monogrammed lower left; signed, titled & dated on the stretcher verso
Provenance: Estate of Bill and Peggy Code, Calgary AB
Reference: “Illingworth Kerr: Fifty Years a Painter” (Alberta College of Art; 1973).
Kerr, who was born and raised in Lumsden, Saskatchewan, received his first encouragement and instruction in the arts from his mother, a watercolour artist. As a budding artist, he won numerous first prize awards at his first show (in 1919) at the Regina Exhibition. In 1923, Kerr headed to Toronto to obtain a formal art education at the Ontario College of Art, where his instructors included Arthur Lismer, J. E. H. MacDonald, Frederick Varley, and William Beatty. While the Group of Seven’s approach was not expressly taught at OCA, Kerr was exposed to the ideals of the Group through his attendance at various exhibitions and studios. Kerr returned to his prairie home, embracing the ideal of creating a uniquely Canadian expression of landscape, and his focus over his decades long career remained on the Prairies – namely Saskatchewan and Alberta.
In 1947 Kerr moved to Calgary to head the Art Department of the Provincial Institute of Technology and Art (now Alberta University of the Arts and SAIT). Under his 20-year tenure, Kerr lay the foundation for art instruction in Alberta and had far-reaching influence as an instructor and mentor. Kerr was only able to fully dedicate himself to his art following his retirement from the Institute. During these years he often painted in the the foothills and natural areas outside Calgary. The proximity to the mountains, foothills and prairie gave him ample opportunity to continuing exploring the “answer to Western space with its vast scale, its power of mood rather than tangible forms”.
In 1973, Kerr was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Calgary. In 1975, a retrospective of his work was held at the gallery of the Alberta College of Art (later renamed the Illingworth Kerr Gallery). This exhibition subsequently toured to Regina and Saskatoon. In 1983, he was named to the Order of Canada. In 1985, a major retrospective of Kerr’s work “Harvest of the Spirit” debuted at the Edmonton Art Gallery before continuing on to nine Canadian cities. Kerr remains unmatched in his contributions to the modern expression of the prairie and foothills landscape.