I have owned a print of this painting for many years. I feel like I have always known it, so deeply is it imbedded, but actually saw the real thing for the first time at the National Gallery about 15 years ago. (As with other famous paintings which loom large in our imaginations, this painting is surprisingly small.) And I saw it again on Saturday at the Art Gallery of Ontario; it was part of an exhaustive retrospective of the work of Alexander Colville, the Canadian painter who died last year. Like much of his work, To Prince Edward Island, portrays a relationship and hints at the tension and isolation barely below the surface. The woman gazes off and the man is vulnerable and obscured behind. Other paintings are even more unflinching and bring a deep sense of foreboding and even terror, in spite of their somewhat ordinary subjects. Sarah Milroy’s 2013 article gives a good overview of Colville’s work and life and has a link to four of his most famous paintings, including Pacific, for me his most haunting.
The exhibit explored Colville’s process and had many of his sketches. Of course I loved this one.
And there was much to learn from his early watercolours. Look at the skies.
In the afternoon I went to an open house of my favourite Canadian clothing designer. I’ve said here before how I limit my buying as much as possible to second-hand and hand made. And Jana’s work is some of the most inventive and easy to wear that I have found. Her fabrics are wonderful and her designs timeless. It was so good to see her again and be among others who were also interested in and support local design.
When I climbed on the train at the end of the day, I was full of ideas–and full of gratitude that this world of inspiration is so close.
I always enjoy your thoughtful blogs. This one with Alex Coleville resonated with me. I was honoured to meet him in 1986 when he was chancellor of Acadia University. My brother in law received an honorary doctorate and we (the family) went to watch. Mr. Coleville was gracious, humble and a lovely man. It was hard to separate him from his dramatic paintings. I love his paintings as there is so much in them and yet they are so tight and clean in their execution. Thank you for sharing your trip to see them.
Wonderful that you had that experience at Acadia. The retrospective at the AGO has many quotations, some audio, some written, and those along with his sketchbooks and notes, and of course the wonderful photos, give a wider sense of the man. I hope you will get a chance to see it.