The Art Gallery of Hamilton is gearing up for a spike in visitors seeking out Alex Colville's signature painting, Horse and Train.
The haunting masterwork depicting a dark horse galloping along a lonely track toward an oncoming train is featured in a cavernous room in the AGH, along with a collection of sketches, photographs and other related artifacts associated with the painting.
"We put this exhibit together as a tribute to the painting, but now it is a tribute to the artist, to the man," said Tobi Bruce, senior curator of Canadian Historical Art.
Colville died on Tuesday from a heart condition at his home in Wolfville, N.S. He was 92.
The gallery is also anticipating that Colville's passing and the increased profile of his work will translate into more requests for the painting to be lend out.
But she says the work, already one of the most highly sought after pieces in the Canadian art world, will continue to be exhibited in Hamilton for the 'foreseeable future."
She told the CBC that Horse and Train has long been the AGH's most requested work, but it is rarely lent out to other institutions.
"We're very hesitant to loan it out. It's like our Mona Lisa. It's a calling card for people, so now that we've installed it permanently there'd have to be a very, very good cause for us to lend it to another exhibit."
Inspired by a poem
Colville painted Horse and Train in 1954. It was inspired by a couplet in a poem written by the South African poet, Roy Campbell in 1949:
"Against a regiment I oppose a brain, And a dark horse against an armoured train."
In 1957, Colville submitted the painting to an annual month-long exhibition at the AGH. A jury of three artists recommended to Thomas MacDonald, then director of the gallery, that it be purchased.
Bruce said Colville's painting and its "dark feel…wasn't a popular choice" initially, but in the ensuing years people have "come from far and away to see it."
Horse and Train, which was famously featured in Stanley Kubrick's creepy psychological thriller 'The Shining' and on the cover of erstwhile Canadian rocker's 1973 album, 'Night Vision,' has been on permanent display at the AGH since last year.
Bruce said that gallery-goers are enchanted with Horse and Train's tension between the known and unknown.
Colville's paintings "open questions. They present situations where there is something just slightly amiss. You have to spend time thinking about them. It stays in the imagination, it stays with you. And I think that's the legacy that Colville leaves us."