Did you know… Norfolk County Heritage & Culture reminds us in 1976, the Lynnwood Arts Centre (now Norfolk Arts Centre) received a substantial gift from the Audrey S. Hellyer Charitable Foundation to purchase a major work by Canadian artist Alex Colville. The funds were matched with a grant from Wintario and thus the Centre was able to purchase Colville’s 1970 painting May Day.
In her press release announcing the purchase, Curator, Ellen McIntosh-Green stated that the painting, “will be the most important work in Lynnwood’s permanent collection to date.” At that time, the Centre was just two years old but even now, over 40 years later, the Colville piece is still a key piece in the Norfolk Art Gallery’s collection.
The painting was purchased from Fischer Fine Art of London, England. Ann Colville, Alex Colville’s daughter worked at Fischer at the time. In a letter to Ellen McIntosh – Green, Ann wrote, “I am delighted to hear that your museum has decided to acquire the Alex Colville “May Day” for its collection – I know that my father will be very pleased as well.”
Ann Colville was actually the model for the painting. Ann who was then 21 years old, is shown leaning against a yellow Volkswagen. In the background is the dense Nova Scotia forest. As is typical of many Colville works, this seemingly ordinary subject is imbued with a slightly eerie and unsettling quality. It is difficult to tell what the young woman is thinking. Is she simply lost in thought or bored or upset? Why is she in this isolated location? Even the title is ambiguous. May 1st or May Day both a traditional Spring Celebration and International Workers Day. Of course mayday, is also a cry for help.
The work has been an ambassador for the Norfolk Arts Centre. It has been a part of numerous exhibitions both nationally and internationally. Most recently, it was featured in the 2014 Art Gallery of Ontario and National Gallery of Canada’s Alex Colville retrospective.
Image copyright A.C. Fine Art Inc.