Farewell to Canadian artist Alex Colville (1920-2013)

"To Prince Edward Island" by Alex Colville featured his wife behind the binoculars. "To Prince Edward Island" by Alex Colville.  (1965, acrylic emulsion on masonite, 61.9 x 92.5 cm, National Gallery of Canada, © A.C.Fine Art Inc. Photo © NGC) image source: Wikipedia

“To Prince Edward Island” by Alex Colville featured his wife, Rhonda, behind the binoculars. (1965, acrylic emulsion on masonite, 61.9 x 92.5 cm, National Gallery of Canada, © A.C.Fine Art Inc. Photo © NGC) Image source: Library and Archives Canada

One of the nice things about living in a national capital is the extra quotient of museums and culture that comes with the territory. Some of the more important traveling shows end up here, even though other cities have larger populations. And permanent collections at Ottawa museums showcase topics and artists considered essential to the nation’s cultural identity.

This happy over-lay of geography and politics lets lucky me (lucky us) see art by the Group of Seven. Or works by the late Alex Colville, who died this past Tuesday at his home in Nova Scotia.

Colville had the unusual and challenging experience of being something called a “war artist“. Try and wrap your head around that job: processing the gruesome emotional impact of war as art.

As recounted by CBC:

Colville’s work became very popular in Germany, where he did an artist’s residency in 1971. He once told CBC Radio that Germans know how bad things can (and did) get.

“Everything in my paintings that frightens Canadians seems to appeal to Germans,” he said.

I’m a fan of Peter Simpson’s “Big Beat” blog for the Ottawa Citizen. I recommend his full article on Colville, whom he summarizes this way:

Colville scored an art trifecta, collected by many of the world’s greatest galleries, prized by the richest collectors, yet beloved by the average person. His paintings have been embraced by the art world and the real world, for on both sides of that murky line we all recognize how he rendered our deepest fears into the most simple and contented moments of modern life.

You may or may not be familiar with Colville’s work, more of which can be explored at his official website. Many say Colville’s life and body of accomplishment would be worthy of the unofficial title “Canada’s painter lauriate“.

His death at age 92 is an opportunity to share more with you as a news item and as a dip into art from our times.

Tags: , , , ,

1 Comment on “Farewell to Canadian artist Alex Colville (1920-2013)”

  1. I first saw a painting of Mr. Covilles at the BEAVERBROOK Gallery (a gift from Lord Beaverbrook to the prov. of N.B. ,located in the city of Fredericton ,along with an incrediable collection of art. It was not unusalto see Lord Beaverbrook in Fred.,He gave other iconic gifts to Fred) The year I speak of is 1963 &I was 19 ,The Piece of art was “Boy, Dog, and St. John River” Many comments above speak of Mr. Colville,s relate to his International recognition, I would like to relate to a comment above ,He was beloved by the average person. I opened “Studio 14″ in 1980., ……framing, fine art posters & this is where the average person could buy a print,published by a Canadian Co., of 6 images of Mr. Coville’s work…..they cost $24.00 ,the price allowed most people to buy one………….Framed they would be $75.—–$100.00……………………..the prints were……..”Boy,Dog and St.John River” ,”Horse and Train” (Art Gallery of Hamilton”) ,”Hound in the Field” ,Cow and Moon , “June Moon” ……..”Woman and Terrior”………….this was at Moncton Air Port., my city , in the foreground is Mrs. Coville holding their dog , and in the background is the Trans Canada Airline plane , holding Mr. Covilles paintigs , going to Hanover , Germany ………………………………………………When I was in Fred as a student (above) &all the students AT Mount Allison Univ. all knew about Mr. Colville ,As did most New Brunswickers & other Atlantic Provinces…………………….there was definitly a sense of pride ,that Mr. Colville Lived and worked here . I sold many,manyof these prints at 24.00………………….I was always happy to sell them, along with a story……………………………………Yes, Mr.Coville always thougt about average Canadians could buy his works,………………………………………..he started in the early ’70′s making silkscreens/serigraphs with the idea of them being in a price range, that ordinary art collectors could aquire them……………….My husband &I were at a small gathering at the Univ. de’ Moncton ………………….Mr. Coville came up from Sackville with one of his first serigraphs ,along with about 10 -12 of work sheets leading up to begin doing the screening . Next, he told us of his process (of perfection) of actually begining the time consuming process of creating a serigraph ………………………………………………………..I, like so many Canadians do feel a loss ,not only of an iconic Artist , A very young War Artist……..his works ,during the war so real in letting Canadians learn &know The HORRORS of the War. His work reflects his life in many of his works………The last time Mr. Colville was in Moncton was in 2006 an event ……….”The Evening With Alex Colville” ,organized by THE Greater Moncton Museum”……..it was indeed a “FETE”. The normally reserved Mr. Colville literally entertainrd an audience of hundreds (650,or700) at the Beause’jour that night, talking about work and sharing many anecdotes…………….I had not ever seen him “so good” ……………..many, many Monctonians have collected serigraph’s over the years………I would say at least 50 of them were on display in the large foyer………………Mr. Coville’s speech and all the art works on display , made me think to myself , I listened to him speak,……….this like such a CELEBRATION of his life &his art…………..May Rhoda and Alex Rest in Piece .We will miss them ,but they,especially his muse Rhoda are in so many of his works that I think they remain with us . JUDITH E. JACOBSON

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

Comments are closed.