Gurd followed his father Robert Gurd into legal practice, pursuing his studies in Toronto and returning to Sarnia in 1896 to work with the firm Kittermaster & Gurd. A strong believer in the library system, Gurd is credited with creating and popularizing the slogan, "The library belonds to you, do you belong to the library?"
|Early art exhibition catalogue from Sarnia Public Library|
When WWI came to a close, the Women's Conservation Committee was seeking an alternative recipient for the financial fruits of their fund-raising efforts. Committee president Frances Flintoft wrote to Norman Gurd on July 25, 1919: "We have felt for some time past, that we should have displayed in the library, good pictures which would have an educating influence upon the public and would show them what good Art really is. There is no opportunity of this kind in Sarnia." She reflected on this process in a letter on March 2, 1929: "... turn our organization into an art association when the war was over - to buy Canadian pictures by Canadian artists and to form the nucleus of a permanent collection to have in the Public Library until such time as Sarnia should have an art gallery."
|First two pages of a letter from Women's Conservation Art Committee President Frances Flintoft, March 2, 1929 reminiscing about the birth of the art movement in Sarnia.|
After fulfilling the Red Cross's needs, the Women's Art Conservation Committee had $300.00 left and put this money towards the purchase of three paintings in March, 1920. George L. Smith records in his book, Norman Gurd and the Group of 7, that the pieces purchased were A.Y. Jackson's "Spring Lower Canada," H.B. Palmer's "Sawing Logs" and J.W. Beatty's "Winter near Toronto." [These links will take you to Gallery Lambton's online catalogue: note in the Credit Line, "Gift of the Sarnia Women's Conservation Art Association."] Other paintings purchased by the committee included Tom Thomson's "Chill November" (in December, 1920) and Lawren S. Harris's "Mongoose Lake" (in February, 1925).
|Tom Thomson's "Chill November."|
Sarnia's art community was born out of the desire to allow the public easy access to great art; the patriotic desire to promote/display Canadian art; and the fund-raising efforts of grassroots community groups.
The Lambton Room is fortunate to have some interesting documentation of art's introduction into Sarnia. We have preserved much of Norman Gurd's correspondence, including a series of letters received from A.Y. Jackson in the 1920s discussing exhibitions and the sale of artwork. Our collection of catalogues from exhibitions at the Sarnia Public Library is also interesting, along with our biographical information on Gurd and newspaper clippings documenting his contributions to Sarnia.