The Pauly Friedman Art Gallery at Misericordia University will host the exhibit, "Canadian Masters of the Carmen and Sarah Latona Collection," from Feb. 3 through March 31. The collection features water colors and oil paintings by some of the most important Canadian artists of the last 50 years. The opening reception is Saturday, Feb. 3, from 5-7 p.m.
For just over a decade, fine art collectors Carmen and Sarah Latona of Dallas have built a distinguished fine art collection of Canadian masters art, inspired by their deep admiration for the French-Canadian culture. Among the artists on display in the exhibit are Marc-Aurele de Foy Suzor-Cote (1869-1937), one of Canada's most noted and revered painters, and John Little (b. 1928), one of Quebec's foremost cityscape painters, who has painted Quebec cities for six decades. In addition, works of Canadian masters Claude Le Sauteur (1926-2007) and Stanley Cosgrove (1911-2002) will be featured, as well as Rene Richard (1895-1982), who has a museum dedicated to him in Charlevoix.
The Latona's interest in Canadian art was born during a visit to Quebec City nearly 20 years ago. "This collection of Canadian masters has grown out of our love for the French-Canadian culture – people, language, landscape and art," said Carmen Latona. "We found that Quebec City was more beautiful than most small European cities and getting there wasn't nearly as stressful. Since then, my wife, Sarah, and I have visited Quebec City, Montreal, and Charlevoix, and the mountainous region where the Saint Lawrence River begins to meet the ocean, as often as possible."
The couple purchased their first French-Canadian painting in 2004 on l'Ile d'Orleans, an island known for its artists, historic villages and cafes. That same summer, they began a friendship with a collector/dealer in Quebec City whose collection and knowledge of art and the market continues to awe and inspire them to this day. He currently co-owns one of Montreal's premier auction houses. Through their friendship, the Latona's were introduced to Canadian art history as well as the science of how to price and buy art, and how auction houses work in Quebec.
Subsequent visits to see their friend in Quebec City provided them the opportunity to catalogue art, archive an artist's estate, explore the region and learn about Canadian artists - their work, their lives and quirky stories about the ones their friend knew personally. "We got to know nearly every painting in his gallery and home, ranging from antique artifacts, including a sarcophagus and the personal effects of artists, such as the diaries of Gordon Kit Thorne," Carmen added. "We fell in love with many of those works and some of them are in our collection today."
Over the last 12 years, the Latona's have actively studied Canadian art, mainly from the Quebec province. Both high school teachers in the Wyoming Area School District, they have tried to acquire a few paintings or drawings each year, focusing on important Canadian painters of the last five decades. Working in tandem on this collection, Carmen is primarily focused on the art market, working out deals and tending to each piece when it arrives – framing and re-framing, arranging and rearranging. Sarah has the eye for certain artists and provides the encouragement and direction to focus the couple's energy and resources in a shared desire to build the best collection they can.
"Each piece is special to us, perhaps because of its history, our history with it, its beauty, the composition, a location we love, or a commission where the artist has rendered us in ways that only we know," Carmen explained. "But this collection isn't just about us. We hope it will grow to outlive us."