Photo: Barbara Simpson, QMI Agency
Photo: Barbara Simpson, QMI Agency

JNAAG Receives Generous Donation for Permanent Collection and Acquisition Endowment 

The namesake of Lambton County has finally travelled to the shores of Lake Huron – in oil paint format. A portrait of John Lambton – the First Earl of Durham and high commissioner during the wake of rebellions in British North America during the 1830s – was donated to the Judith & Norman Alix Art Gallery Wednesday.

Avid art collectors Ron Van Horne and Scott Ferguson donated the 50-by-40-inch oil portrait after they picked it up at a Toronto art auction six months ago. “It was a great piece,” said Van Horne, who is also the county’s chief administrative officer. “We bid on it for over half of an hour, which is a great amount of time for a single piece.”

Lambton County council gave a standing ovation to the pair when the donation was presented to gallery curator Lisa Daniels in council chambers. In addition to the portrait, Van Horne and Ferguson have donated $10,000 to the gallery towards future art acquisition. “The value of this gift should not be underestimated,” county warden Bev MacDougall told the crowd gathered in council chambers Wednesday.

While Van Horne, who also owns the turkey platter once belonging to Lambton, wouldn’t disclose the value of the painting, he said he and Ferguson were likely bidding against museums for it. Renowned Scottish portrait painter Sir Francis Grant put his brush to canvas to capture Lambton in 1842. Grant was also responsible for painting Queen Victoria and other British aristocrats during his life time.

Lambton’s portrait came directly from England, Van Horne noted. A large Lambton family estate sale is believed to have happened around the 1960s and 1970s during the time of the family’s fall from grace. Around that time, the Sixth Earl of Durham – who renounced his title to serve in Parliament – was photographed smoking pot in bed with two prostitutes.

To this day, British tabloids continue to remain ripe with fodder of broken marriages and family infighting. But their forefather John Lambton – dubbed ‘Radical Jack’ for his reformist political views – was well-known for more noble reasons. While Lambton was reviled by French Canada for his policies surrounding assimilation, he was also revered for his push for responsible government in the British Commonwealth.

Daniels said the gallery is “thrilled” to receive the portrait. “This acquisition will go a long ways towards helping our community connect with its past,” she said in a later release.

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