Celebrating 60: The Agnes in Six Decades

1957+ | 1967+ | 1977+ | 1987+ | 1997+ | 2007+

Chancellor Agnes Benidickson, the niece and namesake of Agnes Etherington and long-time patron of the gallery, donates James Pattison Cockburn’s View North along King Street near St. George’s Church (1829). Since the 1970s, the Agnes has actively collected topographical watercolours and drawings by British officers and their wives, in recognition of Kingston’s military history.

Local artist Joyce Putnam also donates paintings by her friend A. Y. Jackson, with further gifts in subsequent years, building a remarkable body of landscapes in our holdings by Group of Seven members and their colleagues.

James Pattison Cockburn, View North along King Street near St. George’s Church, 1829, watercolour on paper. Gift of Chancellor Agnes Benidickson, 1987 (30-091)
Chancellor Agnes Benidickson and Shirley Purkis, Gallery Association member, in Etherington House, 2000
A. J. Casson, MacCrea’s Mill, Lake of Two Rivers, Algonquin Park, 1944, oil on canvas. Gift of Joyce Putnam, 1993 (36-007.03)

The Agnes undergoes renovation to create the Justin and Elisabeth Lang Gallery of African Art in the former sculpture terrace and to give a “facelift” to the main foyer and visitor services. At the opening, the Quammie Williams Ensemble presents traditional music and dance from Mali, Senegal and Ghana.

The Agnes also acquires eight oil paintings by Joseph Wright of Derby. Brought to Canada in 1914 by descendants of the original British owner, these landscapes were under threat of permanent export. Recognizing the value of Derby’s work on an international level, Drs. Alfred and Isabel Bader contributed funding to the purchase, supplemented by a grant under the Cultural Property Export and Import Act.

The Quammie Williams Drumming Ensemble performing at the opening of the Justin and Elisabeth Lang Gallery of African Art, 1988
The Quammie Williams Drumming Ensemble performing at the opening of the Justin and Elisabeth Lang Gallery of African Art, with Honourable Flora Macdonald, Justin Lang and Robert Swain, 1988
Justin and Elisabeth Lang Gallery of African Art, 1989
Dogon peoples, Mali, Equestrian Figure, unknown date, wood and inlaid metal. Gift of Justin and Elisabeth Lang, 1984 (M84-052). Photo: Paul Litherland
Joseph Wright of Derby, Cut through the Rock, Cromford, around 1790, oil on canvas. Purchase, Alfred and Isabel Bader and the Government of Canada, 1988 (31-008). Photo: Chris Miner

Telling Images: Selections from the Bader Gift of European Paintings to Queen’s University closes at the Agnes before circulating in six provinces. The exhibition is guest curated by David McTavish, former Queen’s Art History professor then at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Two years later, McTavish returns to Queen’s as head of Art History, and later becomes the Agnes’s director. In 2016, the David McTavish Art Study Room is launched in his memory, fittingly expanding the Agnes’s capacity for academic engagement.

David McTavish, Telling Images: Selections from the Bader Gift of European Paintings to Queen’s University, 1989
Installation view, Telling Images, 1989
Installation view, Telling Images, 1989
David McTavish Art Study Room, 2016

Seeing Red, curated by Michael Bell, features contemporary artists of Indigenous ancestry, including Bob Boyer, Joane Cardinal-Schubert, Edward Poitras and Jane Ash Poitras. It is followed in the next year by Reclaiming History: Robert Houle, Carl Beam and Edward Poitras. Carl Beam’s Columbus Suite (1989), Edward Poitras’s Anglais in Edom (1990) and Robert Houle’s Lost Tribes #6 and #8 (1989) are all purchased in 1990.

The McLean Foundation (Toronto) donates funds to purchase the entire collection of theatre portraits by Kingston artist Grant Macdonald, from Laurence Olivier to Robertson Davies. Another body of significant acquisitions is featured in Gifts from Herbert Bunt, recognizing the ongoing donations of contemporary works from this Queen’s alumnus. By 2017, Bunt has gifted some 289 pieces, many representing formative stages in artists’ careers.

Also in this year, the inaugural Janet Braide Memorial Award for outstanding contribution to scholarship in the field of Canadian art history is presented to scholar John O’Brian. The award becomes the Janet Braide Memorial Fund in 2001, dedicated to supporting programs and exhibitions in Canadian historical art.

Installation view, Bob Boyer, Hewey, Dewey and Lewey: A Re-appropriation of Misappropriated Appropriation (1988–1990), in Seeing Red, 1990
Installation view, Joane Cardinel-Schubert, Preservation of the Species: Deep Freeze (1988–1990), in Seeing Red, 1990
Carl Beam, New World, #1 from Columbus Suite, 1989, etching on paper. Purchase, Chancellor Richardson Memorial Fund, 1990 (33-013.01). Photo: Paul Litherland
Grant Macdonald, Robertson Davies, undated, ink and watercolour on paper. Gift of the McLean Foundation, 1990 (33-006.087). Photo: Hal Roth
Sophie Jodoin, Study for Helmets and Gasmasks #2, 2007, oil on mylar. Gift of Herbert Bunt, 2013 (56-021)

Looking back at 1941 when artists from across the country met at Queen’s for the first ever Conference of Canadian Artists (the “Kingston Conference”), the Agnes organizes another national conference. Attendees explore the artist’s place within shifting cultural and political power structures and address the urgent need for full recognition of cultural diversity. “1941” is a small exhibition of works by artists who attended the first Kingston Conference and Digital Highways demonstrates continuities and differences in fine art traditions set fifty years apart.

