“Leona Lattimer was a strong-minded woman who was full of life and energy. She knew what she wanted and always worked hard to get it.” These are the words of Peter Lattimer, who continues to run the eponymous gallery that his grandmother Leona Lattimer (March 21, 1932 – June 25, 2022) founded in 1986. Peter paints a picture of Leona as an outgoing woman who worked hard, who cared intensely about her family as well as her community. When not in the gallery, Leona could often be found at home in her kitchen, cooking for loved ones, or preparing to entertain. Leona was a woman who changed the Canadian art market, but was never too busy to lend a helping hand – around Christmastime, she would cook ten full turkey dinners to be distributed to those in need.
A NEW CAREER
Leona’s career began circuitously. Born in East Vancouver, Leona met the love of her life, David, when attending high school in Milner, British Columbia, a suburb of Langley. David found a job with the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), which would become his career for the next 40 years. Looking for a way up the corporate ladder, David volunteered to manage different RBC branches, which were located in remote areas across the province – Leona and David would move over a dozen times. The one constant in these smaller towns was a strong Indigenous community, which appealed to Leona. While raising her three sons, Leona made connections with artists, elders and community members, finding friends while developing a strong interest in Indigenous art and culture.
When the family relocated to Vancouver, Leona found work in the gift shop at the Museum of Vancouver. There she found a new community, one similarly interested in Indigenous art and culture. Leona began to shape the gift shop’s offerings, streamlining it from a tourist destination and into an Indigenous-focused contemporary fine art gallery. Armed with beautiful work, Leona was able to foster this new market, educate her collectors, and encourage a new generation of artists to create art. Well-made objects were her passion, and Leona wanted to share them with the world.
Saturday mornings were a particular highlight for Leona and the Lattimer Gallery. Leona would invite children to the gallery to hear stories, often reading from Bill Reid’s book The Raven Steals the Light. Saturdays were also Leona’s time to visit with her friend Norval Morrisseau, who would come over every week for tea until he relocated to Nanaimo to enter a nursing home.
Leona’s relationships with Indigenous artists helped her to contribute to the thriving Northwest Coast art market. She always believed that her artists came first, and that a gallery would be nothing without its artists. In her view, the gallery’s role was to foster these relationships and nurture talent – promotion, education and support were paramount. Leona would tell Peter that while the old adage about “the customer being right” was true, it was his job to look at his relationship with the artists as the most important, as they were true partners in their business. Also crucial was the inclusion and championing of emerging artists, which has been a central tenet of the Lattimer Gallery’s philosophy since its inception.
Leona loved her work and continued her role at the gallery until her retirement in 2001.
When speaking with art world professionals, it is common to ask their advice on what to collect. It is even more common to hear that collecting, when done right, should be about something ineffable, about simply buying works that speak to you. Leona was no exception, often telling those who walked into her gallery: “don’t worry about who made it or whether it’s a good investment. Just let it speak to you and if it does, buy it!”
She followed her own advice, collecting and showcasing art that had personal resonance, art that spoke to her. Peter says that, like him, Leona would have liked to take everything she presented in her gallery home with her, and like him, having to say goodbye to certain pieces has been hard. Leona viewed the works in her gallery as an extension of her personal collection, an ever-changing presentation which needed to be seen and enjoyed by broader audiences. Sometimes the pull of certain pieces was too strong, and Leona would take work home with her – work that we are pleased to be offering in this auction. Of particular interest to Leona were Woodlands painting, especially the work of Daphne Odjig and Norval Morrisseau, as well as fine jewellery – Peter recalls her always wearing something beautiful by Robert Davidson, Phil Janzé or Bill Reid.
ABOUT THE AUCTION
Leona Lattimer dedicated her career to promoting contemporary Northwest Coast Art in Canada and abroad, establishing Vancouver’s Lattimer Gallery in 1986.
Waddington’s is honoured to be offering highlights from her estate in this special auction, including works by Norval Morrisseau, Gordon Miller, and Jim Logan; jewellery by Robert Davidson and Phil Janzé; carvings by Francis Horne, Walter Harris, Earl Muldoe, Russell Smith and Phil Gray.
The Leona Lattimer Collection auction will be available for bidding online from September 24 – 29.
All works are located in our Vancouver gallery.
Please contact us for more information.