David Milne has inspired many Canadian artists with his unique style and simplistic approach to any subject matter. Born in Burgoyne, and raised outside of Paisley, this Bruce County artist has made an impact on the art world. He was credited from renowned American art critic Clement Greenberg for being “one of three most important North American artists from his generation”.
Milne was influenced by the Impressionism and Fauvism movements which were popularized by artists like Claude Monet and Henri Matisse. Impressionism gives a glimpse into the artist’s eyes; seeing the realistic colour and tonal changes in light through their perspective. Fauvism challenges the viewer in a sense – you see bold colours sometimes in unexpected places. David Milne was able to express these inspirations in his oil paintings and watercolours. The landscape is predominant in his art, but he also found himself drawn to houses, barns, flowers and still lifes.
The two oil paintings within the Museum’s collection reflect the Impressionism style. They both feature loose brushstrokes and capture shadow and tonal changes of the natural light. Both paintings were created in the early 1900’s when Milne was primarily focused on oil paintings.
The painting “59th Street, New York City” showcases a more painterly quality and has purposeful brushstrokes. The brushwork is loose and is strategically placed to create an impression of a shadow or a face. The small use of bold colours draws the viewer’s eye into the composition to discover there is more than the obvious. This painting was likely inspired by the everyday scenes of New York City life when Milne was living there after the First World War. This painting shows techniques that can be seen in his later watercolours when he took a more imaginative approach.
Milne was an artist who needed to express himself creatively. He devoted his life to his artistic practice despite the unknown risks. His simplistic approach to his subject matter and staying true to his natural roots has made him a memorable Canadian artist.