Collecting our Thoughts: The Walker

Beaverbrook Art GalleryMarch 21, 20170 Comments

Born in Great Britain, John Clark (1943-1989) was a significant Canadian artist who re-invigorated a cross between figuration, narration and modernist formalism. His works are in nearly every major Canadian public collection including the NGC, AGO and VAG. His work is chronicled in all art historical accounts of art in Canada of the late 20th Century. A solo exhibition of his work was organized by and presented at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in 2015 by guest curator and then-soon-to-be Senior Curator, Jeffrey Spalding.

Late in life Clark was a principal instructor at the University of Lethbridge. There, he was overwhelmed by the austere contrasts of the coulee landscape along the Oldman River. Simultaneously, he was inspired by the colour, pageantry and spiritual intensity of traditional First Nations Art, which lead to an outpouring of intense invention. The Walker, 1987 is an imposing work of considerable scale and colour vibrance—and it is widely regarded by art historians as his crowning achievement. In this piece, a huge male figure walks naked through nature pitted against the unmistakable image of the Lethbridge Trestle rail bridge. The attempts to conjoin figuration and the modernism of such notables as Matisse and his Red Studio are evident points of departure.


Collecting our thoughts is an occasional series of short reflections on works in the Beaverbrook Art Gallery’s permanent collection. We want to share some of the treasures we have in the building (and on display) with our guests and members of our community, and tell you a little about why we think they’re special – and hopefully you’ll agree!

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