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“He Taught Us To Consider The Beauty Around Us:” Remembering Saskatchewan Sculptor John Nugent
March 20, 2014
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Nugent's Lumsden studio and sculpture garden

Earlier this week, news broke that Canadian sculptor John Nugent had died at the age of 93. Nugent was born in Montreal in 1921, and served with both the RCMP and the Canadian Armed Forces. In 1948, he moved to Lumsden, Saskatchewan, where he eventually built a striking, conical studio from which he made his bronze and steel sculptures (the building, designed by Saskatchewan architect Clifford Wiens, was granted provincial heritage property designation in 2005).

Nugent's work often attracted controversy, most notably his proposal for a 1968 monument to Louis Riel, which had been commissioned by then-Saskatchewan premier Ross Thatcher. As a blog post from the Saskatchewan Network for Art Collecting explains, his first submission was deemed too abstract, and his second too nude (Nugent eventually added clothing). The final sculpture was eventually removed altogether from the grounds of the province's legislature.

Despite controversies like that one, Nugent's sculpture and photography  was widely collected in the province and beyond (including by CBC Saskatchewan, which has a piece in its galleria in Regina). And in 1983, Regina's MacKenzie Art Gallery organized a major retrospective of his work called John Nugent: Modernism in Isolation.

Nugent's granddaughter-in-law Nicolle Nugent, who now works at the Mackenzie Art Gallery, told that his influence lies in combining the abstract forms of modernism with the natural world. "He taught us how to stop and think about this, to consider the beauty around us, whether seen in a snow drift after a blizzard or a voluminous yet graceful steel sculpture," she said.

A memorial service will be held Friday, March 21 at the Lumsden Centennial Hall at 2 p.m.

Check out the gallery above for photos of Nugent's work and studio.


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