Iconic painting returned to Charlottetown in fine trim

Jim Day
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Kevin Rice, director of the Confederation Centre Art Gallery, says it was great to share this masterpiece from the gallery's collection with Rideau Hall in Ottawa. A loan of the Jean-Paul Lemieux painting Charlottetown Revisited, 1964, was requested by Michaelle Jean during her first official visit to Charlottetown as governor general in November 2005 and only returned here in late June.

Charlottetown Revisited, 1964, one of the Confederation Centre Art Gallery’s most significant and iconic paintings, has weathered a lengthy, high-profile loan to Rideau Hall in Ottawa.

Art gallery director Kevin Rice says the well-known work of the late Montreal-based artist Jean-Paul Lemieux is in fine trim, hanging prominently above the stairwell entrance to the main gallery.

The painting, commissioned in 1964 by the Confederation Centre of the Arts for its inauguration, received quite an extensive touch-up after being shipped to Ottawa in a special crate and put up on the wall in Rideau Hall for a couple years for many to see.

After it came off the wall at the governor general’s official residence, it was placed in storage for nearly two years at the Canadian Conservation Institute in Ottawa awaiting the attention of a skilled conservator.

So much professional care and attention was then given to the painting that a report numbering 30 pages details all the work done on the valuable work that includes cleaning, consolidation of flaking and the addition of a more rigid backing.

“I think it looks awesome,’’ said Rice.

“I think they did just an amazing job.’’

When the piece caught the eye of Michaelle Jean during her first official visit as governor general to Charlottetown in November 2005, she asked if she could borrow it. A special crate was built and the painting was transported to Rideau Hall early the following year.

The painting, which captures Lemieux’s signature style combining abstract shapes for figurative use with mysterious figures and bleak horizons, loomed prominently in news photos and television coverage of the swearing-in-ceremony of Stephen Harper as the country’s 22nd prime minister on Feb. 8, 2006.

The painting was also a captivating backdrop for subsequent ceremonies where the country’s highest honours, such as the Order of Canada, are handed out at the official residence of the governor general.

Rice says the Confederation Centre Art Gallery certainly welcomed all the exposure the painting received hanging in such a prominent venue.

“We were very pleased to lend it to Rideau Hall,’’ he said.

“It’s really great to share a masterpiece in our collection.’’

The painting has once again been hanging on the wall in the Confederation Centre Art Gallery since late June, just two days after its return to the Centre.

The massive 201-centimetre tall by 384-centimetre wide moody depiction of the Fathers of Confederation with three silhouettes in top hats towering against a blood-orange sky has been a familiar site during Rice’s many years at the gallery.

He says several board members had started voicing their interest in seeing the painting returned here after Charlottetown Revisited, 1964, was loaned out of the Confederation Centre Art Gallery for the first time ever more than six years ago.

The gallery, in fact, just recently turned down a request for the painting to hang in an exhibition in the Winnipeg Art Gallery.

“We just got it back,’’ noted Rice.

Organizations: Confederation Centre Art Gallery, Canadian Conservation Institute, Winnipeg Art Gallery

Geographic location: Charlottetown, Ottawa.Art, Ottawa Canada

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