Memorable Manitobans: Ferdinand Eckhardt (1902-1995)
Born in Vienna, he studied at the University of Vienna and obtained a doctorate in art history. He moved to Berlin in 1929 as a freelance writer and worked for several years in the advertising department at Bayer IG-Farben. He was in the German army from 1942 to 1945. After the Second World War, he developed a division of art education for the Austrian government, and in 1953 he immigrated to Canada as director of the Winnipeg Art Gallery, a post he held until his retirement in 1974. He established one of the finest collections of Canadian and Inuit art, and he worked hard to obtain a new building, which was finally completed in 1971.
After his retirement he devoted most of his time to memorializing the career of his wife, Sonia, founding the Eckhardt-Gramatté National Music Competition for the Performance of Canadian Music in 1976 and completing her biography in 1977. In 1983 he founded the Eckhardt-Gramatté Foundation, through which the arts in Canada have been supported.
A founding board member of the Manitoba Centennial Corporation (1963), he was inducted into the Order of Canada (1976) and the Manitoba Order of the Buffalo Hunt (1982). He received honorary degrees from the University of Manitoba (1971) and Brandon University (1990), and he received the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal (1977).
He died at Winnipeg on 25 December 1995 and he was buried in Germany, next to his wife and her former husband.
“These Manitobans will help plan centennial,” Winnipeg Free Press, 13 September 1963, page 9.
Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 13 January 1996, page 48.
Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by John M. “Jack” Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.
We thank Lynda Hiebert, Executive Director of The Eckhardt-Gramatté Foundation, for providing a photograph of Ferdinand Eckhardt.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 21 January 2018