Friday, March 09, 2007

alex colville

This morning I was lucky enough to catch a radio interview Shelagh Rogers had with the 86 year old Canadian painter Alex Colville in Halifax. He is arguably the most famous living painter in Canada today, one of the great Maritime magic realists, and still a lively and fascinating interviewee.

Any Canadian with an interest in art is well acquainted with this painting, 1954's Horse and Train. It is an incredibly haunting image, unforgettable and with deeply existential overtones. But did you know how tiny it actually is? Its value per square inch must be astronomical, especially after his less celebrated Soldier and Girl At Station sold for $663,750 at auction last year. Horse and Train was inspired by a poem published in 1949 by the South African writer Roy Campbell. The poem includes the lines: "Against a regiment I oppose a brain / And a dark horse against an armoured train."

Seven years ago, at the age of 80, Colville painted a nude self-portrait called Studio that created a bit of a stir. It took me awhile to track down the image online but finally found it here (page 4). I was delighted to see that, as an octegenarian, he's still got it. It also reminded me of my favourite studio art instructor at UVic. Glenn Howarth always challenged us in our life drawing classes, regularly bringing in nude models as disparate as his nine-months pregnant girlfriend, an almost emaciated young man, two lazy Golden Retrievers and, best of all, a woman in her sixties or seventies who he sat in an old dentist's chair. I even still have have the drawing I did that day. Howarth was a fantastic teacher, the best I had at university (and, interestingly, the one with the fewest academic qualifications). If I still lived in Victoria I would so be taking drawing classes with him.


Blogger Casey said...

Some photo makes ya wanta be a dentist.

9/3/07 7:08 p.m.  
Anonymous Ziggi said...

I'm ashamed to say I hadn't heard of him, so I thank you for a most interesting post! His art is amazing and the Horse/Train is so very moving.

I love your lady in the chair - you are a fantastic artist yourself Andrea and if she's in her sixties then I shall be investing in a dentists chair straight away!

10/3/07 1:11 a.m.  
Blogger Cream said...

Thanks for sharing, Andrea.
Really loved his work. Your drawing is really good!

10/3/07 2:10 a.m.  
Blogger Toni said...

Enjoyed this post! Great figure drawing. I love doing fore shorten figure drawings. Are there no figure drawing classes in your area?

I enjoy your work Andrea.

10/3/07 5:44 a.m.  
Blogger andrea said...

Ziggi: What Casey said! And since you're not Canadian, you're forgiven. :)

Cream: Thanks!

Toni: There are lots of figure drawing classes here, but none are taught by Glenn Howarth.

10/3/07 7:47 a.m.  
Blogger Angela Rockett said...

My favorite drawing instructor also had the least formal education. So little in fact that school's wouldn't hire him, so he opened his own atelier down in the San Diego area, which has become quite successful. I learned so much from him.

10/3/07 9:44 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Awesome drawing - is it over top with ink or just charcoal ?

11/3/07 5:05 a.m.  
Blogger andrea said...

Angela: I think Glenn Howarth had similar roadblocks, though not so serious as he was clearly such a superior teacher. There's something about those who follow their own path that often makes them a cut above.

Sheri: Very soft pencil, actually.

11/3/07 7:49 a.m.  

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