An art col­lec­tor shares his se­crets

John Hansler kept buy­ing art un­til he even­tu­ally ran out of space

The Hamilton Spectator - - GO - REGINA HAGGO dhaggo@thes­pec.com

JOHN HANSLER re­mem­bers how it all be­gan.

It was Novem­ber 1957. He was about to buy his first paint­ing.

“I was teach­ing in Sault Ste. Marie and be­longed to a lo­cal art club,” he tells me. “I think I was the only male mem­ber amidst wealthy ma­ture ladies. Carl Scha­ef­fer was in­vited to come and give a lec­ture on art. He brought a large col­lec­tion of his re­cent wa­ter­colours.

“I chose ‘Plain and Wood­lot’ and asked him to frame it. Cost $85. I en­joyed hav­ing that pic­ture very much and de­cided to buy a few more for other spa­ces where I lived.”

A few more be­came many more. Hansler says he bought from artists in their stu­dios, from pri­vate gal­leries and at auc­tion. His col­lec­tion grew to 120 pieces

Last year, Hansler do­nated more than 90 of them to the McMaster Mu­seum of Art. John Hansler: A Life Col­lect­ing, an ex­hi­bi­tion at the mu­seum, show­cases a se­lec­tion.

A col­lec­tion re­flects the likes and tastes of the col­lec­tor. Hansler, who grad­u­ated from McMaster in 1956 with an Hon­ours BA, taught his­tory for many years at Mid­land Sec­ondary School.

He bought paint­ings and prints made in the sec­ond half of the 20th cen­tury, a time when many Cana­dian artists em­braced ab­strac­tion.

Paul Fournier (born 1939), who of­ten ex­hib­ited in Hamil­ton, is both dra­matic and min­i­mal­ist in “Sawu.”

A big, im­pul­sive splash of white dom­i­nates the com­po­si­tion. The marks and move­ments of the brush are ob­vi­ous. Small dabs of red, blue, green and yel­low, hud­dle on the sides.

Harold Klun­der (born 1943) opts for a more in­tri­cate com­po­si­tion in “Land­scape/Self Por­trait IV”. A dy­namic tan­gle of faces, parts of faces and am­bigu­ous shapes crowd one an­other. Klun­der cre­ates a highly tex­tured sur­face by lay­er­ing, scrap­ing and goug­ing.

Hansler got to know his artists. He met Klun­der, for in­stance, at a pri­vate gallery in Toronto’s Yorkville.

“I met him at Sable Castelli Gallery once or twice. He usu­ally showed huge can­vases. I was in the mar­ket for his smaller works, which Jared Sable de­scribed with a chuckle as Klun­der’s Blun­ders.”

Hansler vis­ited Kazuo Naka­mura in his stu­dio. Naka­mura (1926-2002), an­other big name in Hansler’s col­lec­tion, was a mem­ber of Pain­ters Eleven, an avant-garde group of ab­strac­tion­ists work­ing in Toronto in the 1950s.

In “Cen­tral Seven,” Naka­mura cre­ates a care­fully con­trolled geo­met­ric com­po­si­tion that in­cludes a cen­tral struc­ture com­pris­ing hor­i­zon­tal lines framed by thin ver­ti­cal lines.

Hansler says his pur­chases were both planned and spon­ta­neous.

“Plan­ning con­sisted of want­ing to add more of an artist’s work that I liked. The ex­e­cu­tion was more spon­ta­neous, de­pend­ing when they be­came avail­able and if I could af­ford to buy more at a given time.”

“Deal­ers let me take them home and I would come back sev­eral times mak­ing large and small pay­ments till they were paid for. Credit cards did not en­ter into it — cheques or bank money or­ders.”

He made friends with some deal­ers. “Other deal­ers only wanted to get to know big spenders.”

But even­tu­ally Hansler stopped col­lect­ing. “I ran out of space,” he says.

And what hap­pened to the first pur­chase, the Scha­ef­fer wa­ter­colour?

“I still have it and it hangs above my dresser in my bed­room.”

Regina Haggo, art his­to­rian, pub­lic speaker, cu­ra­tor and for­mer pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Can­ter­bury in New Zealand, teaches at the Dun­das Val­ley School of Art.

Deal­ers let me take them home and I would come back sev­eral times mak­ing large and small pay­ments till they were paid for.

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF MCMASTER MU­SEUM OF ART

Harold Klun­der, Land­scape/Self Por­trait IV, 1982-1985. Part of John Hansler: A Life Col­lect­ing, an ex­hi­bi­tion at McMaster Mu­seum of Art.

DOU­GLAS HAGGO PHOTO

Paul Fournier, Sawu, 1979, acrylic on can­vas. Part of John Hansler: A Life Col­lect­ing, an ex­hi­bi­tion at McMaster Mu­seum of Art.

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF MCMASTER MU­SEUM OF ART

Kazuo Naka­mura. Cen­tral Seven, 1961, oil on can­vas. Part of John Hansler: A Life Col­lect­ing, an ex­hi­bi­tion at McMaster Mu­seum of Art.

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