Philanthropists donate 2nd Rembrandt to Queen's

Philanthropists Alfred and Isabel Bader have donated a painting by 17th century Dutch artist Rembrandt van Rijn to Queen's University's Agnes Etherington Art Centre in Kingston, Ont.

U.S.-based philanthropists Alfred and Isabel Bader have donated a painting by 17th-century Dutch artist Rembrandt van Rijn to Queen's University's Agnes Etherington Art Centre in Kingston, Ont.

Head of a Man in a Turban is a small oil panel of an elderly man in richly coloured robes that dates from around 1661.

It is the second Rembrandt donated to the gallery by the Baders, a Milwaukee-based couple who have been generous in their support of both the university and its gallery.

Alfred Bader, who has two degrees in chemistry from Queen's, founded the Aldrich Chemical Co., now Sigma-Aldrich, a supplier offine chemicals used by researchers and in industry.

Head of a Man in a Turban, valued at about $16 million US, might have been a figure study for The Circumcision, a Rembrandt that hangs in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

Alfred Bader bought it in 2000 in New York, at a time when there was doubt that it had actually been painted by Rembrandt himself, according to David de Witt, curator of European art at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre.

It was later confirmed as a Rembrandt by experts in Amsterdam.

Rembrandt, a prolific Dutch artist who lived from 1606 to 1669, is renowned for his mastery of light and the human form.He frequently painted Biblical scenesand had dozens of students who imitated his style.

A great lover of Rembrandt, Bader considers it his special skill to distinguish work by Rembrandt's students from that of the master himself.

"Bader loves the challenge of discovering things. He'll believe that they are authentic even when other experts have discounted them," de Witt said.

Baderand his wife have donated more than 100 European paintings from their personal collection to the Agnes Etherington Art Centre over the last 30 years. Each year, they donate one or two more paintings from their Milwaukee home to the Kingston gallery.

The other Rembrandt they donated to the gallery is Head of an Old Man ina Cap, considered a portrait of the artist's father.

An Enduring Passion, an exhibition celebrating highlights of the Bader collection, is showing at the gallery until Jan. 6, 2008.

Alfred Bader "has that scholarly attitude of enjoying seeing paintings that relate to each other," de Witt said.

He has also championed the work of one of Rembrandt's acolytes, Jan Lievens, whose work he has also donated to the gallery.

Bader was raised in an Austrian Jewish family and was one of 10,000 Jewish children sent to Britain in 1938, thus escaping the Holocaust.

He was sent to Canada as a prisoner of war, because of his Austrian heritage,and interned in a POW camp in Quebec. However, he was reclassified as a refugee and a sponsor helped him to attend Queen's, where he did two degrees in engineering chemistry.

"He was forever grateful for the positive experience he had here," de Witt said. "It was quite a contrast from the way he'd been treated in Vienna and in Quebec."

He later went on to do a doctorate at Harvard, and the rich collection of art owned by that university inspired him to donate to the Queen's gallery, de Witt said.

Baderbegan collecting art while still a student and gave his first painting to Queen's in 1967. Eventually, all his personal collection is to be endowed to the gallery.

Now 83, he continues to be involved with an art dealership he beganthat has handled many major sales of Old Masters works.

He has supported many research endowments andhas created chairs in art history and chemistry at Queen's.