Queen's Gazette | Queen's University

Search form

Arts and Culture

Tragedy and triumph

Students from the Department of Drama at Queen's learn how to fight with broadswords and quarterstaffs for the upoming production of William Shakespeare's Macbeth. (Supplied Photo)

When the Department of Drama stages its winter production of Macbeth, the classic Shakespearean play will have a distinctly female feel to it.

Out of the 20 actors involved, 17 are women. The three men, in an interesting twist, will be taking up the roles of the witches.

However, this is not a retelling of the classic tragedy.

As director Kim Renders (Drama) points out, the makeup of the production is simply a reflection of the demographics within the Queen’s Department of Drama itself. The vast majority of drama students are women.

The characters themselves will remain true to their origin. Macbeth is he, Lady Macbeth is she.

“My concern is to help the actors tell the story as it was written by William Shakespeare. That’s what I am trying to do,” she says. “The story is the primary focus.”

Of course, that didn’t mean it would be easy.

Early on, as she sat went through the process of selecting the play, Renders quickly came to the realization that there aren’t many plays that have a predominantly female cast. Then she asked why she had to find a play that is mostly female. Instead she would pick a play and just cast more women in it.

The first play that came to mind was Macbeth and the more she considered it the more she thought ‘Why not?’ She placed herself in the position of a student once again and saw an opportunity.

“Wouldn’t it be so exciting as a young woman to be able play some of these really great Shakespearean characters and villains,” she says.

For the most part, however, Renders is holding closely to the script.

As with so many of Shakespeare’s plays, at the heart of Macbeth is the struggle with the human condition, good versus evil, ambition, deceit, murder. All are universal.

“They don’t have gender,” Renders adds.

Where the production does stray from the original is that there will be an opening battle scene. Robert Lindsay, a professional fight choreographer, has been brought in to teach the students how to use quarterstaffs and broadswords.

It’s another great opportunity for the young actors.

“I think everybody is loving it, especially the cast who have the opportunity to engage in the fight scene rehearsals,” Renders says. “I think the women in the cast are happy to be learning these skills. They look fabulous and are clearly having a good time.” 

Macbeth will be staged at the Studio Theatre of the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts, Feb. 3-7 and Feb. 9-11 at 8 pm, along with a 2 pm matinee on Feb. 6. Tickets are $15 for students and seniors or $22 for general admission and can be purchased at theisabel.ca, the Isabel Bader Centre Box Office (12:30 pm-4:30 pm); or at the door prior to each performance.

For more visit the Department of Drama’s website.

Giller Prize recipient visits Queen’s

Andre Alexis discusses the inspiration for Fifteen Dogs with Queen’s English graduating class.

Andre Alexis, winner of the 2015 Scotiabank Giller Prize, visited Queen’s University on Tuesday to deliver a guest lecture and take part in a book signing. Mr. Alexis kept a packed audience at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre riveted as he discussed the inspiration for writing Fifteen Dogs, which included a local tie.

“I got the inspiration for writing Fifteen Dogs while I was taking care of 11 huskies in Sharbot Lake,” Mr. Alexis says. “The feeling of being with those dogs in that environment was an essential part of how I felt about the writing of the novel. My first novel was written at Sharbot Lake, and I knew nothing. I still feel that I know nothing, but now I am paid for what I know.”

In his prize-winning novel, 15 dogs in a veterinary clinic in Toronto are granted the gifts of reason and language by the Greek gods Hermes and Apollo. The novel follows the pack as they explore these fundamentally human abilities and the differing paths it places them on. Mr. Alexis said that the book, like his previous works, allows him to explore the concepts of God, love and power in different settings in an attempt to better understand all three.

“I had a set of concerns about love, about God and about power that you can see across the books I’ve written,” he says. “My work is a constant confrontation with my religious beliefs, maybe because in some ways I haven’t gotten over the loss of the belief I had when I was younger. This constant confrontation, which each of the five novels include, is either a way of saying goodbye to the notion of the divine or keeping it close so I don’t have to.”

