The Mendel Art Gallery was built in 1964 with assistance from Gallery’s chief benefactor, Fred Mendel (1888–1976). The Gallery’s inaugural exhibition, entitled The Mendel Family Collection, was comprised of the family’s collection of European and Canadian art.
The following year, in 1965, the Mendel family donated 13 Canadian paintings, most from the 1920s and 1930s.
This generous donation, which included works by Group of Seven members and contemporaries Lawren S. Harris, A.Y. Jackson, Arthur Lismer, Franz Johnston, J.E.H. MacDonald, and Emily Carr, as well as Jean-Paul Lemieux, David Milne, C. Krieghoff, George Csato, E.J. Hughes, and Ignac Konrad, formed the nucleus from which the Gallery’s permanent collection has grown.
Since that time, the Mendel Art Gallery has collected more than 5,700 works of art in different media, including paintings, sculpture, prints, and drawings of national importance. Canadian artists are the major focus of the collection, and Saskatchewan artists are gaining in prominence.
In 1979, the Gallery began to aggressively purchase work by contemporary Saskatchewan artists, including Ernest Lindner, Dorothy Knowles, William Perehudoff, Otto Rogers, Douglas Bentham, Wynona Mulcaster, Don Foulds, Rick Gorenko, David Thauberger, Jerry Didur, Joe Fafard, Vic Cicansky, Ann Harbuz, Dmytro Stryjek, David Alexander, Greg Hardy, Mina Forsyth, Tom O’Flanagan, Wendy Coad, Eli Bornstein, Reta Cowley, Alicia Popoff, Ann Newdigate Mills, and Kaija Harris.
Donors continue to play a significant role in building this important collection. Dr. and Mrs. C.G. Morrison donated nearly 100 works by Stanley Brunst (1894-1962). In 1981, more than 200 watercolours and photographs by Leslie G. Saunders were donated by his widow, Jessie Saunders.
These donations have been augmented by the acquisition—through purchases and donations—of work highlighting the early history of the Saskatoon art community, including works by Robert Hurley, Ernest Lindner, Bart Pragnell, Bodil Lindner, and Wynona Mulcaster.