Mount Allison University is marking the 70th anniversary of renowned Canadian artist Alex Colville’s graduation with an exhibition of his early work. Alex Colville: Student Years, which runs from June 29 to Sept. 2 at the Owens Art Gallery, is a collection of pieces Colville completed during his studies at the University, most of which have never been exhibited before. Colville graduated from Mount Allison with a degree in Fine Arts in 1942.
During his student years, Colville established working methods and practices that carried him forward gradually to become one of Canada’s leading artists. The exhibition brings together paintings borrowed from the artist, drawings borrowed from the National Gallery of Canada, photographs and material from the Mount Allison University archives, and work from the Owens Art Gallery collection.
Gemey Kelly, director of the Owens Art Gallery, says many of the pieces borrowed from the National Gallery will take on new meaning when exhibited at Mount Allison.
“The story we have to tell about him as a student is what makes this exhibit so interesting,” she says.
The exhibition includes two self-portraits done when Colville was in second and third year and sketches for the decorations he painted for the junior prom on the theme “Above the Clouds” in 1941. Exhibition curator Jane Tisdale has paired artworks with archival photographs, which offer a unique glimpse into Colville’s student years at Mount Allison. The prom sketches are brought to life in a photograph of the junior class — including Colville — at the prom, while sketches of the same life model by Colville and another student in his class give a glimpse of the same subject through two different artists’ eyes.
“This is a wonderful opportunity to view never before seen works by the young artist during one of the most formative periods of his career,” Tisdale says.
Visitors to the exhibition are also invited to drop by Colville House, the home of Alex and Rhoda Colville and their four children from 1949 to 1973. Colville taught at Mount Allison in the Fine Arts program from 1946 to 1963. Colville House, located one block from the Owens Art Gallery, is open during July and August from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. each day.