Mr. Alexis’ visit was facilitated by the Department of English Language and Literature, which has hosted the recipient of the Giller Prize annually for nine years.

A capstone experience

Queen’s Department of English Language and Literature to host Scotiabank Giller Prizewinner.

For the ninth straight year, Queen’s Department of English Language and Literature will host the winner of the Scotiabank Giller Prize for a lecture, reading and question-and-answer period at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre.

“The tradition of having the Giller Prize winner visit Queen’s started when Alistair MacLean was Dean of Arts and Sciences and challenged us to create a capstone experience for the English graduating class,” says Shelley King, Head of the Department of English Language and Literature.

She credits English Professor Chris Bongie for suggesting that the department invite a prize-winning author to campus to interact with the students, who would also receive a copy of the book as a sort of “cohort experience.” The event is currently supported through a gift from Queen’s English alum Diane King and the Department of English Alumni Fund.

This year’s winner, André Alexis, received the prize for his novel, Fifteen Dogs. In the novel, 15 dogs in a veterinary clinic in Toronto are granted the gifts of reason and language by the Greek gods Hermes and Apollo. The novel follows the pack as they explore these fundamentally human abilities and the differing paths it places them on.

Mr. Alexis’ visit will take place on Tuesday, Jan. 19, starting at 2:30 pm, at the Agnes Etherington Arts Centre. During the visit, Mr. Alexis will hold a public reading and discussion, as well as a book signing. All are welcome to attend.

The Scotiabank Giller Prize was established in 1994 by Toronto businessman Jack Rabinovitch in honour of his late wife Doris Giller, a former literary editor at the Toronto Star. The Giller Prize, the largest awarded for fiction in Canada, is given to one Canadian author of a novel or short story collection published in English during the previous year.

'Right tool, right time'

Thanks to a new app, music teachers and their students are able to collaborate effectively between lessons.

Notemaker allows users to make real-time comments on video and audio recordings.

Notemaker allows users to make real-time comments on video and audio recordings. It was created through the Music Education in a Digital Age (MEDA) Project, directed by Queen’s University’s Rena Upitis (Education), in partnership with Concordia University and the Royal Conservatory.

Annotation apps are not new, Dr. Upitis explains, but what makes Notemaker different is that it is the only one that allows a dialogue among multiple commenters directly on a recorded work, either video or audio.

“The technical piece that makes this app unique is that it can be used with multiple users, multiple times. So that makes it extraordinarily powerful,” Dr. Upitis says. “It’s dynamic, it’s multi-user, it’s the kind of teaching and learning that we are doing these days.”

Music lessons often take place once or twice a week and the communication often ends when the lesson does. However, with Notemaker, the communication continues.

“So when you are sitting at a piano lesson and your teacher tells you something, your teacher interrupts you partway through a piece and says try this differently. You get it and you pay attention but you can’t re-create that moment when you are practising,” Dr. Upitis says. “Whereas if you’ve done a video and the teacher writes a comment in ‘This is what I meant at the lesson, right here you need to raise your elbow,’ then you can play it again and again and see where your elbow isn’t raised and then say ‘Okay I get it’ and apply it to the practice. In a lesson the moment has passed but with Notemaker the moment can be brought back again and back again.”

The app is part of the larger MEDA Project, which has resulted in four digital tools – iSCORE, DREAM, Notemaker and Cadenza –that comprise The Music Tool Suite. The multi-year project is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and the Canada Foundation for Innovation. The other key for Notemaker is the recognition that learning has moved beyond the classroom setting.

“It is very exciting and it meets two very important needs,” says Dr. Upitis. “One is to recognize the contemporary pull of mobile devices for young musicians and the other is to provide scaffolding for teachers to be able to work with students mid-week between lessons. It’s really intuitive and because it meets a pedagogical need I think whatever learning they may have to do to figure out the app, it’s worth it and not terribly difficult, especially if they are using phones already, which many of them are.

