Art Lovers Paradise: Agnes Etherington Art Centre

By Rosalyn Gambhir

Situated in the vibrant historic campus of Queen’s University, the Agnes Etherington Art Centre serves as a focal point for the city of Kingston to experience arts and culture through its vast collections and innovative public programming.

The Etherington House preserved in its original state.
The Etherington House preserved in its original state.

As one of Canada’s most respected art galleries and a significant player in the national scene, this Kingston landmark is the result of one woman’s vision and generosity.
Agnes McCausland Richardson, later Agnes Etherington, was a woman of wealth who contributed both time and energy to the development of arts in Canada. Rather than pursuing her own ambitions as an artist, Agnes redirected her passion towards supporting local arts with the formation of the Kingston Art and Music Club.
Upon her death, Agnes left her Neo-Georgian mansion to Queen’s University for the sole purpose of establishing an art gallery for both Queen’s and Kingston. Officially opening in 1957 under the direction of respected artist André Biéler, the Etherington house was originally home to the Department of Art and the Art Centre. Kingston’s visual arts scene has continued to grow ever since with Agnes’s tradition and spirit in mind.
A Canadian Collection: The Soloway Gift exhibition.
A Canadian Collection: The Soloway Gift exhibition.

Eternal Flame, 1974 Aluminium – Kosso Eloul.
Eternal Flame, 1974 Aluminium – Kosso Eloul.

Today, the Agnes Etherington Art Centre is home to unique and interesting collections ranging from European Canadian, contemporary and African art, to decorative arts. Its extensive renovations present opportunities for further programming, additional exhibits, and learning facilities.
Interestingly, the Art Centre’s permanent collection is one of the most notable in Canada through purchase and donation. It currently holds some 15,000 objects and by far the most expansive and diverse among Canadian university art galleries.
Intérieur de serre (Greenhouse Interior), 1961 Oil on campus – Alfred Pellan.
Intérieur de serre (Greenhouse Interior), 1961 Oil on campus – Alfred Pellan.

Among the current and upcoming exhibitions on display, the Bader Collection is worth mentioning with over 100 paintings that continues to grow through generous donations from Doctors Alfred and Isabel Bader.
Of the most recent special exhibition, The Bader Collection introduces sixty-eight Baroque-era paintings from Alfred and Isabel’s private collection, thirteen already being shown as part of the Rembrandt’s Circle: Making History exhibition where the focus lies on history painting, as each artist translates a story from verbal to visual form.
The Collection itself consists of paintings by the great Dutch Baroque painter Rembrandt van Rijn and other artists whom bared a linkage personally or as colleagues, neighbours, associates or even artistic rivals; Willem Drost, Aert de Gelder, Jacobus Leveck and Jan Lievens along with Hendrick ter Brugghen and Thomas Wijck. Paintings draw on the subject matter of the Bible and especially the dramatic tales of the Old Testament with themes of angelic intervention.
Judab and Tamar, 1681 Oil on canvas - Aert de Gelder.
Judab and Tamar, 1681 Oil on canvas – Aert de Gelder.

On the same note, Justin and Elisabeth Lang donated an outstanding collection comprised predominately of wooden sculptural works of African art. The exhibition, Protection and Social Harmony in the Art of West and Central Africa is merely a small taste of the diversity of African art. The objects function in practices that either call forth protective forces or contribute to the maintenance of social cohesion.
Lamp with a Butterfly, 1963 Oil on canvas – Jean Dallaire.
Lamp with a Butterfly, 1963 Oil on canvas – Jean Dallaire.

The Agnes Etherington Art Centre is place of admiration for both art lovers and new comers alike. It represents a sense of community for young and old highlighting quality art experiences that engage and inspire.
The Centre is a learning playground where an array of workshops, family and school programs as well as summer camps for children and youth are available. Art leads to an increased understanding of who we are as beings, and Agnes would be most pleased with Kingston’s arts landscape and community wide involvement.
Fram, 1979 Oil on canvas – David Bolduc & Allentando, 1976 Acrylic on canvas – Jack Bush.
Fram, 1979 Oil on canvas – David Bolduc & Allentando, 1976 Acrylic on canvas – Jack Bush.

For more information:

Agnes Etherington Art Centre
Queen’s University
36 University Avenue
Kingston, Ontario, Canada K7L 3N6
Tel: 613-533-2190 | Fax: 613-533-6765 | Email: aeac@queensu.ca
Facebook: www.facebook.com/aeartcentre
Twitter: @aeartcentre
Art Centre Hours
Tuesday-Friday, 10:00 am–4:30 pm
Thursday, to 9:00 pm (September–April)
Saturday and Sunday, 1:00–5:00 pm
Holiday Mondays, 1:00–5:00 pm (May–September)
Free Admission