This close-up painting depicts a forest floor of tangled rocks and tree trunks in the foreground. The composition is so close to abstraction that it is difficult to discern a landscape in the winding green lines and areas of flat black, grey and white.

David B. Milne

(Burgoyne, Ontario, 1882 – Bancroft, Ontario, 1953)

 

The Boulder

1916

Oil on canvas

61.7 x 66.7 cm

Purchased with the support of the Women’s Committee and The Winnipeg Foundation, 1962

Collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery, G-62-12

Photo: Ernest Mayer


The composition of The Boulder, with the sweeping lines of tree trunks that punctuate the canvas vertically, may bring to mind the landscapes of Tom Thomson. However, the subject matter was merely a pretext for David B. Milne, whose painting is an investigation of line and colour. In this landscape, the zones of light and shade are clearly demarcated by a green line that contours areas of flat grey, white, orange and black. Milne’s work brought Canadian art into line with the modern trends and concerns of the European Post-Impressionist movements.


Contrary to the members of the Group of Seven, David B. Milne’s aim was not to create a national art style. Instead, he explored the formal qualities – line, colour, shape, composition – of the subjects he painted. This approach was no doubt encouraged by the modernism of the works he saw in New York at the famous 1913 Armory Show, where he exhibited several paintings. That show, which introduced cubism, Fauvism and other modernist styles to North America, is considered a milestone in the emergence of new art movements in the early 20th century.

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