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Library and Archives Canada
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News & Events

News: The Government of Canada Creates Opportunity to Host the Portrait Gallery of Canada

A New Home for the Portrait Gallery of Canada

[PDF 2,460 KB] Downloadable Formats

Passion, challenges, peace, dreams, understanding, spirituality, conflicts, hopes
Passion, challenges, peace, dreams, understanding, spirituality, conflicts, hopes

What you may anticipate…a history of great achievers

Graham Greene
Graham Greene
1995
by V. Tony Hauser
platinum print
PA-207846

A full-blooded Oneida, critically acclaimed stage and screen actor Graham Greene is the first Aboriginal Canadian to be nominated for an Academy Award.

Coal miners
Coal miners
ca. 1946
by John Mailer
gelatin silver print
PA-205815

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What you will receive…new light on little-known faces

Célina and Rosalvina Pelletier
Célina and Rosalvina Pelletier
ca. 1838
attributed to James Bowman
oil on canvas
C-099707

The tender portrait of Célina and Rosalvina, attributed to the little-known itinerant artist James Bowman (1783-1842), depicts two young sisters dressed identically and wearing necklaces of red coral, for protection against childhood illness.

What you may not know…new perspectives on famous faces

Sarah McLauchlan
Sarah McLachlan
1999
by Bryan Adams
gelatin silver print
e008292603

The photograph of singersongwriter, Sarah McLachlan, is one of a series of 86 images of women taken by rock star, Bryan Adams, for a fundraising book for breast cancer research. The portrait represents both Adams' creative turn to a new medium, photography, and his activity as a volunteer for various humanitarian causes. McLachlan is also committed to charitable activities, such as music education for women and children, and women's shelters. The intense close-up of the face is reminiscent of fashion photography, television and film.

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What is a portrait?

A wealth of history and insight. Stand in front of a portrait and you can immediately feel the presence which only original art can convey. Visitors leave with a greater respect and appreciation of individuals and their legacies. The Portrait Gallery of Canada is about the anonymous as much as it is about the celebrated – all of whom have contributed towards the growth of our country for over 500 years.

... not just a pretty face

Library and Archives Canada has collected the portraits as well as the supporting heritage documentation linking the portraits to their fascinating stories.

Gordon Rayner
Gordon Rayner (detail)
2004
by John Reeves
digital photography
a215177K

This image is one of several in a project inspired by the subject's and artist's mutual love of jazz. Reeves manipulated a portrait of Rayner in various details, colours and values, akin to jazz riffs, producing what we could call the “Rayner variations”.

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Why is it so important?

A gallery speaks to visitors of all ages and says things compelling enough to bring them back. With a gallery of this magnitude comes world-class prestige and local opportunities: A place where school children learn something truly relevant – their past through the vivid stories told by the paintings, photographs and sculptures. A place where artists fuel their passion and study the masters. A place where visitors and residents discover connections between the portraits and their own lives.

Pierre de Rigaud de Vaudreuil
Pierre de Rigaud de Vaudreuil
1743
by Donat Nonotte
oil on canvas
C-147536

Pierre de Rigaud de Vaudreuil was the first Canadian-born and last governor of New France.

Acquired with the assistance of a Movable Cultural Property Grant from the Minister of Canadian Heritage.

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People watching

People are drawn to faces

Portrait galleries entice a wide demographic audience due to the human contact and recognition. People come to see art, to absorb history and to connect with their present and their past.

Every picture tells a story

Sa Ga Yeath Qua Pieth Tow
Sa Ga Yeath Qua Pieth Tow
1710
by Jan Verelst
oil on canvas
C-092421

An elected civil chief from the Five Nations Confederacy, Sa Ga Yeath Qua Pieth Tow was part of a delegation brought to London to enlist their military support. Queen Anne commissioned her court painter to create portraits of the four native chiefs. Purchased in 1977 with a special grant from the Secretary of State.

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What is in the collection?

Among portrait galleries, we have the world's second-oldest national portrait collection (after London). Library and Archives Canada has been collecting since 1872. The collection's great strengths are rare portraits that span the period from the earliest contacts with Aboriginal peoples to 20th-century photography. This includes the collected works of the distinguished Arnaud Maggs and Yousuf Karsh.

Library and Archives Canada's world-class, priceless collection includes over 20,000 paintings, drawings and prints, four million photographs and several thousand caricatures; it is supported by 10,000 medals and philatelic items. The Portrait Gallery will also exhibit important works from public and private collections from across Canada and around the world.

