Capturing the Majesty of the Panama Canal through the Years
Al Sprague has painted Panama and it's Canal for over 52 years. Visitors to the Administration Building from around the world, can't help but see the treasured pieces of the Al Sprague, Panama Canal Transit collection housed on the walls surrounding the 2nd floor rotunda. These pieces capture not only the wonder of the Panama Canal itself, but most importantly capture the people that make the Panama Canal such a wonder.
Al Sprague began drawing and painting the Panama Canal in 1968. He spent many hours at the overhaul of the Gatun Locks witnessing the hard work and greatness of the lock systems after being emptied of water. In addition, he visited all aspects of the operation of the canal and captured what he saw on paper and canvas.
Many of these Al Sprague pieces were displayed throughout the offices of the Panama Canal Commission in Washington, D.C., residences of individual collectors, and offices throughout the Canal Zone. Upon the transition of the Canal, Administrator Alberto Aleman Zubeita requested all Al Sprague paintings to be returned to Panama and he dedicated the 2nd Floor Rotunda as the home for these pieces of art.
In addition to the collection housed in the rotunda, Sprague's newer work can be found throughout the building in the administrative offices as well as the board room. His work depicting the canal has been used with great pleasure by the Panama Canal Commission to celebrate the 60th, 75th, and 80th Anniversaries, the Canal Zone Government as the 13 cent and 15 cent stamps, the Panama Postal Service as postage stamps, the Panama Canal Authority as commemorative gifts to clients world-wide and as holiday cards sent across the globe. Recently, Sprague has captured the construction of the new lock chambers of the Panama Canal and was invited to attend the first transit of the locks as a VIP.
As the daughter of the artist and Art Representative in the United States, it is always a pleasure to hear the stories behind many of these paintings. They tell not only a story, but history of this world treasure we call the Panama Canal. Recently, I was contacted by a client who had a very rare piece as part of his collection, an original of the Gatun Locks overhaul. Dated in 1968, this piece is one of just a few owned by a private collector and was originally owned by the Governor of the Canal Zone. Due to downsizing, the current owner could no longer hang his treasured piece in his home. It didn’t take long to find a new home for this treasured piece of Al Sprague artwork and now it makes up a part of a private collection in Panama City, Panama.