Thursday 1 June 2017

Alex Colville: Canada's Norman Rockwell

Last October, I blogged every day about one of Norman Rockwell's paintings (  Today, I googled Canada's Norman Rockwell and came up with the name Alex Colville.  In fact, Colville "traces his initial inspiration to become an artist to the hours he spent as a boy pouring over the Saturday Evening Post", a magazine filled with Rockwell's illustrations (

The famous Canadian painter was born in Toronto and grew up in Amherst, Nova Scotia.  He first used his painting skills when he served in the Canadian Army during World War II.  When he returned from overseas, he married and started teaching art at Nova Scotia's Mount Allison University.  His artwork featured "tranquil compositions which focussed on routine moments of family life and featured landscapes, animals and the sea."

"To Prince Edward Island", "Nude and Dummy" and "Horse and Train" are three of his more prominent pieces.  Colville's work was viewed by millions of Canadians via art galleries, magazines, book covers, postcards, posters, television, coins and a record album (Bruce Cockburn).

Embracing abstract and impressionist art, and with a focus on the ordinary, Colville has been called "Canada's Norman Rockwell".  The painter's technique involved "a painstaking process of multiple drawings, precise geometry and carefully applied blots of paint."  By the 1950's, Colville came to be associated with the regionalist school of painting demonstrated by the American Precisionists of the 1930's.  While Colville's career began in Canada, it was not until he pariticpated in exhibitions in Hanover, German and London England in 1969 that he found commercial success here at home.

Colville served as visiting professor at the University of California in 1967 and as visiting artist at the university of Berlin in 1971.  He was named Officer of the Order of Canada in 1967.  From 1981 to 1991, he was chancellor of Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia.  Colville's 1953 painting, "Man on Verandah" sold for $1.29 million in 2010, setting a record for a piece by a living Canadian artist.

Man on Verandah — painting by Alex Colville


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