Jeffrey Spalding, renowned artist and curator, dead at 67

Jeffrey Spalding, a prominent figure in the Canadian art world, has died. 

The renowned artist, curator, museum director and educator died after suffering a stroke Monday while travelling to Toronto from Fredericton, according to a statement from Galleries West magazine, where he was a consulting editor.

He was 67. 

Spalding served as chief curator of the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton from 2014 to 2017.

"He lived large and he lived completely and I'm glad that I knew him," Tom Smart, the CEO of the Beaverbrook who knew Spalding for about 20 years, told CBC News on Tuesday evening.

"My condolences go out to his family and his friends. He has left a large void in Canadian culture and I think we're all at this moment trying to just come to terms with that now that he's gone."

Spalding also served as director and CEO of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia from 2002 to 2007, among other art institutions such as the Glenbow Museum in Calgary, the University of Lethbridge and the Appleton Museum of Art in Florida.

"Jeffrey was instrumental in building the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia's dynamic collection," said spokesperson Colin Stinson in a statement Tuesday evening.

"His dedicated work at the Gallery, and across the country, has left a permanent mark on the artistes landscape of Canada. His kind hearted nature and passion for the visual arts will undoubtedly be missed by his colleagues across the country." 

A lifetime of accomplishments

Spalding also taught studio art, art history and museum studies at universities in Canada, the United States and Japan, according to the National Gallery of Canada.

According to Galleries West, he was recently appointed as art consultant for the Tao Hua Tan Cultural and Creative Company in China.

The magazine said in a release Spalding had recently been living in Canada to deal with personal matters and renew his visa to work in China.

Galleries West

Born in Scotland in 1951, Spalding immigrated to Canada as a child and became a Canadian citizen. He earned a fine arts degree from the University of Guelph in 1973 before obtaining his masters in art education at Ohio State University and a masters in fine art from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design by 1976.

He was appointed to the Order of Canada in 2007 for being a "dynamic and engaging champion of Canadian art and artists," states the governor-general's website. 

He was also awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012, and he served as president of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts from 2007 to 2010.

A talented artist

In the past two decades, Spalding became known for his work in curator and administrative positions, but Smart said it was his talent as an artist that struck him when they first met.

He recalled working at the Canadian embassy in Washington D.C. and coming across a "magnificent" painting of Niagara Falls.

"It was Jeffrey's and it was a whole other dimension of this man," he said. "I knew him as a curator and an art museum director, but he was an extraordinary painter."

His work can be found in many renowned art collections across the country and internationally, including the National Gallery of Canada.

Smart said the two worked together on several projects over the years, though their time at the Beaverbrook didn't overlap. But Spalding's legacy in the Fredericton gallery lives on.

"The collections are certainly deeper and much more diverse as a result of his tenure," Smart said. "He was able to acquire some fabulous works of art that really rounded out the collection and built on the gift the Beaverbrook set in place 60 years ago."

Spalding was also credited for expanding the collection at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.

"Under his direction, the Gallery acquired over 3,500 artworks, greatly expanding our contemporary Canadian art collection," Stinson said.

"Jeffery also contributed heavily to the Gallery's scholarly activities through the curation of six major exhibitions at the AGNS."