Old and Modern Master Drawings from Canada’s Most Important Private Collection

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) unveils 55 drawings spanning the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries from a Montreal private collection. As part of this exhibition, the MMFA is presenting some twenty other master drawings recently given to the Museum by the anonymous collector from artists including Delacroix, Greuze, Ingres and Romney.


Gustave Moreau (1826-1898), Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, 1882, watercolour over graphite, 42 x 28.4 cm. On loan from a private collection.

In this second exhibition of drawings from a Montreal private collection, the successor to the 2013 exhibition, we have expanded the parameters, including works spanning the sixteenth century in Italy to the twentieth century in France, as well as non-European art.

The purpose of this exhibition is to more fully suggest the breadth of taste and connoisseurship embodied in this great collection and the joy of collecting diverse objects that reflect the sensibilities of a single, discriminating collector. The remarkable group of featured artists includes Parmigianino, Giorgio Vasari, both Agostino and Annibale Carracci, Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione, Antoine Watteau, François Boucher, Théodore Géricault, Gustave Courbet, Jean-François Millet, Victor Hugo, Berthe Morisot, Camille Pissarro, Edgar Degas, Gustave Moreau, James McNeill Whistler, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Juan Gris, Amedeo Modigliani, and even Katsushika Hokusai.

The subjects range from studies for religious compositions to sensuous female nudes, from the Virgin to a ballerina, from male portraits to battling Japanese warriors. Also on display are a variety of landscapes, from a wintry sixteenth- century Northern European village scene to a lush tropical jungle in Venezuela, from the rocky coast of Guernsey to the fields of Normandy and an Impressionist vision of the countryside near Paris, and even the picturesque crossing of an arched bridge in nineteenth-century Japan. Still-life’s from the early period of Cubism also are presented, as is a black paper cut-out of an eagle by the renowned French author Victor Hugo.


Théodore Géricault (1791-1824), Study for The Raft of the Medusa: A Man Gesturing on a Barrel, Supported by Another Figure, 1819, pen and ink, gouache highlights on blue paper, 22.8 x 16.5 cm. On loan from a private collection.

Augmenting this group of nearly 40 works is a selection of about 20 other master drawings chosen among those already given to the Museum by this collector. These sheets of a broad array of subjects include master drawings by Palma il Giovane, il Guercino, Jacob Jordaens, Michel Corneille the Younger, Carlo Maratti, Jean-Baptiste Oudry, Charles-Nicolas Cochin, Sebastiano Ricci, François Boucher, Gabriel de Saint-Aubin, Jean-Baptiste Greuze, Anne-Louis Girodet, George Romney, Eugène Delacroix and Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres.

“With unfailing accuracy, this Montreal collector, a great friend of the Museum, sizes up the landscape or a character at a glance, distinguishes posture from posturing. He chisels out the contours of reality incisively but with imagination, lucidly but with a drollness, in a style all his own. … An art lover, he acquires, exhibits and offers his prints and drawings—charcoals and sanguines, washes and watercolours—from the Renaissance to today. The depth and scope of his collection of works on paper, one of the finest in the land,” says Nathalie Bondil, Director General and Chief Curator of the MMFA.

The collector has commented on the joy of collecting drawings, which he began acquiring in the 1990s: “I realized that to pursue this new passion, I would need to quickly educate myself. I immersed myself in the world of drawings. I studied the different artists, learning to differentiate between the important and less important artists. I returned to live-model drawing classes, an old hobby from my McGill University days, which helped sharpen my vision.

Throughout the years, I learned to look at works in my own particular way and the collection developed a certain feel. In the first years, my taste gravitated toward Italian sixteenth- and seventeenth-century artists. From strictly Italian sixteenth- and seventeenth-century works, my taste changed and broadened over the years to include Dutch and French sixteenth-, seventeenth- and eighteenth-century artists, with Italian works still being very present. In the last five years or so, I also took an interest in nineteenth-century and modern, twentieth-century works.”

“It is our joy to present to the public this selection of his collection and his benefactions. The purpose of this exhibition is to more fully suggest the breadth of taste and connoisseurship embodied in this great collection and the joy of collecting diverse objects that reflect the sensibilities of a single, discriminating collector,” added Hilliard T. Goldfarb, Senior Curator – Collections and Curator of Old Masters.

For ticket prices and exhibit hours: or 514-285-2000