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Alex Colville: A Story Never to Be Told


22 October 2021 - 13 March 2022


22 October 2021
13 March

Curated by

Emma Connors, Colville House Intern
Seven black crows fly across a marsh.

Alex Colville: A Story Never to Be Told

About this exhibition

Sometimes the absence of a storyline is just as compelling as its presence. In Colville’s work, the feeling that some part of the narrative is missing creates unease and tension. Birds frequently play a key role in this sensation. For example, the painting Seven Crows resonates with an eerie stillness. Do the birds symbolize warning, death, freedom, or prophecy? Informed by the slightly ominous traditional rhyme “One for Sorrow,” whose final lyric is “Seven crows a story never to be told,” this work encapsulates a narrative tension that resonates across Colville’s oeuvre.

David Alexander Colville (1920-2013) was a Canadian painter, muralist, printmaker, and draftsman. Although he was born in Toronto, Ontario, he grew up in Amherst, Nova Scotia, and, from 1938 to 1942, he attended Mount Allison University, graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. He went on to serve in the military, working as a Canadian War Artist during the Second World War. In 1946, he returned to Sackville, New Brunswick, to teach at Mount Allison University. In 2017, the Owens Art Gallery received a Canada 150 grant from the Department of Canadian Heritage to develop Colville House, a popular house museum devoted to the artist’s creative practice. The museum is located in the artists’ former home, a modest rural Gothic-style house, where he lived from 1949 to 1973 with his wife Rhoda and their four children, Graham, John, Charles and Ann. In a studio located in the attic, Colville completed many of his most renowned paintings. Colville is one of Canada’s most celebrated artists and has been the subject of several major retrospectives, including Alex Colville (2014), organized jointly by the Art Gallery of Ontario and the National Gallery of Canada. In addition to winning a Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts (2003), he was a Companion of the Order of Canada (1982). In 2013, Alex Colville passed away at his home in Wolfville, Nova Scotia.

This exhibition was made possible thanks to the generous philanthropic support of Mount Allison University alumni Heather and Ian Bourne, as well as funding from Mount Allison University and the Department of Canadian Heritage (Young Canada Works at Building Careers in Heritage Program).

Image: Alex Colville, Seven Crows, 1980, acrylic polymer emulsion on hardboard, 60 x 120 cm. Collection of Owens Art Gallery, Mount Allison University. Gift of Mr. Ross B. Eddy. © A.C. Fine Art Inc.

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Meet Emma Connors, Exhibition Curator

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