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Apainting by Jim Dine of a heart, alone in the window of Vancouver's Equinox Gallery, delivers a silent message.

Elizabeth Nichol, the gallery's founder, died of Parkinson's disease on Saturday at her home in Vancouver. She was 72.

Newspaper accounts of the gallery's exhibitions describe it as "respected" and "established," but it was something more. It was among the major Canadian art galleries, said Pierre Théberge, director of the National Gallery in Ottawa. He had known Ms. Nichol since his days as curator of contemporary Canadian art in the 1960s and 1970s.

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Ms. Nichol's gallery introduced the work of Canadian artists who had not cracked the western market. Equinox also helped build the reputations of such British Columbia artists as Gathie Falk, Al McWilliams, Greg Murdock, Richard Prince, Gordon Smith, Takao Tanabe and Bill Reid.

Added to this was a mix of other Canadian and international artists. Mary Pratt was among these, and Montreal artist Jean-Paul Lemieux got his first western Canadian exposure at the gallery.

The international artists represented in exhibitions included Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenburg, David Hockney, Roy Lichtenstein, Jasper Johns, Joan Miro, Greg Curnoe, Jean-Paul Riopelle and Frank Stella.

There was a smattering of sculptors over the years, including Henry Moore and Auguste Rodin.

Mr. Warhol represented a piece of luck for the gallery. It happened to be staging an exhibition of his work when he died. At the time, "his social reputation was greater than his creative reputation," said Andrew Sylvester, Equinox's director.

John Nichol, Ms. Nichol's husband, recalled one occasion when Mr. Warhol was in Vancouver and they were invited to a dinner in the artist's honour. They were too tired to go, Mr. Nichol said, and got a call the next day from the host, who demanded: "Where the hell were you?" They were to have been seated at the New York artist's table.

Mr. Sylvester said the gallery showed contemporary senior artists of the region and the country, which meant that their work was more expensive. During its 28-year history, the gallery moved twice to get more space. It is now on Granville Street.

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Marjorie Elizabeth Kenyon Fellowes Nichol was born on Aug. 14, 1928, in Ottawa, where she graduated from high school. She went to business school in Boston and returned to Ottawa to work for the CBC.

In 1941, she married John Lang Nichol in Ottawa. He was active in the Liberal Party and was chairman of the party convention that elected Pierre Trudeau to the leadership. The Nichols had been close friends of Mr. Trudeau's predecessor, Lester Pearson, and his wife. Mr. Nichol was appointed to the Senate in 1966 but resigned in 1973, well before his 75th birthday. They moved to Vancouver, where he was in the lumber business.

In 1983, Ms. Nichol served as a lady-in-waiting to the Queen during a Royal visit. Mr. Nichol was invited to dinner but did not share the overnight accommodation provided for his wife on board the royal yacht Britannia, which was docked in the harbour. Ms. Nichol had no stories to tell about the Queen -- "not even to me," Mr. Nichol said. He said that Ms. Nichol had always been interested in art and opened the gallery in 1972.

She provided The Vancouver Sun with a more detailed explanation when the gallery celebrated its 25th birthday in 1997.

"My children were all talking about dope and things in those days and I was worrying a lot of the time," she said. "So I thought, 'I'll get a gallery and worry about that instead.' I did, and then I found I was worrying all the time."

In recent years, Ms. Nichol had been confined to a wheelchair and was under the care of a team of nurses. She continued to take an interest in the gallery, usually attending the openings.

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She leaves her husband, her daughters Marjorie, Barbara and Sarah, and six grandchildren.

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