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The Early Years: Clyfford Still in Canada, 1920–33
January 17, 2020 - April 26, 2020
Situated in the Museum’s first 3 galleries, The Early Years illustrates the early development and legacy of Still’s artistic practices in two distinctive geographical settings in Alberta. The exhibition concludes with Still’s later abstractions.
Situated in the Museum’s first three galleries, The Early Years: Clyfford Still in Canada, 1920–33 illustrates the early development and legacy of Still’s artistic practices in two distinctive geographical settings, Bow Island (1920–25) and Killam, Alberta (1925–33).
Nearly all of Still’s work from Bow Island, aside from portraits, represents the area’s seasonal prairie environment. Severe droughts, harsh winters and abrupt shifts in weather conditions were typical in this inhospitable dry belt. Allusions to these hardships, however, are notably absent from Still’s sunny Bow Island landscapes, sketches of plants and animals, and atmospheric color studies.
In 1925, Still’s family moved 230 miles north to Killam, Alberta, where farming conditions were more promising. Like his practice in Bow Island, Still’s Killam paintings and drawings concentrate on the landscape around the family farm. However, his interest in this subject shifted after the move north. In his Killam works, grain elevators and other structures are treated as shafts of atmospheric colored light penetrating long, horizontal stretches of sky. Still also begins to brighten his color palette, focus his railroad imagery more on the grain trading economy, and depict the labor of human figures.
The exhibition concludes with some of Still’s later, mature abstractions, which Still emphasized, “have nothing to do with the prairie.”