Alan Caswell Collier - Autumn Warm Weather South of Barry's Bay

Alan Caswell Collier (1911-1990)

Alan Caswell Collier (1911-1990) Collier’s illustrious career saw him exhibit at various galleries both public and private across Canada.  He also executed public murals annually during the later part of his career, notably the Fourth Biennial of Canadian Art at the National Gallery in 1961. In 1977, Collier was awarded the Queen’s Jubilee Medal. From 1974 to 1976 Collier was a member of the Board of Trustees for the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Allan Caswell Collier Biography

(1911 – 1990)

Alan Caswell Collier was born in Toronto, Ontario, his interest in art began at the age of twelve. Later he entered the Ontario College of Art where he studied under J.E.H. MacDonald, Franklin Carmichael and others (1929-33). In 1934 he ‘rode the rods’ across Canada working on relief gangs seeing the country. To finance his advanced studies in New York he worked as a miner for a year and a half (1936-1937) at the Omega Gold Mine, Larder Lake. With enough money saved, he moved to NYC where he studied at ASL evenings under Howard Trafton. Summers he went back to work underground at the Omega Mine. On his return to New York in 1939 he became an advertising artist and no longer had to work at mining jobs.

In 1941 he married Ruth Brown of Brantford. In 1942 he returned to Toronto where he was a sheet metal worker for Victory Aircraft, Malton. In 1943 he joined the Canadian Army (RCA). On his return from overseas in 1946 he resumed his career as an advertising artist in Toronto but did more painting and less commercial work. In 1950, his son Ian was born. In 1951 he began working on paintings of underground mining, sketching at the Delnite Mine, Timmins. In the fol­lowing years he made trips to eight mines: McIntyre, Preston East Dome, New Calumet, Faraday, Coppercorp, Kidd Copper, Copperfield and Lamaque Mines. He was elected member of the OSA in 1952.

In 1955 he joined the staff of the OCA where he taught advertising art. In 1956 he made a three-month sketching trip to western Canada by car and travel trailer with his wife and son, a practice he followed every summer to most parts of Canada. Reviewing his work in 1961 Colin Sabiston noted, “Technically, Mr. Collier has reached a new peak of achievement, especially in his paint­ings. The drawings are in clean-cut lines, explicit and unencumbered with detail. The paintings, on the other hand, are redolent of rich color, full of the beauty any tourist may see but which only an accomplished artist can bring home with him to share with those who see his work.” In 1963 he was awarded an eight-painting commission by Standard Oil of New Jersey, to depict the landscapes along the Trans-Canada Highway. In 1967 he resigned from the staff of the OCA to devote his full-time to painting. He worked mainly in oils but also painted with water colours, pyroxilin, and acrylic polymer emulsion. In 1971 a retrospective exhibition of his paintings and drawings from 1935 to 1970 was organized by the Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa, and then shown in a number of Ontario galleries.

Two weeks of each year of 1984 and 1985 he sketched in the High Arctic as guest of Polar Continental Shelf Project. His solo shows include: Roberts Gallery, Tor. (1956) (1957) (1958) (1963) (1965) (1967) (1971) (1985) (1986) (1989); Frye Mus., Seattle, Wash., U.S.A. (1964); Kensington Gal., Calg. (1968) (1970) (1972) (1974) (1985) (1986) (1989); Robt. McL. Gal., Oshawa (retrosp., 1971); RCA, Tor. (1991). He was a mbr. of: OSA (1952) Pres. (1958-61); ARCA (1956) RCA (1960); ALCT; Art Inst. of Ont. His commissions include: mural, Ryerson Polytech. Inst., Tor. (1958); mural, Bank of Canada, Tor. (1959); 2nd mural, Ryerson Polytech. Inst. (1962); His painting Across the Tundra (Kluane National Park scene) was reproduced on 1979 Canada Post $2 stamp. Is represented in: NGC, Ott.; AGO, Tor.; Art Mus. of Lond.; Hamilton AG; K-W AG, Kitch., Ont.; Sarnia PL & AG; Queen’s Park, Tor.; McL. Gal., Oshawa; Tom T. AG, Owen Sound, Ont.; AG of Algoma, Sault Ste. Marie; AG Lindsay; Peterb. AG; Arts & Culture Centre, St. John’s Nfld.; Frye Mus., Seattle, Wash.; Min. Ext. Affairs, Ott.; Min. Transp., Ott.; SGWG, Concordia U., Mtl.; Laurentian U., Sudbury; CIL, Mtl.; Seagram, Mtl.; Tor. Gen. Trust; T-D Bank, Tor.; Royal Bank, Tor.; Royal Trust, Tor. Two paintings by him in NGC are Ore Car on the 2875 foot Level, Delnite Mine (1951), a dramatic composition, and The Guitar Player (Allan Fleming) (c. 1958) a sensitive work; the AGO has his The Land that Listens (1963), a marvellous vista of mountains; The McLaughlin Gallery owns his Nude Back, a fine example of his figure work done directly from the model with no preliminary sketches. Queen’s Park has his Mining in Ontario (1968) which combines above and below views of an Ontario mine using realism and abstraction with an imaginative and cohesive result. He also did four portraits which are in the Ontario Government collection. Collier’s paintings are free of clutter and are masterful in composition. Many of his paintings were done with oils on masonite. His portraits included business and educational personalities. He considered his finest portrait to be that of his wife Ruth. He died in Toronto at the age of 79. He was survived by his wife, his son, brothers, Dr. Bruce Collier of Edmonton and Edward of Richmond Hill and their families.

Colin S. MacDonald

A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, volumes 1-8 by Colin S. MacDonald, and volume 9 (online only), by Anne Newlands and Judith Parker

National Gallery of Canada / Musée des beaux-arts du Canada

“Personally, I consider abstract painters conventional. The real rebel today is the man who paints a tree to look like a tree.” Alan Collier