Artist Biography

Alexander Colville (1920- ) was born in Toronto and as a boy moved with his family to Amherst, Nova Scotia. After his fine art studies at Mount Allison University (1938-1942), he joined the Canadian army and was sent to Europe as a war artist (1944-1946). Following his service, Colville taught art and art history at Mount Allison University for eighteen years, resigning in 1963 to devote himself full-time to art.

The 1950s marked a transition in the direction of Colville’s work, from war pictures to a personal approach. His art became associated with that of American regionalist artists like Andrew Wyeth. Colville’s subject matter is chosen from his personal environment: his family, his pets, and the landscape near his home. The unsettling juxtapositions of figures and objects in his compositions reveal an underlying feeling of anxiety. Colville has changed his medium many times, from oil, to tempera and oil, to oil and synthetic resin, to acrylics. He follows a long, cautious process for each composition, using precise geometry and a technique that consists of meticulously dabbing paint, dot by dot. He works on one composition at a time, producing only three to four pieces each year.

Throughout his career, Colville’s fame grew and he received many honours. In 1985 a retrospective exhibition of his work was held at the Art Gallery of Ontario. It also toured Germany and the Far East. Another major exhibition of his work was held at the Montreal Museum of Fine Art in 1995. He designed the 1967 Canadian Centennial Coins and the Governor General’s Medal in 1978. He was made Companion of the Order of Canada (1982), and won a Governor General’s Visual and Media Arts Award (2003).

Alex Colville has made his home in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, since 1971.

 And I Quote:

“I do have a fear of chaos and a strong sense of the fragility of civilization.”

– Alex Colville, 1983