“This is the right tool at the right time for this context and we’re loving the response we’re getting.”

Dr. Upitis adds that with its flexibility and multi-user sharing, Notemaker can be applied far beyond music education. If there’s a video and feedback being sought, whether it’s sports training, theatre, dance or creating a preparing a presentation for work, Notemaker is an ideal platform.

While it is an exciting, new tool, at the heart of the app is something that has always been the key to learning.

“The other thing Notemaker does is the most important of all, which is it motivates people. People are motivated to practice when they can see their progress and when they can feel they are getting feedback that is directed and helpful and they can link that feedback to their work,” Dr. Upitis says. “Ultimately it is motivation that matters in every kind of learning. If kids are intrinsically motivated to do whatever the task is at hand that’s what’s going to propel them forward. It’s not the app. It’s the learning. And when they fall in love with the learning and fall in love with the activity or discipline that’s what you want taking over. For us an app like this provides that motivational bridge, that pedagogical bridge, the collaborative bridge, but ultimately, in our case, it’s about learning to play and love music. Not about learning to love and play an app.”

Nobel celebrations in Stockholm

Follow Dr. Arthur B. McDonald as he accepts his Nobel Prize in Stockholm, Sweden, from December 7 through December 11. Find upcoming events and check back often for updates!

[Art McDonald]
Dr. Art McDonald addressed well-wishers at his Big Bang Send-off on December 3 in Grant Hall. (Photo by Bernard Clark) See more photos...

The eyes of the Queen’s community are on Stockholm as Professor Emeritus Arthur McDonald receives the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics for his research on neutrinos at the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory.

While in Stockholm, Dr. McDonald, the inaugural chair of the Gordon and Patricia Gray Chair in Particle Astrophysics, will participate in a number of official events during Nobel Week, including the award ceremony

Watch the Nobel Prize Ceremony archive
from Thursday, December 10 at 10:30 a.m. (EST)

Monday, December 7

Press Conference 3:30 a.m. (EST)

Dr. McDonald and his fellow Nobel laureates took part in the Press conference with the Nobel Laureates in Physics and Chemistry and the Laureate in Economic Sciences 2015 from 3:30-5 a.m. EST.
Watch video of the press conference...

The Canadian Embassy also hosted a luncheon, where Dr. McDonald was interviewed alongside Mats Sundin, former Toronto Maple Leafs captain, for Swedish radio. Listen to the radio interview...

See also, Queen's Gazette  Nobel update: Dec 7

[at the press conference [Art McDonald with hockey jersey]
Dr. Art McDonald at the press conference with the Nobel Laureates; Dr. McDonald with his new team jersey!

Tuesday, December 8

Lecture at 3:00 a.m. (EST)

Dr. McDonald delivered his Nobel lecture, “The Sudbury Neutrino Observatory: Observation of Flavour Change for Solar Neutrinos,” from 3:00 to 4:20 am EST.

Viewers can watch the lecture here, or on kva.se or nobelprize.org

[Dr McDonald at the podium]


Dr. McDonald also attended a special reception in his honour hosted by Kenneth Macartney, Canada's Ambassador to Sweden.

[collage of reception photos]

Pictured (right): Dr. Art McDonald, hockey great Börje Salming, Ambassador Kenneth Macartney, Principal Daniel Woolf

See also, Queen's Gazette  Nobel update: Dec. 8 – McDonald delivers Nobel lecture8

Wednesday, December 9

Luncheon and visit to Norra Real High School

Queen’s celebrated Dr. McDonald’s remarkable accomplishments at a luncheon.

Earlier in the day, he attended a meeting that included his co-recipient, Takaaki Kajita of Japan, to prepare for the taping of Nobel Minds on Friday.

Dr. McDonald also visited Norra Real High School, the oldest upper-secondary school in Stockholm.

