Influential Sask. artist, John Nugent, dies at 93

Nicolle Nugent, his grandaughter-in-law, and the community programs educator at the Mackenzie Art Gallery, poses in CBC's galleria with one of John Nugent's sculptures. (Joana Draghici/CBC)

One of Saskatchewan's most influential sculptors, John Nugent, will be laid to rest on Friday.

Nugent died last Wednesday in Lumsden at the age of 93.

He was born in Montreal and served as a member of the RCMP and the Canadian Armed Forces in the 1940s.

Nugent studied visual arts at St. Thomas University and St. John's University in Minnesota and then moved to Lumsden, Sask. in 1948

Nicolle Nugent, is his grandaughter-in-law, and the community programs educator at the Mackenzie Art Gallery.

"For me, John Nugent personally brought the New York School to Lumsden, and the work that he did in the context of the contemporaries of the time, especially when he was at the university," she said.

She first met Nugent about 12 years ago and says it was a little tough to get him to talk.

"I think I had to prove myself to him. I wasn't there to discuss my own personal thoughts about art, I was really there to learn from him," she said.

She recalls many times sitting with coffee around the dining room table talking to Nugent, learning about Saskatchewan's art history.

"You can't read those things in a textbook, you can't hear about Clement Greenberg in the way that John would talk about him," she said. "I was very enamoured by these conversations because I had spent time reading about these people."

Working in bronze and steel from his Lumsden studio, Nugent's works often sparked controversy, but some art fans found that his sculptures epitomized form and beauty.

Criticism towards his work came in 1968 after his proposal for a commissioned Louis Riel monument in Regina was deemed too abstract by Premier Ross Thatcher. A second proposal by Nugent for a nude figure was also rejected until his added clothing to it.

The artist's sculpture and photographic works are part of many private and public collections, including at CBC Saskatchewan.

His works are displayed at the Banff Centre, the National Capital Commission in Ottawa, and the Grain Commission Building in Winnipeg, among other locations.

A funeral service will be held for him at the Lumsden Centennial Hall on Friday.