Franz Johnston, Aftermath (detail), 1930. Gouache on paperboard. Collection of the Mendel Art Gallery. Gift of the Mendel family 1965.

The Mendel Gift

June 24 – September 11, 2011

Saskatoon would lack much of its verve without the contributions of one of its citizens: Frederick Salomon Mendel. In 1940, he came to this city with his wife, Clare, and their two daughters, Johanna and Eva. He was a prosperous, 52-year-old businessman fleeing from Nazi Germany, and within months of his arrival, he opened the enterprise that would become Intercontinental Packers Limited. Twenty years later, while managing the fourth largest meat processing plant in Canada and Saskatoon’s biggest industry, Fred Mendel approached Mayor Sidney Buckwold, to initiate the creation of a public art gallery. With Mr. Mendel’s philanthropy and funding from the province and city, the Mendel Art Gallery and Civic Conservatory opened to an enthusiastic public on October 16, 1964.

Along with his tremendous business skills, visionary ambitions and philanthropic endeavours, Fred Mendel brought with him the experience of a rich cultural life in Europe and a love of art, which he continued to pursue in Saskatoon. His daughters shared his interests and actively pursued theatre, painting and poetry. Mendel’s passion for collecting art was nurtured, in particular, by his younger daughter, Eva. A gallery was set up on the second floor at Intercontinental Packers and filled with artworks, which Fred Mendel made available to employees, visitors and artists. In addition, his collection was exhibited locally and abroad to much acclaim and admiration. One of the most significant art collectors in Canada, Mendel enthusiastically collected and supported artists in Saskatchewan, and displayed their works alongside those of established European and Canadian artists.

Fred Mendel made a significant donation to the Gallery a year after it opened: 13 paintings from his extensive private collection, including paintings by Group of Seven members Arthur Lismer, A. Y. Jackson, J. E. H. MacDonald, Franz Johnston and Lawren Harris, and their contemporaries, Emily Carr and David Milne. The gift also included works by Jean Paul Lemieux, E. J. Hughes, and Cornelius Krieghoff. Paintings by George Csató and Ignac Konrad point to Mendel’s European roots, and to the breadth of his collecting activities. These 13 paintings hung for many years in the gallery space called the Mendel Salon. This exhibition marks an important moment in the history of the Gallery, as it transitions toward the Art Gallery of Saskatchewan. When the AGS opens, the Mendel Gift will again be prominently displayed.

The Mendel Gift is curated by Sandra Fraser, Associate Curator.