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Montreal artist John Little's street scenes are steeped in nostalgia*

Montreal artist John Little's street scenes are steeped in nostalgia*

"He prefers to let his canvases speak for themselves,” says art dealer Alan Klinkhoff, who is about to open a rare Little exhibition at his Montreal gallery — the first public show the 89-year-old artist has consented to in nearly 40 years. The Miriam Foundation is proud to have Little’s generous support and participation in our Art Auction for Autism.

(Article en Anglais seulement) 

"He prefers to let his canvases speak for themselves,” says art dealer Alan Klinkhoff, who is about to open a rare Little exhibition at his Montreal gallery — the first public show the 89-year-old artist has consented to in nearly 40 years. The Miriam Foundation is proud to count on John Little’s generous support and participation in the Art Auction for Autism.  

John Little in 1994. COURTESY OF ALAN KLINKHOFF GALLERY John Little in 1994. COURTESY OF ALAN KLINKHOFF GALLERY 

Born in Montreal in 1928, Little grew up in the Town of Mount Royal, where he still lives. His lifelong love of sports fueled an ambition to play for the Canadiens, but a stronger talent for drawing took him down a path that bypassed the Forum and led to the Art Association of Montreal (now Montreal Museum of Fine Arts), where he studied under three of Canada’s most venerated painters — Arthur Lismer, Anne Savage and Goodridge Roberts.

John Little has always kept a low public profile — for decades he has been one of the more reluctant stars of Montreal’s art community.Throughout his 65-year career, the modest, self-effacing painter has refused to grant interviews or allow reproductions of his work to be published. Instead, he has been rendering Montreal’s urban landscape in a signature style that blends nostalgic whimsy with gritty realism.

There are no blue skies or sunny suburban parks in Little’s work. His favourite subjects are the bleak, wintery corners and side streets of working-class neighbourhoods, complete with slushy sidewalks, old cars and those tin soft-drink signs that once adorned every casse-croute and dépanneur in the city. From the Plateau and Golden Square Mile to old Griffintown and Pointe St. Charles, Little combines his skills as a draughtsman with a mastery of impressionist and photo-realist techniques to evoke a bygone era, all with a keen eye for architectural detail.

John Little, 1965: Faubourg à m'lasse, Dorion Street. Pickup hockey games are a familiar theme, serving as bittersweet reminders of the back lanes and vacant lots that have since disappeared. COURTESY OF ALAN KLINKHOFF GALLERY

His few figures — usually random passersby wandering into the frame — are often rendered with just a few deft brushstrokes. They appear both timeless and indigenous, seemingly as much a part of the street or lane as the weathered trees and old buildings themselves.

Klinkhoff sees Little’s nostalgic images of Montreal as an allegory for what is happening in all big cities, as construction crews move in to replace the charming old quartiers with modern condos and sleek office buildings. Little himself addressed this as far back as 1961, in a Maclean’s magazine piece lamenting the rapid decline of Montreal’s old-fashioned character. “There is so much in this city worth preserving,” he wrote. “If we knock down all our old buildings and neighbourhoods, we’ll become a people without a past.”

* Retrieved from The Montreal Gazette, WAYNE LARSEN, Published on: November 1, 2017 | Last Updated: November 1, 2017 5:39 PM EDT (http://montrealgazette.com/entertainment/local-arts/montreal-artist-john-littles-street-scenes-are-steeped-in-nostalgia)

AT A GLANCE
John Little: City Life From 1951, 
Nov. 4-18 at the Alan Klinkhoff Gallery
1448 Sherbrooke St. W.,
Nov. 23 to Dec. 9 at the Alan Klinkhoff Gallery
113 Yorkville Ave., Toronto
www.klinkhoff.cainfo@klinkhoff.ca

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