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BriefsReportTable of ContentReport IndexRoyal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and SciencesRoyal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and SciencesRoyal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences

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IN the brief presented to us by the National Gallery it is stated that an important function of this institution is "the promotion of the interests generally of art in Canada", and further that "a gallery which limits itself to acquisition or exhibition is comparatively ineffective; . . . to such a policy must be linked one of active education and demonstration".1

2. We are in complete agreement with these views. We have reported in Part I much that we have learned of the work of the Gallery in sending exhibitions of Canadian paintings abroad, in bringing exhibitions from other countries to Canada, and in sending exhibitions from its own collections to other Canadian galleries. We have also mentioned other educational services of the Gallery such as radio talks, films, reproductions and publications.

3. Appreciation of the efforts of the National Gallery, as we have already mentioned, has been offered directly, with warm praise, and indirectly, through requests for more extensive and varied services: exhibitions, lectures and radio talks, films and film strips, reproductions and publications, and an information centre and lending service.

4. We fully appreciate the need for new and extended services from the Gallery. We also sympathize with those who may have suffered inconvenience and disappointment if exhibitions and other services failed to meet their expectations. We have discussed these matters in some detail in Part I, and need only refer to difficulties which must arise when people who do not know one another are trying to co-operate from great distances on a complicated task.

5. The National Gallery has, in fact, been carrying on a great and necessary work for which it has not had the staff, the funds or the facilities. We think that officials of the Gallery and the representatives


of art associations throughout the country are to be highly commended for what they have done, hampered as they have been by serious difficulties and by petty annoyances. We are convinced that means should be provided for the extension and improvement of the Gallery's exhibition and education services. We are also impressed by the need for training those concerned with the care and display of pictures in our smaller centres. We avoid the phrase "trained curators" which implies an instruction not necessarily suitable to the needs of small galleries operating with part-time or voluntary help. At the present time what is needed is some flexible scheme adapted to the various needs of Canadian galleries.

We therefore recommend:
a.That the present services of travelling exhibitions organized or sent out by the National Gallery be developed and extended as far as is consistent with the safety of the collections.
b.That the National Gallery increase its publications and reproductions in order to meet more fully the various needs of the public.
c.That the National Gallery take into consideration the requests for such educational services as lectures, radio talks, films and film strips, with a view to meeting the public need either through its own staff or in co-operation with other departments and agencies of the Government.
d.That the National Gallery continue its present scheme of informal instruction in the care and display of pictures; and that it confer with other Canadian galleries on means by which this scheme may be developed and extended.
e.That for all these important services the necessary increases in funds, staff and facilities be made.

6. We have dealt first with the extension services of the National Gallery because we found that through them chiefly the Gallery has become known to the people of Canada. Extension services, however, are dependent on an adequate and properly maintained collection of paintings. To maintain and to add to such a collection is the pride of all civilized countries. The acquisition policy of the Gallery is based on two principles: to maintain the collection of Canadian paintings as the largest and most representative in the world; to enrich, when possible, the existing collections of old masters. We have mentioned in Part I the inadequacy of the funds provided for purchases, and we are glad to learn that the appropriation has this year been substantially increased.

7. The Gallery has the responsibility of preserving and restoring its own pictures. For this purpose it maintains a laboratory which also


serves all public galleries in Canada. It is important in the public interest that this service be extended to important paintings in private hands. At present, staff and facilities are so restricted as to make such a service impossible.

We therefore recommend:
f.That the present appropriation for acquisitions by the National Gallery be maintained and increased when possible.
g.That as soon as staff and facilities can be provided, the service for the repair and restoration of pictures be made more widely available.

8. It is impossible to consider the questions either of extension services or of the maintenance of the National Gallery collections apart from the problem of a Gallery building. At present, barely a third of the Gallery collections can be hung at one time and the rest are kept in storage. The entire collection of Canadian paintings of the two World Wars is stored. We have made elsewhere a recommendation for the ultimate disposition of this collection, but since this recommendation may not go into effect for some time, the Gallery will remain responsible for its safekeeping, and, as far as possible, for its display. Quarters for the staff are inadequate even for the present Gallery services; it is difficult to contemplate the whole of the generous extension of services which we should like to see, except in premises providing greater space and offering more facilities. We understand that a new building is in contemplation and that funds have beeen [sic] made available for preliminary architectural studies. We consider it most important that an adequate building be constructed as soon as possible.

We therefore recommend:
h.That as soon as possible the National Gallery be housed in a new building containing adequate facilities for display, storage, circulation of exhibitions, repair and restoration of paintings, and, in addition, for greatly increased extension and education services.

9. In 1907 the Government appointed an Advisory Arts Council to advise and assist the Minister of Public Works, when requested to do so, in all purchases for the Gallery, and also in other government expenditure for works of art in Ottawa and elsewhere. For about twenty years this Council, which was also responsible for the administration of the Gallery, was occasionally asked for advice on works of art to be commissioned by the Government. This practice has now lapsed. We think it desirable that the Government should request advice from properly qualified persons on such important matters as the public monuments or statues


which may be erected throughout the country, and on works of art such as sculptures and mural paintings which may or ought to be commissioned for government buildings. We understand that since the Act of Parliament which incorporated the National Gallery in 1913 the Advisory Arts Council has had no legal existence, and that its functions (although apparently carried on by the Board of Trustees of the Gallery for a number of years) no longer have any formal authorization.

We therefore recommend:
i.That an Order in Council be issued reviving the general advisory functions of the former Advisory Arts Council and vesting them in the Board of Trustees of the National Gallery.

10. The Act of Parliament incorporating the National Gallery in 1913 created it as an independent institution, reporting to the Crown through the Minister of Public Works but with the right to appoint its own staff and to fix their salaries. For various reasons, notably in order to secure for the employees of the Gallery the status and the superannuation benefits of civil servants, the Gallery has been brought increasingly under the administrative control of the Department of Public Works. As a result, the recommendations of the Board must now be sent to the Minister through the Deputy Minister who receives his appointment for purposes not related to those of an art gallery. Moreover, under the present system, the officials of the Gallery have no direct access to the Treasury Board, and no official of the Gallery may be present when Gallery estimates are considered by the Treasury Board or discussed in Parliament. We think that the present arrangement, which has come about partly through administrative changes subsequent to the incorporation of the Gallery in 1913, is not conducive to the most effective operation of the National Gallery.

We therefore recommend:
j.That in future the National Gallery have a status similar to that now accorded to the Public Archives, and that the Director of the Gallery, like the Dominion Archivist, have direct access to the Minister of the department through which the Gallery reports to Parliament.

11. In view of the close relations which the Gallery must maintain with Canadian artists and with the many organized groups interested in painting, we think it important that the Gallery be fully representative of different parts of the country. For this purpose the present Board of five is clearly inadequate in number.


We therefore recommend:
k.That the Board of Trustees of the National Gallery be increased to nine members.

* From: Canada. Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters, and Sciences. Report. Ottawa : King's Printer, 1951. By permission of the Privy Council Office.

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