See also, Queen's Gazette  Nobel update Dec 9

[at Norra real high school]

Thursday, December 10

Nobel Prize Ceremony

Watch the Nobel Prize Ceremony archive or find it on Queen's 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics Playlist

[Art and Janet McDonald]
Art and Janet McDonald, before the ceremony

Dr. McDonald and his fellow Nobel laureates formally received their Nobel Prizes from King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden in a ceremony at the Stockholm Concert Hall.

Following the ceremony, the Nobel banquet was held in the Blue Hall at the Stockholm City Hall. Among the approximately 1,300 guests who attended the banquet are members of the SNO Collaboration and the Swedish Royal Family.

The Queen's community gathered to watch the ceremony in Stirling Hall! The Office of the Vice-Principal (Research) hosted a special celebration and viewing party (of the ceremony livetream) with the Department of Physics, Engineering Physics & Astronomy in Stirling Hall.

[Art McDonald receives Nobel Prize]
Dr. McDonald formally received his Nobel Prize from King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden in a ceremony at the Stockholm Concert Hall


Friday, December 11

Nobel Minds

Nobel Minds is a a round-table discussion program with the current year's Nobel Laureates, co-produced by SVT and BBC WN, and broadcast on Swedish TV and BBC.

Find archived programs...

Nobel Prize in Physics videos: See also: Queen's 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics Playlist

  1. 2015 Nobel Prize Award Ceremony
  2. Dr. Art McDonald with Mats Sundin – an interview with Lena Nordlund fro Swedish radio. December 7, 2015, in Stockholm.
  3. Dr. Arthur B. McDonald's remarks at the Canadian Embassy in Sweden.
  4. A welcome to Dr. Art McDonald by Ambassador Ken Macartney. December 8, 2015, in Stockholm.
  5. 2015 Nobel Lectures in Physics. December 8, 2015, in Stockholm.
  6. Arthur McDonald: The Sudbury Neutrino Observatory: Observation of flavor change for solar neutrinos
  7. Arthur B. McDonald - Banquet Speech: ""Behind every success there is effort... passion... a courage to try."
  8. Congratulations Art McDonald (played at the Big Bang Send-off in Grant Hall)
  9. In conversation with Art McDonald -- The Nobel Prize and Canadian research excellence by Universities Canada/Universités Canada
  10. Professor Arthur B. McDonald Co-recipient, 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics

I remember the first time I met Art...

A collection of tweets, videos, photos and news stories about Art McDonald. www.artmcdonald.ca

Submit your own story about Art

'Amazing gift' for Queen's

Rembrandt van Rijn, Portrait of a Man with Arms Akimbo, 1658, oil on canvas, 107.4 x 87.0 cm, Gift of Alfred and Isabel Bader, 2015 (58-008) (Photo courtesy of Otto Naumann, Ltd.)

Thanks to Alfred and Isabel Bader, Queen’s art centre has added another Rembrandt painting to its collection – this time a remarkable, late-career masterpiece that had been privately owned and unavailable to scholars for much of its existence.

Portrait of a Man with Arms Akimbo, signed and dated 1658, will become part of the Agnes Etherington Art Centre’s permanent collection. The painting is a significant example of a dated portrait by Rembrandt from the 1650s, and one of the last works from the artist’s late career to enter a public collection.

“I am grateful the Baders have entrusted us with this remarkable work of art,” says Principal Daniel Woolf. “This gift distinguishes the art centre at Queen’s as the destination in Canada for the research, study and enjoyment of Rembrandt and his followers, and places the Agnes among the premier university art galleries in North America for the study of European art.”

Over a period spanning nearly 50 years, the Baders – two of Queen’s most generous alumni and benefactors – have donated to the Agnes more than 200 paintings, including two other works by Rembrandt, Head of an Old Man in a Cap (c. 1630) and Head of a Man in a Turban (c. 1661).

