CANADIAN PRAIRIE WATERCOLOUR LANDSCAPES

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ALBERTA

ILLINGWORTH KERR, West of Banff, 1958. Edmonton Art Gallery Collection.

ILLINGWORTH HOLEY "BUCK" KERR, b. Lumsden, Saskatchewan, 1905, d. Calgary, Alberta, 1989. Kerr has the distinction of being the first prairie-born artist of substance. He absorbed influences from a variety of sources, notably the Group of Seven (he studied under Arthur Lismer and F. H. Varley as well as J. W. Beatty and C. W. Jefferys at the Ontario College of Art in the mid '20s.) He painted the prairies in a Group of Seven manner in the late '20s and early '30s, before moving to England to escape the depression. He returned during the war and in 1947 was appointed head of the Alberta College of Art in Calgary. Taking early retirement in 1967, he lived and painted in and around Calgary until his death. His postwar work reconciles the Group of Seven manner and subjects with contemporary modernism, learned primarily from Hans Hofmann, with whom Kerr studied in Provincetown in 1954. Although primarily a painter in oils, Kerr painted frequently in watercolour. His work in that medium has a cubist-derived sense of architecture, no doubt derived from Hofmann. It deserves to be better known.


TERRY FENTON