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Montreal Museum of Fine Arts – then and Now Montreal


Montreal Museum of Fine Arts – The Art Association of Montreal was created in 1860 by Most Reverend Francis Fulford, Lord Bishop of Montreal, to encourage the appreciation of fine arts among the citizens of Montreal. On 26 May 1879, the Governor General of Canada, Sir John Douglas Sutherland Campbell, inaugurated the Art Gallery of the Art Association of Montreal, the first building in Canada constructed specifically to house an art collection. The building (now demolished), located at Phillips Square, had an exhibition room, a small room reserved for graphic works as well as a lecture hall and an art school. The Art Association held an annual show of works created by its members as well as a Spring Exhibition of contemporary Canadian art.


The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts – 1936

Needing more space, the Art Association considered moving from Phillips Square to the Golden Square Mile, where the most of the city’s financial elite lived at the time. They settled on a site on Sherbrooke Street, owned by Senator Robert Mackay. A committee responsible for the construction of a new museum was formed consisting of James Ross, Richard B. Angus, Vincent Meredith, Louis-Joseph Forget and David Morrice. Most of these members offered a considerable amount of their own money for the construction of the museum. The contract to build was awarded to Montreal architects Edward and

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts – 2016

William Sutherland Maxwell, who proposed a building that catered to French taste of the time: sober and majestic. Construction started in the summer of 1910 and finished in the fall of 1912. The frieze on the exterior of the building is the work of Leopold Weisz, who drowned in the 1912 Titanic disaster. The Hungarian-born Jewish stone carver got the job carving the frieze in 1911.

On December 9, 1912, the Governor General of Canada, Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, inaugurated the new art museum in front of 3000 people present for the occasion. The Art Gallery comprised exhibition galleries, a lecture hall, an art library – the oldest in the country – and art studios.

In 1949, the Art Association of Montreal was renamed as the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Over the years, the museum has assembled one of North America’s finest collections, totaling over 42,000 objects, from antiquity till today, many of them donations from the great families of Montréal. The collection includes Decorative Arts, Canadian, Inuit, and International Art, Prints and Drawings, Old Master Paintings, and Modern and Contemporary Art, as well as important collections of ancient textiles and English porcelain, and the world’s largest collection of Japanese incense boxes.

Today, the museum attracts on average over 600,000 visitors a year.

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is located at 1379 Sherbrooke Street W.

Source: The Canadian Encyclopedia / Encyclopedia Titanica / Vehiculepress / MMFA

By: Dick Nieuwendyk – mtltimes.ca 

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