The road trip is a favourite Canadian pastime, and, in this exhibition, we travel coast-to-coast-to-coast with Alan Caswell Collier (1911–1990) to celebrate Canada’s sesquicentennial.
Beginning in 1956, as the Trans-Canada was under construction, Collier committed himself to painting and photographing Canada’s diverse geography on summer trips taken with his family, often by car and camping trailer. By the end of his career, he had depicted every province and territory numerous times, capturing the unique nuances of Canada’s natural beauty in spare form and layered colour. While the romance of rail clung to preceding generations of Canadian artists, Collier embraced the road at a time of unprecedented economic growth, automobile production, and highway expansion. He described himself as “a long-time believer in the Canadian landscape”—something worthy of painting, experiencing and protecting—and he approached it from a unique perspective. Not only did Collier study at Toronto’s Ontario College of Art and New York’s Art Students League, he had, in the first decades of his adult life, worked as a labourer on the land in a BC relief camp constructing national roads and in northern Ontario gold mines extracting resources.