Island, Elbow River, Spring (1973)
by Illingworth Kerr
Kerr’s work reveals a lifelong fascination with the geography and wildlife of his birthplace of Saskatchewan. Angular fields, rolling skies, and the simple structures of the prairie town dominated his early work and infused his later abstract experiments with the distinct spaces of the prairie. Although isolated in this small community, Kerr’s talents were recognized and eastern relatives paid his way to art school in Toronto in 1923.
In the 1930s, Kerr returned to the Saskatchewan and continued to paint from his tiny studio above the local pool hall, while working as a sign painter, trapper, writer and illustrator. He eventually left to visit Europe, where he met and married Mary Spice in 1938. They returned together to Saskatchewan soon after. In the 1940s, after a number of art-related posts, he became the head of the Alberta College of Art.
After retirement in 1967, he began the most productive period of his artistic life. He received an honorary doctorate from the University of Calgary in 1973, around the time this work was made. He was awarded the Order of Canada in 1983, and his work can be found in various prominent collections across Canada.
This work has been with us on long-term loan from Alberta Foundation for the Arts since 1983. It hangs in the Canada Room at Queen’s, on the first floor of the Lanyon building, across the hall from the Naughton Gallery.