It used to hang in the lobby of the Schmon Tower at the University. It also adorned the covers of old academic calendars and recruitment posters from the 80s and 90s.
Now, after a long journey, a revitalized painting of Maj.-Gen. Sir Isaac Brock will soon be back in its place in Guernsey Market’s west alcove.
Since the late 80s, the painting of General Brock hung in the Tower lobby for many years on the wall facing the entrance of the James A. Gibson Library. It was a large modern work. The square frame held the image of the General mounted on his horse inside a navy blue circular window mat covered in Plexiglas.
No artist was credited and no signature was ever evident on the painting.
In order to make room for the alumni digital kiosk in 2012, the painting of the General was relocated from the Tower lobby to its new home in Guernsey Market. It was during this move that, as Lesley Bell notes, “the painting showed need for some restoration.”
Bell, who looks after the University’s collection of fine art, was then asked by Tom Arkell, Associate Vice-President, University Services, to follow-up on upgrading and restoring the painting.
“The painting is one of the many Brock traditions honouring our namesake,” says Arkell. “We thought it was important to restore and preserve this important piece of our University’s pride and history. And we couldn’t be happier with the results.”
As Bell notes, the task of refreshing the painting presented a long-overdue opportunity to upgrade its frame and remove the layer of Plexiglas and warped circular mat.
“I delivered the work to a local framer and two hours later he called me at work to tell me to come to his shop on my way home,” says the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts visual resources librarian. “What I saw that afternoon, with the frame and circular mat stripped away, was a completely new painting.”
With the dusty Plexiglas removed, new life was breathed into the colours of decades-old painting. There was the vivid scarlet coat of the General, the rich brown hide of his horse Alphie, and the white plumes of gunfire smoke in the background behind the small red-coated militia waging battle under a dramatic stormy sky.
Another discovery was that the original painting was not square, but oval. The corners of the painting were unpainted canvas.
The artist’s name was also now visible. With the help of Google, Bell was able to track down the artist and illustrator, Brian Deines, who now lives in Toronto. Deines received a commission from the University in 1988 to create a large oval work of Maj.-Gen. Sir Isaac Brock to be used for a recruitment poster.
“It’s great to hear it is still around,” Deines wrote in an email to Bell. “I’d love to see it again. If it is in need of touch up please don’t hesitate to contact me as I would be happy to do it personally.”
After reconnecting with the original artist, the decision was made to let Deines finish his work by filling in the empty corners of the painting and touching up the colours. Bell worked with him over the summer to complete the task.
Deines is scheduled to visit Brock in the near future to speak with visual arts students about the project. The refreshed painting will also be back on display for all to see in Guernsey Market early in the New Year.