The church where these Gerald Squires paintings hung has been sold. Now his works are up for auction too
Gerald Squires's The Last Supper is a take on the biblical telling of Jesus' final supper with his apostles before the Crucifixion, scene that has been painted by many notable artists — most famously, like Leonardo da Vinci.
But for Wayne Bartlett, Squires's version evokes more than feelings rooted in faith and worship.
When the auctioneer and owner of Bartlett Auction House in St. John's stands in front of the artwork, he sees a tribute to contemporary Newfoundland.
"This is our local version of it," said Bartlett. "It was never meant to be a religious artifact in Gerry's mind."
A series of artworks painted by the celebrated Newfoundland and Labrador artist is up for auction at Bartlett Auction House. The artworks, which include The Last Supper and Stations of the Cross, were originally created by Squires for the Mary Queen of the World Roman Catholic Church in Mount Pearl.
The church was one of many sold by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. John's as part of the archdiocese's attempts to raise money to compensate abuse victims of the former Mount Cashel Orphanage.
The pieces, which were painted by Squires in the 1980s, were not part of the church's original sale. The auction closes Tuesday evening.
"Ultimately what we're hoping is that they find a relevant home and a good home," said Bartlett.
Squires died in 2015 at 77 of cancer.
The Last Supper is a religious scene with a modern, St. John's twist; Bartlett says the painting is set in a fishing shed on the Southside Hills, which overlooks Signal Hill in St. John's.
When taking a closer look at the painting, says Bartlett, Newfoundlanders may also recognize some familiar faces.
All of the disciples in the painting were Squires's friends, said Bartlett, including book publisher Clyde Rose.
The Last Supper is almost lifelike, says Bartlett, as it's a four-panelled painting that's 5½-metres long and nearly two metres high.
"When you stand in front of it, it's like you're standing at the table," said Bartlett.
Stations of the Cross is also being auctioned off. The artwork is a series of 14 paintings that are being sold as a set.
The series takes you on a journey through Newfoundland, says Bartlett, as each painting depicts the island's landscapes of rocks, trees and overturned stumps.
Other paintings, such as Squires's The Crucifixion and Resurrection, are also up for sale. The 5½-metre-long piece, made up of three separate panels, is also set in Newfoundland.
"You get a feeling that it happened here," said Bartlett. "The death and rebirth happened here."
Bartlett says he received a contract to offer Squires's artwork in a public sale from the archdiocese through global consulting company Ernst & Young.
While it's difficult to assign value to any antique or piece of art, said Bartlett, he expects each piece to be worth anywhere from $50,000 to $80,000. He says he isn't sure where the money from the sales will go.
Bartlett said there's a limited number of people who have the capacity to hang such large pieces of art but there's very high interest in the artwork, and not just from within Newfoundland and Labrador; he says he's received calls from potential buyers in Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario.
He anticipates Squires's entire church collection will be sold, and is happy to be the one doing it.
"Personally, it's an honour to be given the opportunity," said Bartlett, who said he's been a "great fan" of Squires for many years. "So it's quite emotional."