The Kenderdine family has a long and appropriately colourful history at the University of Saskatchewan. It all began in 1927 when then University President Walter Murray appointed Augustus Kenderdine a lecturer in art after viewing some of his paintings. Classically trained at the Academie Julien in Paris, Kenderdine was a painter who eventually found his niche in a romantic interpretation of the rugged beauty of the Canadian prairies. From there Augustus, known to many simply as Gus, helped to build up the art department at the U of S. In 1937 he moved to the University of Regina (then known as Regina College) to help establish an art department there.
Following the example set by her father Gus, May Beamish not only obtained a Bachelor of Arts from the U of S in 1925, but also continued to be involved with the institution long after her school days. Just as her father made a lasting impact on campus; so too has May. The Kenderdine Gallery located at the University of Saskatchewan was named in honour of her father thanks to a bequest gift she made in 1991. Additionally after her passing, May’s niece Adelaide Retzlaff also gifted the university with a sizable collection of Kenderdine’s paintings, drawings, journals, correspondence, letters, photos, travel souvenirs and tobacco pipes.
These personal mementos, including sketches, telegrams, receipts, a passport and travel brochures are currently on display at the gallery that bears its subject’s name in an exhibit entitled Gus: the archive of Kenderdine. “I wanted to show the more personal side of Gus,” says Leah Taylor, the exhibit’s curator. “Everyone knows his paintings so I wanted to focus on a side that no one has really seen before … I mean in the 1930’s Gus took a trip around the world by boat for $900 which was a lot of money back then―you could own a house in Saskatoon for that amount!” says Taylor. Indeed the collection of curios paints an interesting picture of a man whose art was foundational both to this campus and the province as a whole.