, , , , ,

*1958 casein tempera (cacéine a tempera)

Alexander Colville is great artist and, among all of his paintings, this is one I truly like.

Alex Colville

It has what I call definition.  There is nothing impressionistic about it.  It is a portrait of a dog drawn and painted with precision.  Yet the dog could not possibly have been posing.  It could be that it was photographed, but I doubt it.  For painters, photographs are best used to record lightness and darkness.  Yet, Colville is definitely familiar with the anatomy of dogs running, or dogs sleeping in front of a fireplace.

I also like this painting because it features a beautiful dog.  There are people for whom the subject of the painting is important.  I love sailboats, I love paintings of elegant interiors, paintings of flowers and, obviously, paintings featuring gorgeous dogs: man’s best friend.

* * *

I am certain Mr Colville spent a great deal of time perfecting his Hound in Field, but the composition of this painting is simple: a sloping line and curved lines (the dog), then, above the sloping line, barely articulated dark trees that give depth to the painting.  The sloping line at the back is intersected by a sloping line in the portrait of the dog.  And there are several golden sections.  As for the colours, the painting has a monochromatic quality: black and greenish gold and white, but nothing busy.

However, the positioning of the dog is simply extraordinary.  If the dog were not turning around, he would fall off the painting, except that Colville is not letting him do so.  He is simply bringing to dog back to a more central point, yet not central.  The dynamics of this painting are superb.

Biographical Notes:  Alex Colville was born in Toronto, in 1920, but, after spending nearly three years in St. Catharines, Ontario, his family moved to Amherst, Nova Scotia when he was nine (in 1929).  He was educated (1938-1942) at Mount Allison University, in Sackville, New Brunswick, probably the best small university in Canada.

In 1942, the year he graduated from Mount Allison and married Rhoda Wright, Colville enrolled in the Canadian army, working as a war artist from 1944 until six months or so after the end of the war.  He met his future wife in art class.  There were only ten students in the class.  They had four children.

Colville taught art at Mount Allison from 1946 until 1963 and then devoted his life to his paintings, except that he moved his family to Wolfville, Nova Scotia in the early 1970s.  He was made Chancellor of Acadia University, in Wolfville, Nova Scotia.  He now lives in Wolfville.

For further information and to see several paintings, visit Colville House, by clicking.

Brahms: Ballade Op 10 No 2 in D major, Glenn Gould
(please click on the title to hear the music) 

Dog and Fireplace (but unnamed), 1951 graphite and gouache on watercolour board

© Micheline Walker
May 20, 2012