Museum celebrates art collecting

Tucked away in historic Queenston, Ontario is a small public art museum that celebrates art collecting and collectors.

RiverBrink Art Museum houses the eclectic collection of Samuel E. Weir, an Ontario lawyer who had a passion for collecting paintings, sculpture, books, stamps, clocks and decorative arts – a collection of about 1,400 pieces.

The love of collecting is stamped all over this little gem of a museum, which backs onto the picturesque Niagara River and is surrounded by beautiful gardens.

Photo of RiverBrink Art Museum in Queenston, ON

RiverBrink Art Museum in Queenston, Ontario celebrates art collecting. Photo courtesy of RiverBrink

The museum itself was the summer residence of Weir, who died in 1981, just 11 years after the Georgian-style home was completed. It opened as a public museum two years later in 1983 and marks its 30th anniversary this year.

The museum’s main gallery features works collected by Weir. His focus was historical Canadian works. During a recent visit, works on display included several Tom Thomson’s – one a study for Jack Pine – a Lawren Harris, Otto R. Jacobi, Lucius O’Brien, Paul Kane and Homer Watson. There was also a Cornelius Krieghoff and another painting purchased as a Krieghoff that was proven to be a fake, but which Weir kept anyway.

Then there’s a sizeable collection of Marc Aurele de Foy Suzor-Cote, including the 1921 painting Son of the Pioneer and more than a dozen large bronzes.

Weir also collected European works, by Augustus John, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Paul Cezanne, Pierre August Renoir and others.

Another room is devoted to his collection of large paintings depicting numerous scenes from War of 1812 naval battles on Lake Erie, done by American artist Thomas Birch.

RiverBrink is also set apart from other public museums by the amount of space it devotes to displaying other private art collections.

One room was devoted to the Norval Morrisseau collection of Richard Baker. Another room showed a collection of Inuit sculptures and lithographs by collector Doreen Peever. A third room showed the works of Bloomsbury artists collected by Joan Draper.  And yet another showed marine art by collector/historian Cameron Ward.

It’s rare to see a museum open its doors – and its walls — to private collectors, giving them a venue to share their passion with others.

Even RiverBrink’s monthly lecture series, running until October, is devoted to the art of art collecting.

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For more information about RiverBrink, including information on its exhibits, lecture series, hours and location, visit its website at

— FineArtCollector