its role as a major collecting institution and strives to: increase public access to works in the collection through exhibitions, publications, and its web page; foster research on the artists and their works in the collection; and support inquiry into the concepts involved with collecting in a contemporary context.

About BMO Financial Group

Established in 1817 as Bank of Montreal, BMO Financial Group is a highly-diversified North American financial services organization. With total assets of $525 billion as at October 31, 2012, and more than 46,000 employees, BMO Financial Group provides a broad range of personal and commercial banking, wealth management and investment banking products and solutions. For more than 194 years, BMO Financial Group has believed in community reinvestment and corporate and social responsibility in the communities it serves. In 2011, BMO contributed more than $66.4 million in donations, sponsorships and events in Canada and the United States to groups, organizations and programs that help build and sustain resilient, vital and healthy communities.



Contacts:
Media Contacts
BMO Financial Group
Krysta Cooke
(416) 867-3996
krysta.cooke@bmo.com

University of Lethbridge
Richard Westlund
(403) 332-5251
richard.westlund@uleth.ca



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