Lo­cal news

Art­work buried in Thorn­hill backyard is do­nated to mu­seum by Kristina Virro

Richmond Hill Post - - Contents -

Ephry Merkur has been sur­rounded by art his en­tire life. His fa­ther was an art col­lec­tor, his mother was an artist, and din­ners with mem­bers of the Group of Seven were com­mon­place for him and his par­ents. But his par­ents’ home housed more than just mem­o­ries of some of Canada’s most iconic artists. Un­be­knownst to him, it also con­tained 10 orig­i­nal oil sketches by ac­claimed Canadian artist James Ed­ward Her­vey MacDon­ald.

Af­ter cre­at­ing the pieces early in his ca­reer, MacDon­ald and his son Thoreau buried them in the backyard of their Thorn­hill home, for safe­keep­ing, where they re­mained for more than 40 years.

Through a stroke of fate, Thoreau’s house even­tu­ally caught the eye of com­mer­cial high-rise de­vel­oper Max Merkur, in the ’ 70s. The topic of con­ver­sa­tion changed from real es­tate to art as the two dis­cussed the buried paint­ings, and Max de­cided to pur­chase them.

“The thing that Thoreau liked was that my dad didn’t re­sell any of the paint­ings; he just put them away. Thoreau wanted them pre­served,” said Max’s son Ephry, 72.

Af­ter his par­ents’ pass­ing, Ephry con­tacted art cu­ra­tor Janet McNaught of Arc­tic Ex­pe­ri­ence McNaught Gallery in Hamil­ton.

“They didn’t know the sig­nif­i­cance of them,” said McNaught. “I was very ex­cited when I saw them but also a bit ap­pre­hen­sive about what the right thing to do was.”

That right thing ended up be­ing a do­na­tion to the col­lec­tion of the Van­cou­ver Art Gallery.

“We are thrilled to have re­ceived th­ese ex­tra­or­di­nary paint­ings that are ac­com­pa­nied by such an in­cred­i­ble story,” said direc­tor Kath­leen S. Bar­tel.

For Ephry Merkur, it’s the re­la­tion­ship be­tween his par­ents and the artists that gives the col­lec­tion sen­ti­men­tal value.

“They just loved work­ing with th­ese peo­ple, and they were nice peo­ple. They were all hu­man be­ings — very, very won­der­ful hu­man be­ings,” he said. “I’m just so de­lighted that peo­ple can en­joy the great art.”

They just loved work­ing with th­ese peo­ple, and they were nice peo­ple.”

The set of sketches were buried for 40 years

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