A hidden gem

A hidden gem

By Rosie Hales

April 9, 2015


It came as a surprise to renovators when, on a wintry day in Kingston, they uncovered a Mediterranean port hidden behind a false wall.

The Mediterranean port makes up the scene on a long-forgotten, 3.4 by 1.8 metre oil on canvas mural that had hung hidden behind the wall at 16 Bath Rd. for approximately 40 years. Queen’s students will have the opportunity to give the painting a new lease on life by the Springer Group of Companies, the property owner which has donated the mural to the Master of Art Conservation Program.

“Restoring this painting is a perfect degree of complexity for a beginner’s project,” says Michael O’Malley, a professor of painting conservation. Restoration is expected to take about 100 hours or more.

Kenneth Hensley Holmden (1893-1963) is the artist behind the mural. Born in Ottawa to British parents, Mr. Holmden is credited for his decorative murals in Montreal and in the original Ruby Foos Restaurant, the now demolished York Cinema, and the Imperial Bank of Canada building on St. Jacques Street. One of his works is in the permanent collection of the National Gallery of Canada.

“The painting is not in great condition. It has a very yellowed varnish, some tears and flaking paint, and a small missing section of the canvas in the lower left corner,” says Amandina Anastassiades, assistant professor of art conservation (artifacts) at Queen’s. “However, in its present condition the mural is of great value to the Art Conservation Program. It will provide a wonderful opportunity for Queen’s University and the students of its Art Conservation Program to be involved in preserving a piece of Kingston and Canadian heritage through the rescue and conservation of a large painted mural by a well-known Canadian artist.”

Removing the mural from 16 Bath Rd. took about three hours, which included two hours of preparation and one hour of physically removing the canvas from the plaster that had been its home since the building housed the attached diner for the then-Kingston Bus Terminal.

“I remember visiting the diner with my grandfather when I was younger and now we’re happy to be able to donate the mural to the Master of Art Conservation Program,” says Bryon Springer of the Springer Group of Companies.

For now, the mural will be restored in the labs of the Master of Art Conservation Program on campus, where a team of seven students under the supervision of the incoming professor of paintings conservation will restore the mural to its former glory.

Upon further investigation, the mural was found to be based on an image originally created by artist William Henry Bartlett (1809-1854) entitled Fish Market, Toronto.

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. 

Arts and Science