Lot 39
  • 39

David Alexander Colville b. 1920

250,000 - 350,000 CAD
290,000 CAD
bidding is closed


  • David Alexander Colville
  • Cattle Show
  • signed and dated 1955 lower right; signed, titled and dated on the reverse
  • oil on board


Hewitt Gallery, New York

Private Collection, New York


Alex Colville, Hewitt Gallery, New York, 1955

15 Canadian Artists, Museum of Modern Art, New York, July 25 - 7 Sept. 1964, cat. no. 63.1482

15 Canadian Artists, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, lent by MoMA, cat. no. L64.426.8


David Burnett, Colville, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, 1983, p. 175, reproduced

Helen Dow, The Art of Alex Colville, Toronto, 1972, p. 144, reproduced

Evan H. Turner and William Withrow, Fifteen Canadian artists, New York, 1964, p. 25, reproduced

Catalogue Note

The domestic life of the Acadian region of Nova Scotia has been Colville's subject for his paintings for nearly his whole life. This has ranged from very personal images of himself and his wife in their house, children at play, family and community recreation (canoeing, swimming, walking, or hunting), the local activities of sulky racing or the municipal business of paving highways in summer, ploughing them in winter, and cycling or driving along them. The animals in his life have also been a focus of his attention, from sheep dogs to beagles, and labradors to terriers, to cats, horses, and cattle.

The local agricultural fair provided the inspiration for Cattle Show, and Colville has composed his painting of it with considerable care, as is his usual practice. The composition would have been broken down into a number of rectangles and circles, with ratios and proportions rigourously pondered over, detailed drawings made of each figure, to establish the pose and scale that he wanted to convey.

The result is this frozen moment in time that comes to us as what we might at first take as a snapshot but which, when we pause and look more closely, is a sort of epiphany. The colours are muted, and not really 'real'; the three contestants have been caught in stasis; the judge likewise has been trapped by the camera of the mind in the midst of his work; the frame of the arena floor and the encircling board fence with the stands behind it; all these are suspended in a kind of airless space. As viewers, we are invited to enter the trance that may have been experienced by the artist when he was seized by this simple but strangely moving scene.