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Art Pick of the Week: Steam Yacht, Gunilda

August 12th, 2019

British. American Schooner Rigged Steam Yacht, Gunilda, Builder’s Model, 1897. Wood, painted and varnished; metal, painted and plated (nickel? silver?); copper alloy; glass; string/wire, Model: 60 x 23 x 140 cm. The Thomson Collection at the Art Gallery of Ontario. © Art Gallery of Ontario AGOID.106311

So you’ve just arrived to the AGO, sailed through the ticket line (using your new AGO Annual Pass, perhaps) and are drawn towards the airy sunlight in Walker Court. But before you head into the galleries, take a detour down below deck into the Thomson Collection of Ship Models and check our Art Pick of the Week, Builder’s Model: American Schooner Rigged Steam Yacht, Gunilda.

Here in the dimly lit gallery space (Gallery 007 on the Concourse Level), you’ll find one of the world’s finest collections of model ships resting in curved glass cases designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry, to mimic rolling waves. Showcasing incredible skill and craftsmanship, there are models in the collection representing over 350 years of maritime history. This includes the builder’s model of the steam yacht, Gunilda.

First launched in Scotland in 1897, the Gunilda was an impressive private yacht built with all the elegance and tradition of sail-power and the added convenience of a steam engine. Measuring 177.6 feet it exemplified the opulence of new industrial wealth emerging at the turn of the 20th century.

Sadly, Gunilda sank off the shores of Lake Superior in August of 1911.  Inaccessible to recreational scuba divers, the sunken Gunilda lies 81 meters below the surface of the water. That’s one of the reasons why ship models are so important and unique. Constructed of wood, metal, glass and string, the model version of the Gunilda highlights its naval architecture and exterior fittings, and captures the impressiveness of this vessel – giving us a glimpse of the glitz and glamour of a private yacht from the early 20th century.

Do you have a little one interested in ships? Join a Family Flashlight Tour on the first Sunday of every month, and explore the intricate details and interesting stories of each ship using a flashlight.

Stay tuned for next week’s Art Pick.

Admission to the AGO Collection and all special exhibitions is always free for AGO MembersAGO Annual Pass holders and visitors 25 and under. For more information, please visit the website.

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