BlogJuly 2, 2018

5 Masterpieces Sold by the Klinkhoffs

In Prominent Public Collections of Canadian Art

Serving as fine art dealers and advisors, we continue to develop some of Canada’s most prominent public collections. Paintings sold by the Klinkhoff family can be found in numerous major Canadian museums, including the National Gallery of Canada, the Musée national des Beaux-Arts du Québec (Quebec Museum), the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the McMichael Collection, The Hamilton Art Gallery and the Beaverbrook Art Gallery to name a selection.


Here are five of among the most memorable sales the Klinkhoffs have sold to prominent public collections and their significance to each collection.


# 1. In 1962, Walter Klinkhoff orchestrated the sale of one of the most outstanding works by the artist Marc-Aurèle Fortin to the National Gallery of Canada. It was the second painting by Fortin purchased by the National Gallery. The first, was a Old Port painting purchased only a year prior in 1961. It is currently one of five Fortin paintings in the National Gallery’s collection.

Walter Klinkhoff offered this important Fortin directly to then director of the National Gallery, J. Russell Harper. As it turned out, his timing was perfect. The National Gallery was just about to have an acquisition committee meeting and with Harper’s encouragement Mr. Klinkhoff drove the painting to Ottawa himself—in a crate, fashioned to the roof of his car. The Gallery was swift in their approval of the work and agreed to purchase it for $2500, roughly equivalent to $20,000 today. Today the same painting likely has a value of over $1,000,000 and most importantly remains one of the finest Fortin paintings in existence.


#2. In 1978, the Walter Klinkhoff Gallery executed the sale of L’enfant Malade (The Sick Child), a unique work by Suzor Cote to the Musée des Beaux-Arts Nationale du Québec. This work was the first genre painting by Suzor Cote acquired by the Museum after the artist’s death.


The work was originally owned by a gentleman and good friend of the gallery, C. Leo-Paul Labranche, an architect. In fact, years prior, when Walter Klinkhoff Gallery first incorporated, Walter Klinkhoff legally required a third director of the gallery, in addition to himself and his wife, Gertrude Klinkhoff. Through the cycle of life of a picture, Paul Labranche gave it back to Dad and subsequently offered it to the Quebec Museum.



#3. In 2000, the Klinkhoffs manipulated the donation of Tropique, a work by Paul-Emile Borduas also to the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec on behalf of Paul and Lily Ivanier. Tropique, painted in 1955 in New York, is the largest oil on canvas by Borduas in the museum’s collection. The work remains on view in the permanent collection and is part of a grouping the museum describes as, their “incontournables” or in english, their “essential works, [...] Classics in the history of Québec art – or in the process of becoming so!”


Paul Ivanier in the 1970s had been quite a voracious collector of Canadian paintings of great quality. Being a passionate collector, in the early eighties, he moved from a substantial home in Hampstead, a Montreal borough, to a very fine condominium on Avenue du Musée in downtown Montreal. To make space for another art collection, he sold literally his entire Canadian art collection for a formidable sum of money to Mr. Kenneth Heffel, father of Robert and David. Ken at the time was active as an art dealer, not an auctioneer.


Paul Ivanier then put together a second significant and large collection of Canadian paintings with the same discerning eye—including this Borduas. For reasons known only to him, while we were orchestrating piecemeal the sale of this second collection, he became amenable to donating three very important Canadian paintings, this Borduas (acc. no. 2000.225), an important and fine Cornelius Krieghoff (acc. no. 2000.222) and an excellent Fortin (acc. no. 2000.223).


Paul lived just a few hundred meters from the MMFA making it the obvious destination for his donation. Then Director in Quebec, John R Porter, probably the foremost museum builder of his generation in Canada, and his team of curators were most welcoming of the from the initial approach of this large gift. And with Alan Klinkhoff having been on their acquisition committee at Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, we were delighted to “detour” the paintings to Quebec under their stewardship.



#4. In 2013, Rétine, achale-moé pas (Retina, don't bug me), 1966 by Marcel Barbeau was sold by the Klinkhoffs to the National Gallery of Canada. It is the latest picture painted by Barbeau in the Museum’s collection and also the most recent painting acquired of this artist made by the National Gallery.


This work had been originally owned by Mr. Aubert Brillant, a gentleman of certain affluence, who had had a contemporary art gallery here in Montreal called Galerie du Siècle. The gallery was celebrated, at least by contemporary artists, for his interest in their work and willingness not only to show it but also to purchase works outright from the artists to support them. Barbeau was one of his artists. We offered it for sale for a member of his family.


Shortly thereafter, Barbeau became a 2013 recipient of the Prix du Gouverneur général en arts visuels et arts médiatiques. In recognition of this accomplishment, the National Gallery selected three works representative of the artist’s style and evolution to have on display. The Gallery then made a huge scale reproduction of this work to hung outside the gallery to attract visitors to the exhibition.



#5. In 2014, Alan Klinkhoff Gallery sold another memorable work to the National Gallery. Girl and Cat by Emily Coonan was the last work acquired by the National Gallery under the supervision of acclaimed veteran Canadian art curator Charlie Hill before he retired.


It was purchased just in time to be loaned for the exquisite 1920s Modernism in Montreal: The Beaver Hall Group exhibition, a landmark exhibition that opened later that year, first at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and then at the Hamilton art Gallery. It now hangs on view in the National Gallery’s permanent collection of Canadian art as an fine exemplar of the artist’s modern approach to portraiture.

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