David Milne: Modern Painting
14 February – 7 May 2018
Over 90 works in oil and watercolour comprise the first major UK exhibition of reclusive and prolific Canadian artist David Milne.
Recognised as one of Canada’s foremost artists, David Milne (1882-1953) produced some 6,000 paintings and prints over a career spanning 50 years. Including never before exhibited photographs and drawings, this exhibition traces Milne’s ‘voyage into modernity’, and the shifting boundaries between representation and abstraction in his work.
Modern Painting takes a chronological and topographical approach to Milne’s artistic development, highlighting distinct periods in the evolution of his practice. Born in Ontario, Milne was initially a teacher at the local country school; he described leaving home to attend art school in New York as like ‘plunging into the sun’. Documenting the hoardings and sidewalks of the city, Milne gained a reputation for his Post-Impressionist style, and was exhibited alongside Matisse, Braque, Monet and Van Gogh at the landmark 1913 Armory Show.
The central rooms in Modern Painting feature Milne’s work as an official war artist for the Canadian War Records in northern France after the Armistice; these pieces are among the most formally daring, with Milne’s use of white space reflecting the difficulty of appropriately documenting the horrifying aftermath of the First World War.
Though increasingly reclusive on his return to North America in 1920, Milne remained creatively productive, as the final part of the exhibition documents. Isolation facilitated a profound connection with the natural world, which has become a notable part of his legacy; co-curator Sarah Milroy notes that ‘Milne is beloved for his ability to capture landscape in ways that are often uncanny in their inventiveness'.