Prince Charles visits the Agnes during the Queen’s sesquicentennial to address the convocation and receive an honourary degree. Drs. Alfred and Isabel Bader also donate seventeen paintings this year, including El Greco’s Adoration of the Shepherds (around 1567).

Rebecca Belmore and Zacharias Kunuk, artists, at the Fragmented Power: Art Voices for 2000 conference, 1991
Elizabeth Harrison, artist and co-organizer of the 1941 Conference of Canadian Artists, at Fragmented Power: Art Voices for 2000, Kingston Conference, 1991
Installation view, Digital Highways, 1991
El Greco, The Adoration of the Shepherds, around 1567, oil and tempera on panel. Gift of Alfred and Isabel Bader, 1991 (34-011)
His Royal Highness Prince Charles with David McTavish, Director, 1991

“All That Glitters” is the first Agnes program funded by the new David Bain Memorial Fund (later David and Patti Bain). With a roster of expert talks on silver, a cocktail buffet and a bus trip to view the silver collection at Kingston’s Royal Military College, the program is quickly subscribed. Participants are invited to bring a silver piece for appraisal by keynote speaker Christopher Hartop of Christie’s New York. Established in 1991 in memory of Kingston interior designer David Bain, the fund continues to support public events focused on the decorative arts.

Flyer, All That Glitters, the second David and Patty Bain Decorative Arts Program, 1992
Participants admire antique ceramic tableware at Perfect Setting, the second David and Patty Bain Decorative Arts Program, 1993

Hear to See II: Looking at Contemporary Art builds on the success of the first Hear to See in 1990. Education Officer Jeri Harmsen curates a show of six contemporary works from the collection, by Michael Snow, Katja Jacobs, Richard Gorenko, Milly Ristvedt, Carl Beam and Betty Goodwin. Using state-of-the art telephone technology, visitors listen to commentary and interviews with the artists. The exhibition wins the Ontario Association of Art Galleries Educators’ Award, reflecting the Agnes’s leadership in its use of in-gallery technology.

Hear to See II: Looking at Contemporary Art, 1993
Betty Goodwin, Figure with Megaphone, 1988, ink and pastel on Geofilm. Purchase, Gallery Association and Canada Council, 1989 (32-014). Photo: Amanda Gray
Hear to See: Experiences in Looking at Art, 1990

In September, renowned Canadian artist Alex Colville gives a talk, “Artist as Magician: Alex Colville,” to a packed house in conjunction with an exhibition of his drawings on tour from the Owens Art Gallery, Mount Allison University. Earlier in the year, Colville’s watercolour Three Weeds (1958) is featured in the Recent Acquisitions Corner, a mid-1990s exhibition series of singular collection highlights. The Agnes acquires its first figural painting by Colville, Nude on a Rug (1954), in 2012—an eerie, intimate portrait of the artist’s wife.

Alex Colville delivers lecture at opening of Alex Colville: Selected Drawings, 1994
Alex Colville delivers lecture at opening of Alex Colville: Selected Drawings, 1994
Alex Colville, Nude on a Rug, 1954, casein tempera on paper. Gift of Mrs. Ruth Soloway, 2012 (55-004.11). Photo: Bernard Clark

The Female Imaginary features works that speak back to patriarchy and offer inventive speculation on equitable alternatives. After a day of dialogue at the related symposium “Feminist Practice in the Visual Arts,” Winnipeg-based artist duo Shawna Dempsey and Lorri Millan perform The Thin Skin of Normal. Part of a series of feminist group exhibitions curated by Jan Allen, The Female Imaginary is followed by Rx: Taking Our Medicine and, in 1996, Fertile Ground—by which time Allen occupies a newly created position at the Agnes, Curator of Contemporary Art.

Shawna Dempsey, performing Thin Skin Normal, at Feminist Practice in the Visual Arts symposium, 1995
Jan Allen, The Female Imaginary, 1995, Jan Allen and Kim Sawchuk, Rx: Taking Our Medicine, 1995, and Jan Allen, Fertile Ground, 1996
Installation view, The Female Imaginary, 1995
Installation view, Rx: Taking Our Medicine, 1995
Jin-me Yoon, Intersection 1, 1996, C-print transmounted on plexiglas. Purchase, the Chancellor Richardson Memorial Fund, 1997 (40-018)

The capital campaign for gallery expansion is launched with the exhibition Wisdom, Knowledge and Magic: The Image of the Scholar in Seventeenth-Century Dutch Art. Seventeen works are lent by Drs. Alfred and Isabel Bader, along with others from the National Gallery of Canada, Art Gallery of Ontario, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and others. The exhibition is prepared by Dr. Volker Manuth, Bader Chair in the Department of Art, in collaboration with graduate students. Described as “unique in its ambitiousness in this country” for a student-organized exhibition, Wisdom, Knowledge and Magic and its catalogue mark a major step in contextualizing paintings in The Bader Collection.

Dr. Volker Manuth with students, examining Jacob van Spreeuwen’s Allegory of Vanitas, for the exhibition Wisdom, Knowledge and Magic, 1996
Jacob van Spreeuwen, Allegory of Vanitas, around 1645, oil on canvas. Gift of Alfred and Isabel Bader, 1991 (34-020.08). Exhibited in Wisdom, Knowledge and Magic, 1996
Volker Manuth et al, Wisdom, Knowledge and Magic: The Image of the Scholar in Seventeenth-Century Dutch Art, 1996