Saint John painter Fred Ross is being remembered as one of New Brunswick's most important artists.

Saint John artist Fred Ross

Saint John painter Fred Ross is being remembered as a seminal figure in Canadian art. (CBC)

Ross, who was best known for his portraits and murals, died on Tuesday morning. He was 87.

Premier David Alward issued a statement, referring to Ross as a "seminal figure in Canadian art" and "internationally renowned."

"His work is an inspiration to New Brunswickers and Canadians alike," said Alward.

"His passion and art are a lasting legacy, one that will endure for decades to come."

Rothesay artist Carol Taylor was an early student of Ross's at Vocational School in Saint John.

"I'm sure that if I hadn't gone to VOC with Fred and Ted Campbell, I'm not sure what I would be doing," Taylor told CBC News.

"It was really important, that whole time," she said.

Ross was a mentor to countless young artists, says Bernard Cormier, Saint John's cultural affairs officer and a long-time friend.

"He did not frown on them in any way. He actually welcomed them and helped them and gave them advice," said Cormier.

"And you know, I think that's probably one of his greatest accomplishments too, in addition to the many artworks that hang in galleries and private homes across Canada and elsewhere."

Ross began his art studies under Ted Campbell at the Saint John Vocational School and continued them in Mexico.

He taught art at Vocational School from the early 1950s until 1970, when he resigned as head of the art department to focus on painting full-time.

Ross was inducted into the Order of Canada in 2004, when he was praised for his contribution to the "rich social realist tradition of Saint John artists with his vision of Atlantic Canada and its people."

He was also inducted into the Order of New Brunswick in 2008 for his "numerous achievements and immense contribution to New Brunswick’s cultural identity and to the province and Canada's art world."

His work has been displayed at the National Gallery in Ottawa and he was the first New Brunswicker to have an exhibit in the art gallery of the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C.

It was his 1993 Beaverbrook Art Gallery retrospective, The Art of Fred Ross — A Timeless Humanism that secured his reputation nationally.

A funeral will be held on Saturday at 11 a.m. at Trinity Church in Saint John.