Alex Colville: The Observer Observed


140 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Bibliography
ISBN 1-55022-206-6
DDC 759.11





Reviewed by Patricia Morley

Patricia Morley is professor emerita of English and Canadian studies at
Concordia University, Japan Foundation Fellow 1991-92, and the author of
Margaret Laurence: The Long Journey Home and As Though Life Mattered:
Leo Kennedy’s Story.


This concise study of the life and work of painter Alex Colville draws
heavily on the pioneering work of David Burnett’s Colville (1983).
Mark Cheetham, professor of visual arts at the University of Western
Ontario, also uses articles, interviews, and his own correspondence with
the artist. Generously illustrated with black-and-white photographs of
major paintings, his study includes a chronology and a relatively short
bibliography. References are minimal. The chronology includes the
acquisition and deaths of pets, an acknowledgement of the major role
played by animals in Colville’s work.

Colville’s success has naturally attracted critics as well as fans.
Some find his work emotionally cold and overly precise, even misogynic.
(The latter charge continues to baffle the painter.) Cheetham notes that
art for Colville means communication: he affirms what he sees as
positive in life and presents moral arguments. Colville would like his
work to be enjoyed by ordinary people, and strongly believes that
ordinary things are important. An extended essay rather than a
full-scale biography, The Observer Observed is a good introduction to
the painter.


Cheetham, Mark A., “Alex Colville: The Observer Observed,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 16, 2024,