Portrait of a Man with Arms Akimbo will be a centrepiece for the many portraits by the artists in Rembrandt’s circle currently in The Bader Collection at the Agnes. I’m truly grateful to Alfred and Isabel Bader for their vision in shaping this collection, and for this amazing gift,” says Jan Allen, Director of the Agnes. “Across the university, researchers from many disciplines, from art and art history to psychology, business, theatre and medicine will take advantage of access to this painting. Most of all, we’ll treasure this piece for its extraordinary quality, and as an example of the highest aspiration of painting, which is to capture the human spirit.”

The Agnes is currently preparing Portrait of a Man with Arms Akimbo for installation. The painting will be unveiled to the public in May 2016.

“This painting is a dazzling demonstration of the artist’s signature ruwe, or rough, style, embodying the painterly brilliance so associated with Rembrandt’s late work. It also beautifully demonstrates the artist’s consummate skill in capturing the psychological presence of his subjects,” says Dr. Jacquelyn N. Coutré, Bader Curator and Researcher of European Art at the Agnes.

The Baders’ most recent gift is a significant contribution to Queen’s Initiative Campaign, the most ambitious fundraising campaign in the university’s history. The campaign seeks to nurture a supportive campus community, enhance the student learning experience, and secure a global reputation in discovery and inquiry.

When asked about the motivation for his generous gift, Dr. Bader explains, “It is the best Rembrandt in Canada, and Queen’s is the best university in Canada. It is very fitting.”

Alfred Bader (Sc’45, Arts’46, MSc’47, LLD’86) and Isabel Bader (LLD’07) are among Queen’s most generous benefactors, supporting the university for seven decades. They have given back to Queen’s in countless ways: transforming the campus, enriching the student experience, supporting scholarship, and helping to enhance the university’s reputation as a top-tier educational institution. In an extraordinary philanthropic gesture, the couple funded Queen’s purchase of a 15th century English castle – Herstmonceux – that has been meticulously restored and is now home to the Bader International Study Centre. Last year, the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts opened, thanks to another transformational gift from the Baders.

Scanning for the truth

Queen’s professor, working with team of scholars, determines famous Hieronymus Bosch paintings misattributed, discovers previously unattributed work.

Ron Spronk, an art historian from Queen’s University, is part of the team responsible for determining that two masterpieces long attributed to the famous Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch could not actually have been painted by Bosch after all. The findings come after five years of examination by the Bosch Research and Conservation Project.

“Our findings do not diminish the quality or the importance of these works, but they can no longer be regarded as autograph – authentic works by –  Bosch,” says Dr. Spronk.

Christ Carrying the Cross, one of two paintings attributed to Bosch that the BRCP demonstrated could not have been painted by the master.

One of the two paintings in question, Christ Carrying the Cross, was analyzed using macrophotography, x-radiography and infrared reflectography. Analyses of the painting show too few similarities to known works by Bosch for it to have been painted by Bosch himself or by his workshop. The panel’s framing method actually points to a production after 1525, at least nine years after Bosch’s death.

The researchers believe that another work, The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things, has also long been misattributed to Bosch. It is possible that this panel was produced in the family workshop, but certainly not by Bosch himself.  The style of the underdrawing and the overall quality of this panel do not compare favourably with works at the core of the collective works of Bosch.

The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things (c. 1500) was also thought to have been painted by Bosch, but research from Dr. Spronk and his colleagues with the Bosch Research and Conservation Project no longer believe that to be the case. 


The team also determined that a privately owned drawing known as Hell Landscape can now be accepted as being made by Bosch. The drawing shows a variety of fantastical monsters and demonic beings in the signature style of the master. Moreover, the team encountered some features in the underdrawing – the “outline” of a painting, done first as a guide –  of works that were produced in the workshop.

“It remains of the upmost importance to achieve clear and secure attributions; a more clearly defined oeuvre will be a more stable foundation for all further art historical work,” says Dr. Spronk. “It has been a true privilege to have been part of this fantastic project, and to study an artist so closely and thoroughly.”

