What may be the only complete set of Alex Colville silkscreen prints—and what is certainly the only set held by a public institution—is to be unveiled at the Owens Art Gallery in New Brunswick on November 2.
The set of prints was donated by Colville himself in spring 2013, a few months prior to his death. (To view a selection of the prints, click on the Photos icon above.)
“The set has a nice personal dimension, because they are the copies that he kept for himself,” says Gemey Kelly, director/curator of the Owens Art Gallery. “Every edition he pulled, he would keep one back and that would be in his own collection and hung in the family home.”
The prints span 47 years of production. The first Colville print in the set, titled After Swimming, was made in 1955. The last print, titled Willow, was made in 2002.
There are 35 prints in all, and some are rarer than others.
“One of the early editions from 1958 was only of 16,” Kelly says. “In 1969, we start to see editions of 70 or more.” Most of the prints are the first of an edition, or an artist’s proof.
Colville’s donation was made in memory of his wife, Rhoda (Wright) Colville, who served as muse and model for many of his prints and paintings and who passed away in December 2012.
In Colville’s silkscreen prints, Rhoda is seen through the years paddling a canoe (in 1970’s Sunrise), strumming a banjo (in 1984’s Fête Champêtre), and lying by the shore (in 1980’s New Moon). Other subject matter includes local birds, animals and household scenes.
The Owens Art Gallery is the official art gallery of Mount Allison University, where Colville studied art and then returned to teach for 17 years. The Owens and Mount Allison also maintain Colville’s former Sackville home as a study centre and open it to tourists in the summer months.
“I am a firm believer in the value of printmaking in a visual arts curriculum,” Colville once wrote. “In fact, I introduced printmaking at [Mount Allison] in the 50s, in the form of serigraphy, which required few expensive pieces of equipment.”
Fourteen of Colville’s 35 prints were completed while he lived in Sackville. Following its opening next Saturday, the Colville prints exhibition continues at the Owens until December 8.