April 30, 2019

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Vincent Prager & The Oppenheimer-Prager Museum at Dayspring


Dayspring is a 24-room mansion that was orginally built for Lewis Egerton Smoot back in 1928. It is most historically known as the former summer vacation home of Sir James Dunn and Lady Beaverbrook. This secluded and prestigious estate is surrounded by an 8-foot wooden privacy fence, is the largest home in all of St. Andrews, and boasts 3/4" thick BC fir walls and white english oak floors throughout. It is located within the general vicinity of the world-renowned Algonquin Hotel in the affluent Katy's Cove area.




The name, Dayspring, has a loveliness and a meaning all of its own. We find it particularly nice to know that it was beautifully inspired by scripture.

"Thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; to give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace." (Luke 1:76-79).


 In the shape of a sunburst and representing the sunrise, the Dayspring is a symbol of new beginning and can be found in several areas of the mansion, including on the screen of the grand fireplace on the main floor.


Vincent Prager, a prominent international lawyer, purchased the Dayspring estate back in 1995 and has since graciously donated it for use as The Oppenheimer-Prager Museum, which opened to the public in June 2014. The museum showcases the artistic achievements and legacy of Vincent Prager's grandfather and mother, Joseph Oppenheimer and Eva Prager.

In the great room of the mansion sits a painting of "A Girl And Her St. Bernard" by Joseph Oppenheimer, which is so large in size that it takes up a full wall. Below is a photo of grandson, Vincent Prager with his golden retriever, standing in front of this massive painting....


Joseph Oppenheimer was a famous artist, a master in his field. He paid close attention to detail, painting with such accuracy, and giving his works amazing realism. It is rare to find an artist with this talent. He was a genius! Speaking of geniuses, Joseph Oppenheimer also happened to be good friends with Albert Einstein. Joseph Oppenheimer painted many famous faces on canvas, including Einstein, a painting which Eva Prager would later go on to masterfully recreate.

Whether an oil painting or a watercolour, whether a portrait painting or a landscape, Eva Prager's talent was remarkable! Through every stroke of the paintbrush, she had the skill and ability to bring the subject on her canvas to life. She had an intricate way of capturing facial expressions to perfection, as in her famous paintings of Pierre Trudeau and Justin Trudeau, and a way of sweeping you into the world that she loved through the beauty of an outdoor or floral scene. It is quite evident that Eva loved painting flowers, lilies in particular, and she was even once quoted in an article about flowers as saying, "they are an absolute necessity".

Eva Prager was well-known for her portrait paintings of children. The portrait entitled, "Leslie Bowen", a painting for a Christmas greeting card for charity, was a particular favorite with us. The expression on the face of the child in this painting is a delicate mixture of innocence and emotion. It demands your attention, tugging at your heartstrings, as you stand and gaze at this great work of art. Among her works, are the portrait paintings of the children of famous Hollywood stars Jayne Mansfield, Debbie Reynolds, and Alan Ladd.

As aspiring painters ourselves, we were particularly impressed by Eva Prager's landscape paintings. "View From The Verandah At Pheasantry Farm", "An Imaginary Picnic", "The Balcony, Bearskin Neck, Rockport, Mass.", and "Montreal Caleche" are among the paintings that most appealed to us. When touring the museum, be sure to make it a special point to find these paintings. We are certain that you will share our appreciation for each of the works stated, in addition to all of the others on exhibit throughout the museum.

While touring this mansion museum and viewing all of the art on exhibit, we found ourselves strolling through the former bedroom of Sir James Dunn and even admiring the all-pink former bathroom of Lady Beaverbrook! There are many rooms, including a lovely dining room and kitchen, all displaying artwork, memorabilia, toys, photos, and fascinating objects. We were also able to stroll the grounds, taking in the beauty of our surroundings. 


 Along the private drive, we found the classic car collection, belonging to Vincent Prager. As self-declared car enthusiasts, this was a real bonus for us. The cherry-on-top of an already wonderful visit!


Thanks to The Oppenheimer-Prager Museum at Dayspring, the great works of Joseph Oppenheimer and Eva Prager will bring joy to museum visitors and lovers of fine art for years to come.

On a final note, we would like to say that it was a pleasure for us to meet with Vincent Prager for this article. He was very accommodating and friendly, making our visit a most memorable one. He shared behind-the-scene stories and detailed information about the history of the Dayspring estate and about the artwork on exhibit.

If you love art galleries, museums, and architecturally-beautiful buildings....we encourage you to visit The Oppenheimer-Prager Museum at Dayspring. It is located at 44 Acadia Drive in St. Andrews By-The-Sea. It is open June-October, Thursday-Sunday 10-4.  Admission $10 per person. 

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