Local & colourful

Collection of watercolours capture views of Kingston

Nan Yeomans spent most of her adult life in Kingston.
Nan Yeomans spent most of her adult life in Kingston.
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Nan Yeomans’ Intimate Views provides a unique look back at Kingston.

The exhibit, fully titled Intimate Views: The Watercolours of Nan Yeomans, is now on display at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, and it features a collection of the local artist’s works from a time she considered “the happiest time of my life up to that point, looking back at it ... and still is.”

Before her death in 2004, Yeomans was an acclaimed and beloved artist within the Kingston arts community, and left all of her art and the majority of her estate to the Community Foundation for Kingston & Area (CFKA).

Her wish was to fund a grant for developing Kingston artists, and the CFKA’s Nan Yeomans Fund now provides the backing for the Nan Yeomans Grant for Artistic Development, annually administered by the Kingston Arts Council.

In Yeomans’ work, we see a Kingston of the past — the early 1950s, to be exact. Yeomans’ style matches the relative simplicity of that time. The watercolours capture the breezy calm of a Kingston summer that remains a defining characteristic of the town to this day.

Yeomans moved to Kingston in 1948 and enrolled in Queen’s University Summer School of Fine Arts the following year, where she took seasonal classes until 1952. Encouraged by teachers such as acclaimed Canadian artists Andre Bieler, Grant MacDonald and Carl Schaefer to try watercolour, Yeomans took to the style immediately.

The structure of the classes was such that mornings would be spent in the studio, and afternoons were spent going around to different areas around town to paint on-location. Most of the paintings showcased as a part of Intimate Views are from these afternoons.

Interestingly, Yeomans was quite fond of Kingston Penitentiary and the lakeside industrial areas as subjects for her paintings. Kingston Pen is particularly demonstrative of this, juxtaposing the prison’s cold, grey and inherently monolithic presence with the comparatively carefree blues and greens of a summer seen through a child’s eyes. This kind of playful contrast is present across many of the works that comprise Intimate Views.

Yeomans’ sentiment that this was her happiest time is a compelling detail — and a telling one. All of the paintings that are a part of the exhibit are clearly the work of an artist in love with its subject, and that subject is Kingston. Yeomans adored the city she lived in, and Intimate Views stands as testament to that.

Intimate Views: The Watercolours of Nan Yeomans is on at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre until August 10.

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