Organizing a silent auction and wine tasting for the Manning Ulster Refugee Project, we discovered treasure tucked behind an old desk in the warden’s office at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene and solved a mystery.
For longer than anyone could remember, there had been a stack of framed art gathering dust in the office. No one knew who donated it many years ago, apparently for a sale or event that didn’t seem to have happened.
The background of committee member Alberta Nokes is in art history and when we pulled out the desk, she immediately saw that there were some exceptional things. First, a large, original stone lithograph, beautifully printed, an artist’s proof by Jack Nichols of an enigmatic dark angelic figure. According to Ms. Nokes, Nichols is among the most significant Canadian artists of the 20th century. He was an official war artist for Canada, a two time Guggenheim fellow and his lithos represented Canada in the 1958 Venice Biennale. Nichols’s work is unique in its emphasis on the human experience in war. The blackness of his medium and the haunting, timeless, atmospheric quality of works like “Dark Angel” grew out of his war experience.
We discovered that the Nichols and several other pieces including a 5 exquisitely framed hand-coloured etchings from the time of Jane Austen – 1805 to 1817, came from Budd Sugarman. Mr. Sugarman, for whom the park just to the east of the Rosedale Subway station is named was a civic activist and philanthropist who was instrumental preserving what was known as the village of Yorkville and creating the Village of Yorkville Park. He was an internationally known interior designer, operating “Hazelton House Prints”, an international company specializing in hand blocked printed fabric, from his shop on Hazelton Ave for more than 4 decades. There is a sculpted relief at the church dedicated in honour of Budd Sugarman and Gordon Johnson so he must have had a strong connection with the Church.
We think he’d be very pleased that the donation he made so long ago is helping now to re-settle refugees in Toronto. The Nichols has a value of $1,600, bidding starts at $160. The 19th century engravings are valued at $250 to $300 each and bidding sarts at 20.