Ken Danby

Ken Danby Artwork Currently for Sale

Ken Danby
1940 – 2007

Renowned Canadian artist Ken Danby is best known for his 1972 painting “At the Crease”, showing a masked hockey player. The egg tempera work hangs in reproduction in countless homes of Canadian hockey lovers. Danby’s sports paintings are among his best-loved images, among them Lacing Up and Hockey Night in Canada, a tribute to 50 years of CBC coverage of the game.

His famous sports images include The Great Farewell, painted for Wayne Gretzky when he decided to retire from playing hockey. In the 1980s, he prepared a series of watercolours on the Americas Cup and the Canadian athletes at the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo.

‘Canada’s soul and spirit’
While many Canadians connect Danby with hockey images, the artist pointed out that these images make up only a dozen images in a long painting career. The artist is renowned for his landscapes, including the 1997 painting Niagara. A retrospective at the Joseph Carrier Gallery in 2004 featured 60 paintings, many capturing Canadian scenes such as Lake Louise.

Ken Danby was born March 6, 1940, in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., and was interested in drawing from an early age. The artist enrolled at the Ontario College of Art in 1958, but quit two years later because of the college’s emphasis on abstract art. The artist spent the next three years working in art-related jobs while exploring various directions in his painting and drawing.

In 1963, Ken Danby approached gallery owner Walter Moos of Toronto to review his work, a meeting that resulted in his first one-man show at Gallery Moos in 1964. The show sold out and began a long dealer-artist relationship between Moos and Danby.

Attention of collectors
Ken Danby’s realism drew the attention of collectors and the artist had sustained commercial success throughout his extensive 43-year career.

Living and working on a sprawling 20-hectare retreat just outside Guelph, a place he called his “sanctuary”, Danby cared less about the sale of the work than the process of painting.

“The fulfilment of that painting is in its completion, not about where it goes. I don’t worry about them selling, I don’t worry about them finding a home,” Danby said.

He took five years to complete a two-metre image called Stampede, based on the annual Calgary rodeo.

“The work has to be given its fullest opportunity to be right. I often set pieces aside for months at a time, come back and see them with fresh eyes,” he said.

The Museum of Modern Art in New York, The National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, The Art Institute of Chicago, the Montreal Museum of Fine Art, the Governor General of Canada, the Vancouver Art Gallery and the City of Jerusalem are among the institutions that own Danby works.

The artist was also sought out for commissions, painting both Gordie Howe and Tim Horton, and designing an Olympic coin for the Royal Mint in 1975. Both his 1968 painting of Trudeau and his 1973 painting of Robert Stanfield graced the covers of Time magazine.

As a painter who combined realism with an abstract edge, Ken Danby has been compared with Christopher Pratt. But his subject matter wasn’t as rarefied. He painted a seedy room interior in 1971’s Motel, a youngster staring into space in Guelph Carousel and himself, hockey stick in hand, in the 1996 painting Kissing Bridge.

In 2005, a collection of his landscape paintings entitled Earth, Sky & Water showed at the Bernarducci Meisel Gallery in New York City.
Success “is very gratifying,” Danby said. “But that’s not the reason I do it. I don’t recycle a theme just because it has been popular. But it’s gratifying to be able to reach out to an audience. To have an audience is important to every artist.”

Ken Danby was a member of the governing board of the Canada Council from 1985 to 1991, a trustee of the National Gallery of Canada from 1991 to 1995 and was awarded an honorary doctorate of fine arts from Laurentian University in 1997. Danby was a member of both the Order of Ontario and the Order of Canada.

On September 23, 2007, Ken Danby collapsed from a heart attack while on a canoe trip in Algonquin Park. Friends phoned for help, but emergency workers were unable to revive him.

Danby is the second famous Canadian artist to die in Algonquin Park. Tom Thomson died on Canoe Lake at the park in July 1917.
In 2016 The Art Gallery of Hamilton mounted a major retrospective exhibition titled “Beyond the Crease” spanning four decades of Ken Danby’s remarkable career as an accomplished realist painter, watercolourist and printmaker. The exhibition was accompanied by a full colour 160 page publication.

Credits: article taken from CBC Arts, September 24, 2007

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