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About the Historical European Art Collection

Rembrandt van Rijn, Portrait of a Man with Arms Akimbo, 1658, oil on canvas, 107.4 x 87.0 cm, Gift of Alfred and Isabel Bader, 2015 (58-008). Photo: Bernard Clark
Rembrandt van Rijn, Head of an Old Man with Curly Hair, 1659, oil on panel. Gift of Linda and Daniel Bader, 2019 (62-002).
Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn, Head of an Old Man in a Cap, around 1630, oil on panel. Gift of Alfred and Isabel Bader, 2003 (46-031)
Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn, Head of a Man in a Turban (Study for a Rabbi?), around 1661, oil on oak panel. Gift of Alfred and Isabel Bader, 2007 (50-001)

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Agnes holds a superb collection of the art of Europe with special strengths that reflect the initiative of Kingston’s citizens, the generosity of Queen’s University alumni, and the research of the university’s Art History scholars. The Bader Collection is comprised of over 200 paintings spanning the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, with a focus on Dutch and Flemish paintings of the Baroque era, including four paintings by Rembrandt, which together reflect this master’s sphere of artistic influence. Among the holdings are paintings by Rembrandt’s talented associate Jan Lievens, and major works by important pupils such as Govert Flinck, Willem Drost and Aert de Gelder. The quality of these works has brought international renown to the Agnes. Paintings by El Greco, Dosso Dossi, Luca Giordano, Georg Pencz and Sebastien Bourdon represent other European cultures at a similarly significant level. British art of the period is represented by portraits by Godfrey Kneller and Peter Lely, and a striking group of eight landscapes by Joseph Wright of Derby.

Thanks to purchases and a gift of over 60 works from Duke Roberto Ferretti, the gallery also holds important Italian drawings from the Renaissance and Mannerist periods highlighted by such famous names as Raphael, Parmigianino, and Guido Reni. These are joined by a handful of outstanding modern drawings by Gustav Klimt, Pablo Picasso, and the artists of the Barbizon School.

Representation of European developments and achievements are captured in prints, with many works of high quality from various cultures and periods, including Dutch landscapes of the 17th century, figural works by Rembrandt and his circle, and a large collection of French prints from the 17th to the 20th centuries.

Alfred Bader (1924-2018), Visionary Collector

Alfred Bader. Portrait provided by David Bader.
Alfred Bader. Portrait provided by David Bader.

The Bader Collection, the core of the historical European collection at the Agnes, is the product of the focused vision of Alfred Bader (BSc’45, BA’46, Msc’47, LLD’86), a self-described “chemist-collector,” a philanthropist and a devoted Queen’s University alumnus.

Born in 1924 in Vienna, Dr Bader fled his native city after the traumatic pogrom known as the Kristallnacht of November 1938. He was delivered to London through the Kindertransport program, which evacuated Jewish children from German-annexed lands, and he remained there for over a year. In 1940, at the age of sixteen, he was transferred to an internment camp for German-speaking refugees at Île-aux-Noix, near Montreal, where he was able to resume his studies informally. In the fall of the following year, he was released from the camp, eager to begin his university education. Through the assistance of a sponsor, Martin Wolff of Montreal, Dr Bader applied to Queen’s University and, on 15 November 1941, he arrived at the university. During his four and a half years at Queen’s, he earned bachelor’s degrees in engineering chemistry and history and a master’s in chemistry. He would go on to complete a PhD in chemistry at Harvard University in 1950, and to found the successful Aldrich Chemical Company in 1951. Though he would live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (USA), for the rest of his life, he remained grateful to Queen’s for providing him with a sound education at a crucial juncture in his life. Inspired by the impact that encounters with significant works of art could have upon students, Dr Bader sought to endow Queen’s with “the finest art museum of any university in Canada.”

Girolamo Galizzi (called Girolamo da Santacroce), Salvator Mundi, 1520s, oil on canvas. Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Alfred Bader, 1967 (10-011).
Girolamo Galizzi (called Girolamo da Santacroce), Salvator Mundi, 1520s, oil on canvas. Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Alfred Bader, 1967 (10-011).

Dr Bader began his collection of Old Master paintings in 1950, and made his first donation to Agnes Etherington Art Centre at Queen’s in 1967: Girolamo Galizzi’s early 16th-century painting Salvator Mundi. This donation initiated a collection of more than five hundred objects presented to the Agnes over the course of fifty years. These gifts—many made with his wife, Dr Isabel Bader (LLD’07)—include three of the six authenticated paintings by Rembrandt van Rijn in public Canadian collections, nine paintings by Rembrandt’s colleague and competitor Jan Lievensz., a superb early painting by the Spanish artist El Greco, an intimate nocturne by the German painter Adam Elsheimer and a powerful painting of Jacob’s dream by Luca Giordano. Additional gifts include a set of one hundred seventy-two works on paper illustrating the Temple of Jerusalem (known as the Bader Temple Collection) dating from the late fifteenth century through the early nineteenth centuries and a limestone sculpture of Saint Catherine from the late Gothic period. The most celebrated aspect of the collection, however, is the collection of Baroque paintings from across Europe.

The Bader Gallery
The Bader Gallery

The Bader Collection elevates the historical European collection at the Agnes to international stature, bringing audiences from around the world to delight in the knowledge and inspiration found in these beautiful works of art. For Alfred Bader, there could be no greater gift than to share the rewards of the success begun at Queen’s with future generations of students.

Students have the opportunity to get up close to artworks from The Bader Collection in the David McTavish Art Study Room. Photo: Tim Forbes
Students have the opportunity to get up close to artworks from The Bader Collection in the David McTavish Art Study Room. Photo: Tim Forbes

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Read a profile of Dr Bader as an art collector:
Alfred Bader Collects: Celebrating Fifty Years of The Bader Collection

Watch a short video about The Bader Collection.

Read Alfred Bader: Celebration of an extraordinary life from Queen’s University Alumni Review.

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A Third Rembrandt for Queen’s

In November 2015, the Agnes received a spectacular gift of art from Drs Alfred and Isabel Bader: Rembrandt van Rijn’s Portrait of a Man with Arms Akimbo. This captivating portrait, signed and dated 1658, joined two Rembrandt tronies, or character studies, already in The Bader Collection. The Head of an Old Man in a Cap of 1630 displays the sensitive exploration of the topography of an aged face in the artist’s refined early style. The Head of a Man in a Turban (Study for a Rabbi?) of around 1661, in contrast, demonstrates Rembrandt’s superb treatment of a man’s head subtly illuminated by two light sources. The Portrait of a Man with Arms Akimbo offers a compelling foil to these two works. In the well-illuminated visage and assertive stance, the subject embodies a bold psychological presence, attesting to Rembrandt’s mastery of conveying human character. This major gift secured Queen’s as a major centre for the study and appreciation of Rembrandt among North American universities.

Download the Rembrandt van Rijn’s Portrait of a Man with Arms Akimbo  brochure or pick up a copy at the Agnes.

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