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The Michael C. Williams Legacy Online President's WelcomeAbout ExhibitArtistsWorksThe CollectionAbout WilliamsSee the ExhibitsFran Willis GalleryMaltwood Art Museum and GallerySwans Pub
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Beyond this large scale, dynamic sculpture, there are many other signature works by the artists represented in the Williams collection. “Workmen,” for example, is a classic in Maxwell Bates oeuvre. Bates (1906-1980) was a dynamic influence in the BC arts scene and a founding member of the Limners Group. His work may be described as expressionist and his best paintings are insightful statements about people and the human condition. This painting, along with many others by Bates, was purchased at the estate auction of the artist’s widow.

Williams had a great admiration for the work of Jack Shadbolt (1909 – 1999). Indeed, as a member of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria’s Acquisition Committee, Williams exhorted his colleagues to seek out as many Shadbolt works for the permanent collection as possible. With a collector’s foresight and businessman’s acumen, Williams understood that the works by this brilliant artist would appreciate considerably in time. “Hockey Owl” is a stunning accomplishment by the artist and one that demonstrates his ability to work and rework a piece that he started in 1972 and completed in 1984.

One of the more interesting paintings in the Williams collection must be the portrait of Pierre Elliot Trudeau by Myfanwy Pavelic (b. 1916). Pavelic is regarded as Canada’s most important portrait artist of the 20th century and she is the only Canadian artist to have her work hanging in England’s National Portrait Gallery. Pavelic was selected to paint the Prime Minister’s official portrait and this painting, entitled “Blue Sky,” was Trudeau’s favourite of the finished canvasses which Pavelic submitted for consideration. The official selection committee chose another, and it now hangs in the Houses of Parliament.

There are numerous outstanding works in the Williams collection by the best of today’s First Nations artists. Of great interest are the pieces by Coast Salish artist Susan Point (b. 1952). She is acclaimed as one of the most innovative artists of our time, adapting traditional art forms of her Nation to modern designs and materials such as glass, bronze, wood, concrete, polymer, stainless steel, and cast iron. One of the forms that intrigues her most is the spindle whorl, a wooden disk, elaborately carved, which was used historically in the spinning of wool. In “Salmon” the spindle whorl is brilliantly conceived and executed in a variety of media at a breathtaking size and scale.

Another of the most critically acclaimed and internationally famous First Nations artists of the day found in the Williams collection is Robert Davidson (b. 1946). Davidson is a descendant of Charles Edenshaw, one of the greatest Haida artists ever and he apprenticed with Bill Reid, arguably the most important Haida artist of the 20th century. Davidson is noted for his carving, jewelry design, serigraphy, and argillite and metal sculpture. “Shark” demonstrates Davidson’s outstanding abilities as a master carver.

Analysis of the Williams collection reveals that there are a few artists whose works he collected in some depth. A number of these are important artists in Victoria such as Glen Howarth, James Lindsay and Brad Pasutti. Each of these artists is represented numerous times and we know that Williams both enjoyed the work of these individuals and was also committed to supporting them through purchases.

The works of Charles Malinsky and Stephanie Frostad are also seen in depth in this collection and they stand out because both artists are from outside BC. Malinsky is from Calgary and Frostad is from Seattle. With regard to the former, Williams was quick on the local scene to see the potential of the large, psychologically compelling works after discussions with the owner of the noted Fran Willis Gallery. Williams was known to “preview” the installations at Willis’ gallery prior to the opening night sale. On occasion, he even had one of his employees hold first spot in the lineup. This gave him a few steps on the other patrons in buying those paintings he had previously earmarked as the best. Williams noted with satisfaction that the market value of Malinsky paintings continued to appreciate as the years went by. He also derived satisfaction if patrons of Swans Pub, where many of the works were hung, complained about the disturbing art.

More than a million dollars worth of the collection was officially designated as a national cultural property through the University’s application to the Canadian Cultural Property Export and Review Board. In the application, arguments are made as to the outstanding significance and national importance of the works themselves and the added consequence they gain in the context of the University’s existing collections. This had long been an intention of Williams, as mentioned, and he fully understood the appropriateness of this endeavour.

Since its inception in 1953, under the tenure of Dr. W.H. Hickman, Principal of Victoria College (1953-1963), the University of Victoria’s art collection has grown to over 15,000 items representing the work of contemporary Western Canadian artists, particularly those of British Columbia. The University also owns a collection of fine, decorative and applied arts through the bequest of English sculptor and antiquarian, Katharine Emma Maltwood, F.R.S.A. (1878-1961).

All of the University collections boast a number of focal points. These include Western Canadian contemporary fine arts including works by Emily Carr, Pat Martin Bates, Myfanwy Pavelic, Herbert Siebner, Elza Mayhew, Katharine Maltwood, Bob deCastro, and other major artists from this region and beyond. A second major focus is Northwest Coast First Nations art, both historical and contemporary with artists such as Art Thompson, Mungo Martin, Roy Henry Vickers, and the Hunt family represented. As well, the University owns the Rickard Collection, which is one of the largest public collections of Northwest Coast prints. The Michael Collard Williams contemporary art collection now enhances the depth and strength of the University collections that reflect the significance of the past and present visual arts activity in the Pacific Northwest.

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