Fine arts represent one of the most recognizable elements in the Heritage Collection. Official portraits, paintings, prints, drawings, sculptures, murals, and frescoes all fall within this category. This part of the collection also includes some of the oldest heritage items on Parliament Hill, dating back to the mid-nineteenth century. Fortunately, most of these older pieces were saved when the original Parliament building was destroyed by fire in 1916.
The House of Commons owns works created by some of the best-known artists of their time, in a collection that is considered priceless due to its quality and continuity. Of particular note are the collection's 120 paintings, most of which are found in the Speakers' and the Prime Ministers' Portrait Galleries. While the Commons has commissioned many portraits, artists and others have donated a number of paintings, such as those depicting individual parliamentarians and historical events.
The collection of prints and drawings includes both finished works and preliminary sketches. The latter group is best represented by the large number of working drawings donated to the House of Commons by R. Eleanor Milne, Dominion Sculptor from 1962 to 1993. These artworks provide unique insight into the development of many of the sculptural and decorative components in the House of Commons during this period.
Sculpture figures prominently inside the Centre Block, both in its architectural and freestanding forms. Public Works and Government Services Canada is responsible for the development and maintenance of the elaborate architectural sculpture program in the Centre Block. While this ornamental sculpture is not part of the House of Commons Heritage Collection, it is included in the description of Heritage Spaces in order to enhance understanding of this symbolic and narrative work.
The fine arts collection within the House of Commons helps to create an environment of great beauty, adding to the historic and symbolic qualities that set the Centre Block apart from other buildings on Parliament Hill.