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Alfred Bader donates ‘Amazing gift’ to Queen’s University

Alfred and Isabel Bader donated three Rembrandt paintings and a 15th century English castle to Queen’s University  Isabel & Alfred Bader

Alfred and Isabel Bader made another amazing gift to Queen’s art centre. They has added third Rembrandt painting worth $80 million to its collection. This time a remarkable, late-career masterpiece that had been privately owned and unavailable to scholars for much of its existence.

“When other schools had a Jewish quota, he was admitted to Queen’s, when other schools would not do that. And he’s been eternally grateful for the decisions that we made, ” The Star cited Tom Harris, the university’s vice-principal of advancement.

Rembrandt may be one of the biggest names in the art world, but his paintings adorn few Canadian walls. Portrait of a Man with Arms Akimbo, signed and dated 1658, will become part of the Agnes Etherington Art Centre’s permanent collection. The painting is a significant example of a dated portrait by Rembrandt from the 1650s, and one of the last works from the artist’s late career to enter a public collection.


Rembrandt's "Portrait of a Man with Arms Akimbo" is worth $80 million and is the third of the artist's paintings to be donated to Queen's University. Rembrandt_1658 Alfred Bader gift to queen's U. FINAL Gazette


“I am grateful the Baders have entrusted us with this remarkable work of art, ” says Principal Daniel Woolf. “This gift distinguishes the art centre at Queen’s as the destination in Canada for the research, study and enjoyment of Rembrandt and his followers, and places the Agnes among the premier university art galleries in North America for the study of European art.”

Over a period spanning nearly 50 years, the Baders – two of Queen’s most generous alumni and benefactors – have donated to the Agnes more than 200 paintings, including two other works by Rembrandt,  Head of an Old Man in a Cap (c. 1630) and Head of a Man in a Turban (c. 1661).

The Montreal Museum of Fine Art, National Gallery in Ottawa and the Art Gallery of Ontario count themselves among the lucky Canadians to house his paintings, as well as etchings and prints.


Head of an Old Man in a Cap was painted around 1630 and was gifted to the Agnes Etherington Art Centre at Queen's University in Kingston in 2003.

Portrait of a Man with Arms Akimbo will be a centrepiece for the many portraits by the artists in Rembrandt’s circle currently in The Bader Collection at the Agnes. I’m truly grateful to Alfred and Isabel Bader for their vision in shaping this collection, and for this amazing gift, ” says Jan Allen, Director of the Agnes. “Across the university, researchers from many disciplines, from art and art history to psychology, business, theatre and medicine will take advantage of access to this painting. Most of all, we’ll treasure this piece for its extraordinary quality, and as an example of the highest aspiration of painting, which is to capture the human spirit.”

The Agnes is currently preparing Portrait of a Man with Arms Akimbo for installation. The painting will be unveiled to the public in May 2016.


queens-Alfred and Isabel Bader gave Head of a Man in a Turban to Queen's University in 2007.


“This painting is a dazzling demonstration of the artist’s signature ruwe, or rough, style, embodying the painterly brilliance so associated with Rembrandt’s late work. It also beautifully demonstrates the artist’s consummate skill in capturing the psychological presence of his subjects, ” says Dr. Jacquelyn N. Coutré, Bader Curator and Researcher of European Art at the Agnes, According to Mark Kerr, Senior Communications Officer

The Baders’ most recent gift is a significant contribution to Queen’s Initiative Campaign, the most ambitious fundraising campaign in the university’s history. The campaign seeks to nurture a supportive campus community, enhance the student learning experience, and secure a global reputation in discovery and inquiry.

When asked about the motivation for his generous gift, Dr. Bader explains, “It is the best Rembrandt in Canada, and Queen’s is the best university in Canada. It is very fitting.”

Alfred Bader and Isabel Bader are among Queen’s most generous benefactors, supporting the university for seven decades. They have given back to Queen’s in countless ways: transforming the campus, enriching the student experience, supporting scholarship, and helping to enhance the university’s reputation as a top-tier educational institution.




In an extraordinary philanthropic gesture, the couple funded Queen’s purchase of a 15th century English castle – Herstmonceux.

According to the story : “In 1992, Queen’s alumnus Alfred Bader learned of the castle’s vacancy and offered to purchase the castle for his wife; she declined, joking that there would be “too many rooms to clean”. Bader later contacted then-Principal of Queen’s University, David Chadwick Smith, asking if a castle might fit into the school’s plans, possibly as an international study centre.”

In 1994, after intensive renovations, the Queen’s International Study Centre was opened. It hosts primarily undergraduate students studying arts or commerce, as well as graduate students studying Public International Law or International Business Law.

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Last year, the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts opened, thanks to another transformational gift from the Baders.




Alfred Robert Bader CBE was born in Vienna, Austria is a Canadian, the Aldrich Chemicals co-founder. The firm later merged and is now part of Sigma-Aldrich Corp, a multinational chemical, life science and biotechnology company.  In September 2014, Merck KGaA announced that it would be acquiring Sigma-Aldrich for $17 billion.

Alfred Bader’s father was of Czech Jewish descent.  His grandfather, Moritz Ritter von Bader,  knighted by Emperor Franz Josef for his work on the Suez Canal.

His mother, Elizabeth Countess Serenyi, came from an aristocratic Catholic Hungarian family. Alfred was born only two weeks before his father’s death. He was adopted by his father’s sister, Gisela Reich, and raised as a Jew. An older sister remained with Countess Serenyi and was raised as a Catholic.

In 1938, at age 14, Alfred Bader was sent from Austria to England as part of the Kindertransport to escape Nazi persecution. His adoptive mother remained in Austria, and died in 1942 in  concentration camp. In 1940 he was sent to a Canadian internment camp for European refugees. A Montreal sponsor, Martin Wolff, welcomed him into a Canadian Jewish family and encouraged him to study further.  (Source Wikipedia).



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