Artists Obituaries News Canada

Celebrated Canadian artist Alex Colville dies, aged 92

Toronto-born traditionalist, in both politics and painting, focused on everyday life in Canada

Alex Colville, Horse and Train, 1954, Art Gallery of Hamilton, Gift of Dominion Foundries and Steel Ltd, (Dofasco Inc). Photo: Robert McNair

The celebrated Canadian painter Alex Colville passed away in Wolfville, Nova Scotia on 16 July, a month shy of his 93rd birthday. The Toronto-born Colville, a traditionalist in both politics and painting, focused on everyday life in Canada. His works graced everything from record covers to Canadian coins.

Matthew Teitelbaum, the director of the Art Gallery of Ontario, which boasts around 85 Colvilles and which paid tribute to him in a 1983 exhibition, said: “His paintings are powerful and resonant, and many have become icons of a Canadian imagination. He is one of our greatest 20th-century artists, and his work will long endure.”

Colville, who once served as an official war artist documenting the Second World War, generated a record bid at auction for a living Canadian artist in late 2010, when his tempera on board painting Man on Verandah, 1953, sold for C$1,287,000 (US$1,263,000).

He worked in oils in his early days, later in a variety of media, notably acrylic. His best-known works include To Prince Edward Island and Horse and Train. In the latter, a horse appears to be running headlong into the path of an oncoming locomotive. The artist never fully explained it, but said, “Right from the beginning, I thought of this painting as dark; dark in the visual sense and in the metaphysical sense.”

Colville caused a stir when he did a nude of himself at age 80, his body much the worse for wear after several operations.

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