Since 2010, Dr. Spronk has been a core member of the Bosch Research and Conservation Project (BRCP), an international, interdisciplinary team of scholars, scientists and art conservators that is studying, documenting and conserving Bosch’s paintings. All examined paintings were documented with infrared reflectography using Queen’s Osiris camera. The team is preparing an exhibition for 2016, the 500th anniversary of Bosch’s death, in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands, the painter’s birthplace and home.

More information on the Bosch Research and Conservation Project, including detailed explanations of their research methods, can be found on their website. The team’s new, two-volume monograph will be published in January.

Students revive award-winning musical

School of Drama and Music is offering the first production of The House of Martin Guerre in nearly two decades.

After an 18 year hiatus, The House of Martin Guerre is back on stage. The musical is the first production from the newly created School of Drama and Music.

“The rights for this show were held by a major theatre producer for well over a decade after its first run,” says director Tim Fort (Drama and Music). “There were people (like me) interested in producing the show since the 1990s but couldn’t get permission while it was awaiting a proposed New York run. The original mid-1990s show was a big hit – winning best musical awards in both Chicago and Toronto – but it simply disappeared until an exclusive ‘option to produce’ agreement finally ran out and the show became available last spring.”

Leslie Arden works with the cast of The House of Martin Guerre.

The House of Martin Guerre is a true story about a French 16th century court case featuring Martin Guerre and his wife Bertrande. Married at 14 years old for a financial arrangement, Martin abandons his family after eight years of an unhappy marriage. Another eight years pass with no news until a man claiming to be Martin returns to the village with new passion for his marriage and new ideas that oppose his powerful uncle. The court case revolves around the disputed identity of Martin.

The music and lyrics are by Leslie Arden (with a book written jointly by Arden and Anna T. Cascio).  Arden is one of the leading musical composers in Canada and Dr. Fort’s longtime friend. He asked her for permission to produce its first revival and to come to Queen’s to work with the student actors and musicians on the production.

“She is a hugely musical person who is great with the students,” Dr. Fort says. “She’s also one of the greatest musical minds currently working in Canada.  The House of Martin Guerre was written immediately after Leslie had studied with theatrical legend Stephen Sondheim and reflects much of his genius for musical storytelling.”

The School of Drama and Music officially came into existence earlier this year. Dr. Fort is pleased with how the students have come together under one roof, both metaphorically and literally, and how much they are learning through this joint project. “Our collaborations are not new, but it’s so much easier when everyone is working together in one creative school.”

The House of Martin Guerre opens at the Rotunda Theatre in Theological Hall on Thursday, Nov. 5 and runs Nov. 5, 6, 7, 11, 12, 13 and 14 at 8 pm. There are 2 pm matinees on Nov. 8, 14 and 15. Tickets are $22 or $15 for students and seniors. They can be purchased in the Drama office in the basement of the Theological Hall or at the door.

Revealing a secret life

Robert Morrison to discuss Thomas De Quincey on BBC. 

Queen’s University English professor Robert Morrison is joining the discussion on the life and times of the nineteenth-century English essayist and opium addict Thomas De Quincey as part of the BBC show The Secret Life of Books, a program that examines classic books with a fresh eye.

[Robert Morrison
Queen's University english professor Robert Morrison (r) sits down with BBC The Secret Life of Books host John Cooper Clarke (l) to discuss Thomas De Quincey. The interview, titled "Confessions of an English Opium Eater" featuring Dr. Morrison airs Monday, Nov. 2 at 3 pm EST on BBC Four.  

The show features two interviews with Dr. Morrison, a leading expert on De Quincey.

“I was thrilled to be invited. I really wanted to participate in this project because it was a chance to talk about De Quincey’s most notorious book – Confessions of an English Opium-Eater – and the profound impact it has had on our understanding of drugs, creativity, and addiction. The program is devoted to exploring the way books shape our lives and our culture.”

