Memorable Manitobans: John Philip Crabb (1929-2019)
Businessman, art collector.
Born at Winnipeg on 2 May 1929, only child of Herbert Philip Crabb and Violet Doreen Simons (1899-1990), he attended Queenston School, Kelvin High School, Bishop’s College (Lennoxville, Quebec), Sedburgh College (Montebello, Quebec), and St. John’s College, graduating from the latter in 1947. He studied architecture at the University of Manitoba before switching to a career in business, working first at Oldfield, Kirby, and Gardiner (1952-1955) then at his own insurance agency beginning in 1956. He established several companies and was active in real estate, investments, and art and antique appraisal. He began his own art collection which included silver objects, paintings, woodcuts, engravings, and sculptures.
In the 1960s, he began collecting work by Walter J. Phillips which turned into the largest Philips collection in the world. He would often loan his collection to museums across Canada. In 1969, he donated a space on Assiniboine Avenue for the Winnipeg Sketch Club to use rent-free until 1977. In 1970, he helped with the Philips exhibition that travelled across Canada to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the Hudson’s Bay Company. The Loch Gallery was founded in 1972, and with his guidance, it quickly turned into one of the most important galleries in Winnipeg, with David Loch stating that Crabb taught him everything he knows about Canadian art. Crabb worked in 1992 to establish the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden, and in 1998 to create the Pavilion Gallery at Assiniboine Park which was to hold the collections of Clarence Tillenius and Ivan Eyre. He donated a large portion of his own collection to the Walter J. Philips Gallery, later named the John P. Crabb Gallery. He was an active supporter of the Winnipeg Sketch Club, Sister of Service Canada, and YWCA, and was a member of the Winnipeg Winter Club.
He died at Winnipeg on 25 February 2019.
“The Winnipeg Sketch Club: A Look Back,” Winnipeg Art Gallery.
“The Art of Salesmanship,” Loch Gallery.
Page revised: 3 March 2019
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