Robert Ewing McDougall was just a child when his family moved to Christchurch from Melbourne, Australia. Born to Scottish parents, McDougall grew to be small and frail in body but it was once remarked that his very blue eyes were ones that held many dreams.
He first appears as an adult in Christchurch’s history as the proprietor of ‘Aulsebrook & Co’, a biscuit and confectionery business. During his free time, he enjoyed filling his life with the finer things which included regular visits to the Canterbury Society of Arts’ gallery. Just one thing bothered him on these visits: the Durham Street address was too small for such a collection.
With a donation of £26,000 from McDougall, the society began sourcing another home. The Christchurch Domain Board –who controlled all developments within Hagley Park and the Botanical Gardens – offered the land needed for the building of a new gallery. McDougall continued financing the project even when it went over budget.
The Robert McDougall Art Gallery – designed by E.W. Armstrong – opened on 16th June 1932. The Canterbury Art Society’s collection of 118 paintings, several sculptures and a few sets of miniatures made their permanent move the same day. This collection gradually increased over time with gifts, bequests and purchases – support always showed for Canterbury’s artists.
The Robert McDougall Art Gallery closed its doors on 16th June 2002 – the 70th anniversary of its opening. The following year, the Christchurch Art Gallery opened as its replacement.
Leased from the C.C.C., the Canterbury Museum began using the building for storage, right up to the 2011 earthquakes. Currently under repairs, there has been many a debate over its future – including talks of making it part of the Canterbury Museum as an extra display hall.
No permanent future plans have been made so far.
*Image courtesy of the Christchurch Public Library – http://christchurchcitylibraries.com – File Reference CCL Photo CD 18, IMG0038 *