Gilbert Burch’s 7-meter by 5-meter portrait of Queen Elizabeth that hung in the Winnipeg Arena from 1979 to 1999 is coming home to Winnipeg, thanks to Manitobans Jamie Boychuk and Michael Cory.
The portrait, commissioned by former Lieutenant Governor Bud Jobin, has been sitting in a warehouse near Toronto for the past 13 years, intended for a Camp X Museum that never materialized.
Its caretaker, Anya Wilson of Toronto, has always held out hope that one day it would return. She told me in December 2014 that “Winnipeg is where this portrait belongs and I would love to see it back in Winnipeg.”
Over the years there have been a couple of expressions of interest but when people realized the painting’s size and weight, the interest waned.
Boychuk and Cory, both executives at CN, purchased the painting after hearing about it during a visit by Wilson in early February.
“I remember the portrait very well, and I am excited to bring her back home to Winnipeg where she belongs,” says Boychuk. “It’s a very important piece of Winnipeg history, and I am so happy to deliver it back to a place where so many people remember it as part of their lives.”
The purchase price was not disclosed.
Kudos to Boychuk and Cory, although now comes the hard part: finding a place to show her !
I have to admit to being a fan of the portrait. It is one of those quirky bits of pop history that each city has and should embrace.
My curiosity got the better of me back in 2012 when I first researched its history and I have kept an eye out for news about it ever since. When Wilson came to Winnipeg in early February I had a chance to sit down with her to talk about the painting and what she hoped would happen to it, (this was before the sale was negotiated.) You can check out that interview here.
Image credit: U of M Library and Archives, Winnipeg Tribune Collection, from December 1, 1979, Winnipeg Tribune.