Eugene Lamont: a true collector

By IAN GILLESPIE, THE LONDON FREE PRESS. Click here for article in lfp.  January 17, 2012 11:41pm

Gerald Fagan recalls the sight that greeted him the first time he visited the Wortley Rd. home of Eugene (Gene) Lamont.

“You just have to believe me when I say this, but every wall was filled with paintings,” recalls Fagan, who first met Lamont in the late 1970s. “And when I say filled, I mean each wall might have 20 paintings on it. And on the floors, the paintings were stacked in rows, end on end. That’s how many he had.”

A farm boy born in Tait’s Corner and schooled in Glencoe, southwest of London, Lamont served in the RCAF during the Second World War. After the war he established the Lamont and Perkins drugstore in Wortley Village that he operated for decades until converting it into an antique shop in the early 1980s. Before he died last year at age 95, Lamont amassed an incredible collection of paintings, most by London and area artists.

And more than 400 of those items — including a range of books, antiques and furniture – will be up for bid Sunday when part of Lamont’s estate is auctioned off by Gardner Galleries.

“You’ll never see another (collection) like it,” says Craig Snively, manager at Gardner Galleries. “It’s very much focused on the London and Ontario art community . . . There’s a whole range of local artists who will be attractive to the local community.”

Though a few of the pieces are expensive — particularly a watercolour by Western Canadian artist W.J. Phillips that organizers estimate may fetch between $9,000 and $14,000 — many are expected to sell in the $200 to $500 range.

“He really was a connoisseur of good art,” says Fagan, artistic director of the Gerald Fagan Singers and Fanshawe London Chorus. “But he wasn’t going to go out and buy a Group of Seven when he could buy 10 minor artists of the same period and enjoy them.”

Lamont’s collection includes a startling range of items, including a double-sided painting by Sir Frederick Banting; four works by Eva Bradshaw, described by Nancy Poole in her book The Art of London as “probably the first woman in London to attempt to support herself exclusively from her art;” and 10 pieces by Hortense Gordon, a Hamilton-based member of the influential Painters Eleven, Canada’s first English-speaking group of abstract artists.

Museum London executive director Brian Meehan says gallery officials will likely bid on a few pieces that fill gaps in the local collection.

“Some people collect (art) to fill their wall space, and other people collect because they can’t help it,” says Meehan. “And you really get the sense that Gene collected because he loved it. He was a true collector; he couldn’t help himself.”

Posted by Mary Simpson

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