Rare Group of Seven Sketches Buried in the Artist’s Backyard Will Undergo Authenticity Testing

J.E.H MacDonald, Sketch of Tangled Garden (1916).
Photo: Vancouver Art Gallery.

The Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI) and the McMichael Canadian Art Collection will work together on a collaborative research project to authenticate 10 works by J.E.H MacDonald, a founder of the Group of Seven, reports The Globe and Mail.

The donated sketches in question were gifted to the Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG) by the Merkur family of Toronto. Supposedly, the never-before-seen works were buried in the artist’s backyard for 40 years, unearthed by his son Thoreau MacDonald, and then sold to Toronto collector Max Merkur and kept in his family home. After Merkur and his wife passed away, their sons inherited the paintings. They were authenticated by Ian Thom, VAG’s senior curator, and then donated to the gallery (see Vancouver Art Gallery Will Exhibit Long-Buried JEH MacDonald Paintings).

Dennis Reid, former director of collections and research at the Art Gallery of Ontario also authenticated them. However, dealers and collectors have raised red flags about the works, and have called for CCI testing.

The CCI, part of the Department of Canadian Heritage, is an organization that provides expertise and scientific services to Canadian museums.

“The McMichael project will confirm that the materials used in these 10 sketches are consistent with the material used in other known works of J.E.H MacDonald,” Thom told the paper. He said the VAG was on board with the examination and have been since they have received the works.

While official testing will not be undertaken until next year, the Vancouver Art Gallery plans to move forward with their exhibition this fall that will include the oil sketches under consideration. (See Herzog & de Meuron Picked to Design New Vancouver Art Gallery Building).


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