I was traveling in the Maritimes a few weeks ago and was told that the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton had a huge Salvador Dali – Santiago el Grande. We were early for our next appointment and had 30 minutes to spare so we jumped in to look around. It is spectacular, consuming the entry wall (perspective on size in the below photo), magnificent in scope and of course – rife with religious symbols and figures that makes you wonder what he was thinking …. breathtaking.
A quick tour around the museum led to a host of art treasures dating back hundreds of years and of course got me wondering as to how this all came about, which is quite a story starting with Lord Beaverbrook – Max Aitken. Small town Canadian (Maple, Ontario, Canada), who came under the mentorship of a wealthy east coast family, moving into banking, then the monopolization of cement (as per Wikipedia), then off to England where he became a member of parliament, made a fortune on Rolls Royce, built a newspaper empire, was Knighted, became a Baron, played a key roll in World War I, grew even wealthier, worked with his friend Winston Churchill during World War II:
During the Second World War, his friend Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister, appointed Beaverbrook as Minister of Aircraft Production and later Minister of Supply. Under Beaverbrook, fighter and bomber production increased so much so that Churchill declared: "His personal force and genius made this Aitken’s finest hour".
After the war he went on to become a huge benefactor of New Brunswick and the UK, was loved and despised in England (“David Low quotes H.G. Wells as saying of Beaverbrook: "If ever Max ever gets to Heaven, he won’t last long. He will be chucked out for trying to pull off a merger between Heaven and Hell after having secured a controlling interest in key subsidiary companies in both places, of course”), mentioned in a song by the Kinks (The Kinks recorded "Mr. Churchill Says" for their 1969 album Arthur, which contains the lines: "Mr. Beaverbrook says: ‘We’ve gotta save our tin/And all the garden gates and empty cans are gonna make us win…’.") and of course, started this gallery.
A life well lived. The gallery also has a very interesting history on it’s own, specifically where the UK based Beaverbrook family heirs tried to take back a wide range of the art. You can read the account here and judge the motives on your own, but with 2 of the paintings being worth $25M, it makes for interesting reading,
You never know what you will happen upon when traveling if you keep your eyes open.