David Milne

About the Artist

David Milne was born in the small town of Burgoyne, in Ontario’s Bruce County, in 1882. The youngest of ten children, he started  drawingDepiction of shapes and forms on a surface chiefly by means of lines. Colour and shading may be included. A major fine art technique in itself, drawing is the basis of all pictorial representation, and an early step in most art activities. Though an integral part of most painting, drawing is generally differentiated from painting by the dominance of line over mass. There are many sorts of drawing techniques, varying according to the effect the artist wants, and depending on whether the drawing is an end in itself — an independent and finished work of art -- or a preliminary to some other medium or form — although distinct from the final product, such drawings also have intrinsic artistic value. Preliminary drawings include various exercises (e.g., contour drawing, gesture drawing, figure drawing, drawing from the flat), as well as sketches and studies, cartoons and underdrawings. (Artlex.com)  before he began kindergarten. Ironically, Milne later noted that drawing was the only subject he ever failed in elementary school. “Perspective and copying never seemed interesting,” he recalled. (Lochnan, 2005)

Milne’s high school principal considered him to be the most accomplished student he had seen in 40 years. Milne was particularly interested in botany, and he constantly made drawings of plants and flowers. After graduating from high school he spent three years as a country school teacher, but his interest in art persisted. He took a correspondence art course and experimented with photography.

In 1903 Milne traveled to New York City to pursue a career as a painter. He studied at the Art Students League for three years, attended lectures and visited galleries, supporting himself as a  commercialPertaining to making money, i.e., creating art in order to sell it, rather than creating art for purely aesthetic purposes.  artist. While he struggled to make a living, Milne’s determination to be a painter was solidified when he viewed the works of the European  modernistModernism is an art movement characterized by the deliberate departure from tradition and the use of innovative forms of expression that distinguish many styles in the arts and literature of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  painters at the galleries, particularly at Alfred Stieglitz’s Gallery 291.

Reflecting later on the work he saw there, Milne wrote, “In those little rooms under the skylights, we met Cezanne, van Gogh, Gauguin, Picasso, Brancusi. For the first time we saw courage and imagination, bare, not sweetened by sentiment and smothered in technical skill.” (Newlands, p. 218)

In 1916 Milne and his wife Patsy moved to the small community of Boston Corners in upstate New York, where his work achieved a new kind of power. Rural living suited him, and over the course of his career he gradually moved away from the business side of the artist’s practice.

In 1917, Milne joined the Canadian Army, and in May 1919, he received a  commissionA contract between an artist and an individual. The artist agrees to create an image or design for the individual for a predetermined price.  from the Canadian War Memorials Fund to record the aftermath of the war in Europe. He returned to the United States in late 1919, where he continued to live until the spring of 1929, when he moved back to Canada. (Newlands, 2000)

Milne separated from his wife in 1933 and from then on lived and painted at various locations around Ontario, including Palgrave, north and west of Toronto. He eventually settled at Baptiste Lake in the Canadian Shield country in central Ontario.

Milne continued to paint until his death in 1953. Although he spent half his career in the United States, and received much adulation in New York compared to his slow acceptance in Canada, Milne was a Canadian nationalist and a monarchist.
 
Approximately half of Milne’s paintings are watercolours and half are oils. In  contrastA large difference between two things. It is a technique often used to create a focal point.  to the  landscapeA painting, photograph or other work of art which depicts scenery such as mountains, valleys, trees, rivers and forests. There is invariably some sky in the scene. (Artlex.com) Landscape is also a term that may also refer simply to a horizontally-oriented rectangle, just as a vertically-oriented one may be said to be oriented the portrait way. (Artlex.com)   paintingWorks of art made with paint on a surface. Often the surface, also called a support, is either a tightly stretched piece of canvas or a panel. How the ground (on which paint is applied) is prepared on the support depends greatly on the type of paint to be used. Paintings are usually intended to be placed in frames, and exhibited on walls, but there have been plenty of exceptions. Also, the act of painting, which may involve a wide range of techniques and materials, along with the artist's other concerns which effect the content of a work. (Artlex.com)  of his contemporaries, the Group of Seven, Milne’s images were far more  abstractImagery which departs from representational accuracy, to a variable range of possible degrees. Abstract artists select and then exaggerate or simplify the forms suggested by the world around them.  (Artlex.com)  and his sense of place was tempered by his belief that a picture should have its own  aestheticPertaining to a sense of the beautiful or to the science of aesthetics.  unity, rather than being tied to the details of a particular location. Harold Town, an artist from a later generation, admiringly called Milne the “Master of Absence” for his ability to reduce a  paintingWorks of art made with paint on a surface. Often the surface, also called a support, is either a tightly stretched piece of canvas or a panel. How the ground (on which paint is applied) is prepared on the support depends greatly on the type of paint to be used. Paintings are usually intended to be placed in frames, and exhibited on walls, but there have been plenty of exceptions. Also, the act of painting, which may involve a wide range of techniques and materials, along with the artist's other concerns which effect the content of a work. (Artlex.com)  to its essentials. (Silcox, Canadian Encyclopedia)


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