"I removed Churchill's cigar ("ever so respectfully") because I felt that it did not belong on that occasion. Not at that high moment of history."
Yousuf Karsh

In December, 1941, the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, visited Ottawa and during his visit, was photographed by the soft-spoken, Canadian photographer, Yousuf Karsh. The result was the creation of a universal iconic image reflecting the indomitable British spirit, and a catalyst for Karsh's meteoric six-decade career.

Yousuf Karsh
Yousuf Karsh (detail)
1981
by Arnaud Maggs
gelatin silver print
PA-212492

We are in search of the perfect host community one that can accommodate the ideal blend of an arresting and accessible site, community enthusiasm, and public and private financial support.

The benefits of hosting the Portrait Gallery of Canada

National Prestige. International Recognition.

  • Around the world, portrait galleries are becoming increasingly important as national storytellers. In England, the United States, Australia and Scotland, you can walk through impressive buildings lined with the faces of nation-builders. Those faces bring to life the stories of a nation's complex heritage. These countries – and others – are continuing to support their portrait galleries by investing heavily in such projects. Canada is poised to do the same.

Tourist and Economic Support

  • 3 million visitors attended the portrait galleries in London, Washington, Edinburgh and Canberra last year. Such a powerful tourist attraction may generate revenue for the local economy.

  • For a city with a vibrant culture already, the Portrait Gallery of Canada can add international prestige and recognition as a “must see” destination.

Chinese seamstress
Chinese seamstress
1888
by Robert W. Reford
albumen print
PA-118195

Using a Kodak No. 1 camera, Reford, an amateur photographer, documented the activities of the settlers in British Columbia.

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Face value

The Reputation of the PGC

  • Museums around the world recognize Library and Archives Canada's superb collection and the Portrait Gallery of Canada's expertise. Works from our collection have been showcased in London and Paris, while galleries such as the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, have loaned important paintings to the PGC for display.

  • The Portrait Gallery of Canada's site will provide an opportunity to reveal thousands of hidden treasures stored in vaults to be displayed to the public for the first time.

  • Because the Portrait Gallery of Canada is an integral part of Library and Archives Canada, it has access to the resources, training, facilities and expertise of one of the world's best heritage institutions. Our existing infrastructure is second to none. No matter where the PGC is, it will be supported by a substantial staff of experts at Library and Archives Canada.

Self-portrait with braids
Self-portrait with braids,
1940
By Alma Duncan
Oil on canvas stretched on masonite
C-146139

An accomplished artist and teacher, Alma Duncan is best known for the animated film work that she and partner, Audrey McLaren, created out of their production company Dunclaren in the 1950's

Oscar Peterson
Oscar Peterson (detail)
1984
by Harry Palmer
silver gelatin print
a165806

Internationally renowned Canadian jazz pianist, Oscar Peterson, has entertained the world with his mastery of the piano for more than 40 years. In 1984, Oscar Peterson received the Order of Canada, and in 1997, a Grammy for Lifetime Achievement and an International Jazz Hall of Fame Award, proof that Oscar Peterson is still regarded as one of the greatest jazz musicians.

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You look marvelous!

Be a part of this nation-building initiative by showcasing the Portrait Gallery of Canada in your community.

Sir John A. Macdonald
Sir John A. Macdonald
1842-1843
by an unknown artist
oil on canvas
C-004811

This portrait, possibly painted in Edinburgh, depicts a young Sir John A. Macdonald whose vision would later create Canada. He would become Canada's first prime minister and an internationally known statesman.

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This is a rare and exciting opportunity:

  • to host a national treasure;
  • to be a founding supporter of a significant national gallery;
  • to contribute to the cultural well-being of Canada.

The eyes of a nation will be on you.

Our nation, your gallery

Edith Iglauer
Edith Iglauer
1996
by Jerry Grey
oil on canvas
e006079036

Although Ms. Iglauer was born in America, she was a noted journalist and writer on Canadian topics which included the Inuit, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Arthur Erickson and the building of a 325-mile winter road above the Arctic Circle. She won the 1989 Governor General's Award for Non-Fiction for her work about her late husband's adventures on a salmon trawler.

The portrait gallery of Canada is a place of discovery, reflection, inspiration and fun.

The Portrait Gallery of Canada