Norman MacKenzie art first displayed in Regina 80 years ago

By Dale Johnson Posted: January 29, 2016 6:00 a.m.

Regina College was where the art collection of Regina lawyer Norman MacKenzie was first put on display.
Regina College was where the art collection of Regina lawyer Norman MacKenzie was first put on display. Photo: U of R Archives

A key foundation of Regina’s cultural life began 80 years ago this month at Regina College, now known as the College Avenue Campus.

In January 1936 the art collection of Norman MacKenzie was put on display for the first time.

The collection, estimated to be worth $100,000 at the time, created a big buzz in the city.

“Art lovers will be present in large numbers, it is expected, in consideration of the number of masterpieces contained in the collection, and in view of the widespread interest shown in the collection during Mr. MacKenzie’s lifetime,” the Leader-Post reported on January 16, 1936.

MacKenzie was a prominent Regina lawyer and a pioneer patron of the arts. He built up an impressive collection of paintings and drawings of the Italian Renaissance, antiquities of Asia and the Middle East, and works by artists of his day.

The Leader-Post reported on the opening event on January 30, 1936, saying: “Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci, Titian, Raphael, Tintoretto are but a few of the many mighty names on the catalogue of the exhibition of painting and drawings that opened at Regina College.”

The show opening was a big hit and attracted lots of news coverage.

“The 126 works of art making up the display arranged in the Tower room and Qu’Appelle hall form the Norman MacKenzie foundation....Exceedingly great interest was shown in the pictures by the large number of visitors present on the opening day. The rooms in which the pictures are hung are on the main floor of the college and are readily found,” the Leader-Post said.

MacKenzie also provided an endowment so that his works of art would be preserved and exhibited for the people of Saskatchewan. The Norman MacKenzie Art Gallery opened in 1953 as a university-run gallery at the College Avenue Campus.

In 1990, the Gallery became incorporated as a not-for-profit public art gallery. The MacKenzie Art Gallery, as it is known today, moved into its current home in the T.C. Douglas Building on Albert Street.

It’s now Saskatchewan's largest public art gallery, and serves approximately 70,000 visitors a year.

The University of Regina maintains close ties with the Gallery, demonstrating again the close linkages between the University of Regina and the wider community – going back to the roots 80 years ago this month when Norman MacKenzie’s art collection was put on display at the College Avenue Campus for the very first time.

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