________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 19 . . . . May 26, 2006


David Milne: An Introduction to his Life and Art.

David P. Silcox.
Richmond Hill, ON: Firefly Books, 2005.
64 pp., pbk. & cl., $16.95 (pbk.), $24.95 (cl.).
ISBN 1-55297-755-2 (pbk.), ISBN1-55297-756-0 (cl.).

Subject Headings:
Milne, David, 1882-1953.

Grades 9 and up / Ages 14 and up.

Review by Lee Anne Smith.

**** /4


David Milne (1882-1953) was, according to America 's foremost art critic, Clement Greenberg, among the three greatest artists of their generation in North America . Milne's highly original paintings from his early career in New York City earned him critical acclaim, acceptance in the famous Amory Show of 1913 in New York, and a silver medal in the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. At age sixty-five, Milne was still considered, by curators and other artists, as Canada 's most innovative artist. This richly illustrated book covers Milne's art and life at every stage of his illustrious, and often difficult, career. (From back cover blurb.)


David Milne: An Introduction to his Life and Art chronicles the life of Canadian painter David Milne who spent the first 25 years of his professional career in the United States before returning to Canada after WW II.

     The book is neatly divided into the major periods of his life:

     Beginning of career in New York City

     Moving to rural upstate New York

     His service in the Canadian Armed Forces during WWI

     Life in Canada

     Acceptance and recognition during his final years.

     Milne was completely devoted to his art, often enduring hardship and poverty. Along with weathering the Great Depression, as an artist, Milne suffered when art collectors chronically underpaid him. The stress of such a life resulted in the end of his first marriage. Inspired by the writings of American philosopher Henry David Thoreau, Milne's life was simple, and he spent much of his time outside of urban society; camping, building his own Spartan cabins, gardening for his food and, of course, painting or sketching.

     David Milne was a contemporary of the widely known Group of Seven artists; however, when asked if he was a member of the Group of Seven, Milne replied he was a Group of One. His technical proficiency in oil and colour dry-point techniques was incredibly skillful although critics find his watercolours to be his most important and stunning work.

     Milne's subjects were primarily landscapes and buildings located in the areas in which he lived, but he also painted still life portraits, and, at the end of his life, he created a series of magical fantasies in watercolour that were inspired by children's paintings. These whimsical, voluptuous images were a heady and colourful departure from his previously more austere and stylized landscapes.

     At 64 pages, this modest but well designed paperback provides concise, straightforward information about the artist, his life, and to a lesser degree, the subjects and techniques of his work. The 40 illustrations are beautifully reproduced and are well laid out on each page with sufficient white space around them so that we may fully appreciate Milne's refined composition and palette. Brush strokes and the grain of the paper of the paintings are apparent; almost as though you are looking at the paintings themselves. Also included are 10 black and white photographs of the artist, corresponding to the different stages of his life and career, ranging from boyhood to the end of his life.

     The author, David Silcox, has completed several books about Milne and has done a handsome job of distilling his knowledge and appreciation for the artistic genius of Milne into an introductory format suitable for secondary school and adult collections. The selected bibliography provides resources for those compelled to do further research.

Highly Recommended.

Lee Anne Smith is a youth services librarian and Head of the Cambie Branch for Richmond Public Library in Richmond, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
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