In the foreground of this painting, a woman on a ferryboat is looking straight toward the viewer through binoculars. A man is seated behind her on a bench. In the background, we see a large lifeboat, calm water and the cloud-studded sky.

Alex Colville

(Toronto 1920 – Wolfville, Nova Scotia, 2013)

 

To Prince Edward Island

1965

Acrylic emulsion on Masonite

61.9 x 92.5 cm

Purchased in 1966

National Gallery of Canada, 14954

© National Gallery of Canada. Photo: National Gallery of Canada


Alex Colville’s To Prince Edward Island depicts a couple on a ferryboat crossing the Northumberland Strait to Prince Edward Island. In the foreground, a woman is staring straight ahead through binoculars, while a man mostly hidden behind her lounges on a bench. This creates a dynamic between the observer and the observed. The play of gazes involves not only the two subjects of the painting but also the viewer. The resulting ambiguity imbues To Prince Edward Island with a sense of strangeness.


Alex Colville was a child when his family moved to Nova Scotia. He later studied art and served in the Canadian Army as a war artist from 1942 to 1946. After teaching at Mount Allison University for several years, he left to devote himself full-time to painting, drawing and printmaking. His surroundings provided inspiration, and he often depicted Maritime landscapes that included people, animals or means of transportation. Ignoring fashionable trends, he painted in a Realist figurative style using a Pointillist technique. Colville is known for rigorously constructed, finely balanced compositions that invite contemplation.

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