The National Gallery of Canada has been on a positive trajectory over the last while. With a restructuring and rebranding of the gallery to integrate and highlight the works and culture of Indigenous artists, as well as receiving $900,000CAD in funding for future initiatives, it has been a bright year for the institution. And now the NGC is the recipient of a major donation in the form of the massive Meakins-McClaran collection, from a Montréal married couple.
Dr. Jonathan Meakins and Dr. Jacqueline McClaran, physicians in Montréal, had amassed quite the collection over the years. In fact, it was one of the largest private collections in all of Canada. The two had a wealth of artworks from Dutch and Flemish artists across the 16th and 17th centuries, among others, and 250 of the works from this near-forty-year collection have been given to the NGC.
An exhibition entitled The Collectors’ Cosmos, curated by member Erika Dolphin, opened on July 16th and will run until November 14th to display a large portion of the Meakins-McClaran collection. Dolphin has grouped the selections of prints, drawings, and etchings thematically rather than chronologically across this two-century span.
“The exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada will reveal both the strength and breadth of the collection today,” the gallery states of The Collectors’ Cosmos “as well as the collectors’ love of the etched and engraved line and plate tone.” As for Meakins and McClaran, they seem overjoyed to have their collection be shared with Canadian viewers, McClaran stating to the Ottawa Citizen:
“It’s wonderful to give a big gift and to see it exhibited, but also to do it in your own lifetime, and to contribute. We felt like curators ourselves.”
The Meakins-McClaran collection gives a new focussed depth to the works already acquired by the National Gallery of Canada. With it only just over half-way through, this has already been a milestone year for this institution of art in Canada. And with new initiatives just underway—including commissions from Indigenous artists Chief 7idansuu James Hart and Lisa Hageman Yahjujanaas—there is surely even more to come.