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Illingworth Kerr, prairie painter

The Story


Known for his vivid portrayal of western landscape, Illingworth (Buck) Kerr is considered the first professional artist native-born in the prairies. A contemporary of the Group of Seven painters, Kerr studied alongside Arthur Lismer, J.E.H. MacDonald and Frederick Varley at Ontario College of Art in Toronto. Kerr talks about his love of the prairies and the colour purple with Peter Gzowski in this CBC Radio excerpt. Often described as a regional western artist, Kerr's heavily painted canvases and long curving brush strokes have made him a pioneer in the development of visual arts in Alberta. 

Medium: Radio
Program: Morningside
Broadcast Date: May 8, 1985
Guest: Illingworth Kerr
Host: Peter Gzowski
Duration: 14:08

Did You know?


• Illingworth Holey Kerr was born on Aug. 20, 1905, in Lumsden, Sask. He died in Calgary on Jan. 6, 1989.

• Kerr studied at Westminster School of Art in London, England, and taught at the Vancouver School of Art from 1945-1947. In 1947, he became the head of the art department of the Provincial Institute of Technology in Calgary.

• Kerr was also an accomplished author. He wrote short stories for Scotland's Blackwood's magazine in the early 1930s. Gay Dogs and Dark Horses (1946), his illustrated book of stories about life on the prairies, was shortlisted for the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour. His autobiography, Paint and Circumstance, was published in 1987.

• At age 83, Kerr suffered a stroke which impaired his vision.

• Kerr was named to the Order of Canada in 1983.

• Kerr's paintings can be viewed all across Canada including the National Gallery of Canada, the Glenbow-Alberta Institute, Alberta College of Art and the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Ontario.


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