Dr. Morrison has been studying De Quincey for 30 years. He is the author of The English Opium-Eater: A Biography of Thomas De Quincey, which was a finalist for the James Tait Black prize, the oldest literary prize in Britain. Three years ago Dr. Morrison’s work gained further prominence when novelist David Morrell started researching De Quincey for a new book and reached out to the Queen’s professor to ensure the historical accuracy of his work. Dr. Morrell’s books Murder as a Fine Art (2013) and Inspector of the Dead (2015) are co-dedicated to Dr. Morrison.

Dr. Morrison has just finished working on a new edition of De Quincey’s finest writings for Oxford University Press, all of which led to the BBC invitation.

For the BBC program, Dr. Morrison met with show host John Cooper Clarke, who toured with The Sex Pistols and The Clash in the 1970s, released a best-selling book of poetry in 1983 and regularly performs as a punk poet.

“I was hoping to build rapport with him but wasn’t sure how. We met, sat down and there was a pause. He then looked up and said, ‘Paul Anka’s Canadian.’ I wasn’t sure how to react,” says Dr. Morrison. “I said ‘yes, Paul Anka is Canadian. He was born and raised in Ottawa.’ He nodded and we were off. He asked great questions. It was a fascinating experience.”

Confessions of an English Opium Eater featuring Dr. Morrison airs Monday, Nov. 2 at 3 pm EST.

Long-lost mural a valuable learning resource

[Mural Conservation]
Master of Art Conservation students assess the condition of a mural that was donated to Queen's after it was found during renovation work at the former bus terminal on Bath Road in Kingston. (University Communications)

A long-lost mural has found new life as a valuable learning resource for students of the Master of Art Conservation program at Queen’s University.

Removed from a wall at the former Kingston bus terminal on Bath Road earlier this year, the massive 3.4-by-1.8-metre oil on canvas mural is now being assessed by the program’s six students.

The piece, created by Canadian artist Kenneth Hensley Holmden (1893-1963), is based on a painting originally created by William Henry Bartlett (1809-1854) entitled Fish Market, Toronto.

The painting was found behind a wall during a renovation project and was donated to the program by the Springer Group of Companies.

While it is a beautiful art piece its true value isn’t measured in dollars. Instead it is the rare opportunity for the program’s students to immerse themselves in the project from start to finish.

“This is going to be a long-term endeavor and we’re also just incredibly grateful to the Springer family for donating the piece because it has been such an exceptional learning experience for us and we’re delighted to have it,” says Amandina Anastassiades, assistant professor of art conservation (artifacts).

Anita Henry, adjunct professor of art conservation (paintings), says that removing a painting from a wall is a rare event.

“I’ve been working now for over 25 years in the field of conservation and I’ve done it twice,” she says. “It doesn’t happen very often, so these students are incredibly lucky to have been able to do that.”

Patrick Gauthier, a second-year art conservation student is excited to be working on such a complex project as part of his ongoing studies. Not only is the mural large, it also offers a wide range of challenges for conservators.

“What we’re actually doing right now is the condition report. We’re assessing all the layers of the painting. We’re starting with the canvas and then we’re examining the ground, the preparation layer, the paint surface and the varnish surface,” he explains. “If there is some dirt on it we’ll document it as well. We’ll document the losses, how the painting is made, how it aged and how it has deteriorated. That will give us ammunition for further treatments.”

After being rediscovered, the mural drew a significant amount of interest from the Kingston community with many people recalling it from their visits to the bus terminal restaurant.

As a result, the mural will be open for viewing during the Art Conservation Open House being held Saturday from 1-3 pm as part of Homecoming weekend. Visitors will be able to check out the program’s facilities at 15 Bader Lane and view the treatment and science labs where students learn to conserve paintings, works of art on paper, and objects of archeological, historic and ethnographic origins. All are welcome!

Queen's University offers the only Master of Art Conservation program in Canada. Students specialize in the conservation of paintings, artifacts or paper objects or carry out research in conservation science. 


Subscribe to RSS - Arts and Culture