Art collector's 'children' on exhibit at Beaverbrook Gallery

The objects of Leslie Marcus's obsession for art collecting are now on exhibit at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton.

Leslie Marcus collected 136 paintings over the years and is now planning to donate them

Paintings quietly collected over the years by professor on exhibit at Beaverbrook gallery. 2:10

The objects of Leslie Marcus's obsession with art collecting are now on exhibit at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton.

The retired professor of romance languages says the works by nationally known New Brunswick artists like Miller Brittain, Jack Humphrey and Fred Ross are "his children."

Leslie Marcus's collection of paintings includes works by nationally known New Brunswick artists like Jack Humphrey. (CBC)
"I have neither children nor grandchildren; my paintings are my children," writes Marcus in his description of how he became a collector on the Beaverbrook gallery's web site.

It was 1979 and Marcus was teaching courses in French and Spanish at the University of New Brunswick in Saint John.

His first art purchase was a watercolour by Robert Percival.

"I agonized over its purchase the whole weekend, and was so insecure in my taste that I phoned almost everybody I knew to get their approval," writes Marcus.

He became consumed by the need to collect art, with his collection growing to 136 works over the years.

"I was part of the art scene," said Marcus on a recent visit to see his "children" hanging on the walls of the Beaverbrook gallery.

"Once you start, it's a sickness. I mean, you just can't stop, you know?"

One day, Marcus contacted the Beaverbrook Art Gallery about his collection.

Beaverbrook Art Gallery director Terry Graff had never heard of Leslie Marcus when he contacted the gallery about his collection. (CBC)
"Leslie Marcus approached the gallery and I didn't know who he was, but he indicated that he had an entire collection of largely New Brunswick art, " said gallery director Terry Graff.

"It was somewhat overwhelming — daunting, in fact — to try and look at it all."

The gallery decided to mount an exhibit of all the 136 works Marcus had stored in his home in Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley, where he moved when he retired. Marcus and the Beaverbrook gallery are working to finalize the donation of the collection to the gallery by the time the exhibit closes on June 8.

Graff says what is truly impressive is that Marcus became a collector on a professor's salary.

Marcus says he's spent "tens of thousands" of dollars on his collection.

"I've spent thousands on framing. And look around, every single one was framed by me. Custom framed," he says. "But that's the least of it. I don't regret it one moment."

"As I've said before, I've never owned a car in my life, so I figure people who started teaching in 1968, they've gone through six cars, they've spent several hundred thousand. So if I've spent an equal amount — I don't know if I have, but if I have — to me, it's money well-spent."