David Brown Milne (1882-1953) was born near Paisley, Ontario. He drew well as a child but did not like art classes at school because the time was spent copying drawings from books. He took a commercial-art correspondence course. At the age of 21 he moved to New York to pursue an artistic career – a decision he called “a jump in the dark”. Five of Milne’s watercolour paintings were included in the landmark 1913 Armoury Show in New York, amongst paintings by Claude Monet, Henri Matisse and many other artists.
After WWI, Milne travelled throughout Europe for the Canadian War Memorials Program to record the activities of Canadian soldiers. Always a sensitive and spiritual man, this experience caused him to withdraw from society, to live and paint in isolation. After this, his work reflected his belief that God is in Nature.
Landscapes were always the focus of Milne’s artistic vision. Formal elements of line, colour, shape, and composition were foremost in his paintings. Like the Post-Impressionists, forms were outlined in his trademark calligraphic style, and he used colour boldly and unconventionally. Blocks of dark and intense colour used for the landscape features were contrasted with bright, unpainted areas for representing water and sky. The Impressionist Claude Monet was his greatest influence. He was especially drawn to the balance of representation and abstraction in Monet’s Waterlily series.
Milne sacrificed and suffered greatly in his quest to become a great artist. He was not as widely known in Canada as his contemporaries, the Group of Seven, until recent years. Today, national and international critics consider David Milne one of the greatest artists Canada has ever produced. He died in Bancroft, Ontario.