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"BOG" 2003 Obituary


BOGUSKY 

BOGUSKY o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-07-19 published
He gave his city artistic merit
Windsor gallery's longtime director built a fine collection in his pursuit of 'communal pride'
By Bill GLADSTONE Special to The Globe and Mail Saturday, July 19, 2003 - Page F9
Canada's art world is lamenting the end of an era with the demise of Kenneth SALTMARCHE, founding director of the Art Gallery of Windsor, who died in Toronto on July 3 at the age of 82.
An accomplished artist, Mr. SALTMARCHE ultimately made his greatest mark as an arts administrator and is being remembered as one of the last of a dying generation of artists-turned-gallery directors who revitalized the art scene across the country.
Hired in 1946 to oversee operations of what was then the Willistead Art Gallery in Windsor, Ontario, he transformed the facility from a room on the second floor of the municipal library into a leading regional institution that possessed an astute collection of nearly 3,000 works by the time he retired in 1985.
"The gallery really had a very simple and rather primitive beginning, and he built it from absolute scratch, from zero," said Bill WITHROW, former longtime director of the Art Gallery of Ontario. "I was always impressed with that fact."
As a collector, Mr. SALTMARCHE is remembered for having "a good eye" and for acquiring many works by artists initially considered out of the mainstream, such as Harold Town and Prudence Heward. Over time his judgment was proved sound as a favoured artist's reputation would soar, along with the market value of his or her works.
He concentrated on attaining both historical and contemporary Canadian works, including numerous canvases of the Group of Seven, thus laying the foundation of the gallery's present collection of more than 5,000 pieces.
"He often collected against the current, which means you can make a dollar go a lot further," said David SILCOX, managing director of Sotheby's Canada. "He bought people when they weren't popular -- he was very intelligent that way."
Alf BOGUSKY, director of the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery, calls the collection Mr. SALTMARCHE assembled a "magnificent accomplishment" that reflects "the beautiful story of the development of Canadian painting, as represented by the earliest formal portraiture by British and French artists right through to the contemporary period of the Seventies."
Known for his energetic vision, Mr. SALTMARCHE had a knack for drumming up community involvement through innovative programs such as Art in the Park, now a long-established annual event in Windsor. Aided by his wife Judy, he made the gallery a vibrant centre of cultural life and charmed volunteers and patrons alike to new heights of involvement and philanthropy.
Aware of the advantages of being situated at Canada's southernmost border point, he cultivated friendly relations with the Detroit Institute of Arts, situated across the river and a few city blocks away, even sending over exhibitions of Canadian art. In the mid-1950s, he scored a major coup by persuading his U.S. counterparts that a key work languishing in their collection would have a much more appreciative home in Canada.
As a result, the Detroit Institute of Arts donated A Side Street Group of Seven stalwart Lawren Harris's celebrated 1919 painting of a snow-covered Toronto street -- to the Willistead gallery as a gift in commemoration of Windsor's 100th birthday. (Tom Thomson's 1914 painting Algonquin Park came into the gallery's possession in the same period.)
When nine previously unknown early 19th-century watercolours by early bureaucrat-painter George Heriot appeared on the market in 1967, Mr. SALTMARCHE was determined to acquire them despite their "distinctly Old Master price tag" exceeding $45,000. He quickly raised three-quarters of the sum from Windsor residents, then convinced the Canada Council into making an exceptional grant of $10,000 to complete the purchase.
Mr. SALTMARCHE saw collecting as "an art museum's primary function," and once wrote: "Communal pride -- whether civic or national in scale -- is engendered by the owning of works of art of outstanding value and is a completely natural reason for assembling a permanent collection."
He struggled with the library board for years to make the gallery an autonomous institution, and his eventual success was seen as a milestone by directors of other regional galleries. In the early 1970s, he moved the gallery into a historic renovated brewery building. It later ceded those premises to the province (for use as a casino) and moved into a prominent new downtown building in 2001.
Born September 29, 1920, in Cardiff, Wales, Kenneth Charles SALTMARCHE arrived in Windsor with his family at the age of four, and moved with them to the village of Vienna, south of London, Ontario, during the Depression. It was in Vienna's one-room schoolhouse that he encountered the travelling exhibition of Group of Seven reproductions that inspired him to dedicate his future to art. "He always told me that seeing that show was the pivotal point in his passion for art," said his son Noel.
A graduate of the Ontario College of Art, he began programming at the Willistead Art Gallery about 1946; he also began to write art and music criticism for the Windsor Daily Star and painting landscapes, still lifes and family portraits. In 1947, he married Judith DAVIES, and they had NoŽl and his twin brother David two years later. His family often joined him on painting expeditions around the world, some of which resulted in solo exhibitions of art.
He was a member of the Order of Canada and held an honorary law degree from the University of Windsor. As well, he was the founding president of the Ontario Association of Art Galleries and a founding member and past president of the Canadian Art Museum Directors Organization.
Soon after Judith died in 1992, he painted a series of watercolours "and that was the last work he did," NoŽl said. Afflicted with senile dementia, he spent his last years in several retirement homes and then a nursing home, Castleview Wychwood, in Toronto.
Predeceased by brothers Ronald and Leslie as well as his wife, Mr. SALTMARCHE leaves NoŽl and David, daughters-in-law Deb and Anita, and four grandchildren, all of Toronto.

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