Ken Danby was born in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario on March 6, 1940, the second son of Gertrude and Edison Danby. His brother, Marvin, four years his senior, displayed natural abilities and interest in creating art as a teenager, which he later set aside. Ken credits Marvin's early interest with inspiring his own. Their parents were very supportive when Ken's artistic skills expanded throughout his elementary years at Cody Public School, where he became known as "the school artist", and they soon became aware of the serious degree of his interest. When he was ten years old, in Grade Six, he informed them that he wanted to become an artist, and that a guidance teacher had advised him of a school called the Ontario College of Art, where he could study art. Eight years later, in 1958, he enrolled.
Despite certain anxieties for their son's future, Gertrude and Edison resolved to continue their support for Ken's ambitions as he was unwavering in his determination. Even when he quit the college two years later, he did so with a belief that for him, it was the right decision.
Ken then began his personal odyssey at the age of 20, to not only learn and grow independently as an artist, but to somehow support himself through his artistic abilities. It was a struggle, but he persevered through a multitude of art related jobs over the next three years, all the while nurturing his personal exploration of various directions in his painting and drawing. In 1963, after having returned to a representational focus in his work, and needing some reinforcement of his convictions in this regard, Danby arranged to review his work with gallery owner, Walter Moos, of Toronto. Moos was positive and supportive when his keen eye recognized the artist's exceptional abilities. In 1964, Gallery Moos presented Danby's first one-man show, which promptly sold out and set an example that was repeated and surpassed over many years.
So began an artist-dealer relationship that continues today - even though Gallery Moos is no longer Danby's "exclusive" representative. Over the years, Danby and Moos have presented many one-man exhibitions and the artist has participated in numerous group shows internationally. Major collectors, including private, corporate and museum collections, responded enthusiastically and the artist is today recognized internationally as one of the world's foremost realist painters - as well as being one of Canada's best known artists.
His rural property includes a grand 1856 stone mill beside the river, overlooked by the original miller's stone house, a horse stable, and a renovated barn building, which serves as an office for his publishing company. Together with his wife, and favourite model, Gillian, he enjoys the privacy of his scenic and historic surroundings which have often been reflected in his paintings.
The recipient of many awards and honours, Ken Danby continues to respond to his personal experiences with unique and creative dedication. Whenever he's asked to identify his best work, or his favourite, his answer remains the same - "my next one".
Ken Danby is one of only a few contemporary artists who have created paintings that make the transition from artwork to cultural icon. While the popularity of his work and his contributions to the arts make him a celebrity in Canada, it is his outstanding timeless images that have earned him international recognition as one of the foremost realist artists.
Where some see only an incredible attention to detail, others are aware of the artist's greater accomplishment... the presence, the life and the emotion which emanates from each meticulously composed image. Studying a Ken Danby painting is more than experiencing fine art. It is sharing in the artist's response to his own experience.
Many public institutions hold Ken Danby's originals in their collections, including The Museum of Modern Art and the Brooklyn Museum in New York, The National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, The Art Institute of Chicago, the Montreal Museum of Fine Art, Oklahoma Art Centre, The Governor General of Canada, Vancouver Art Gallery, University of California Art Gallery, The City of Jerusalem, Israel and the Bradford City Art Gallery in England.
Ken Danby is an elected member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. Among the many awards he has received are the Jessie Dow Prize, the 125th Anniversary Commemorative Medal of Canada, and spanning twenty-five years of recognition, both the Queen's Silver and Golden Jubilee Medals. He has been invested in both the Order of Ontario, and the Order of Canada, the province's and country's highest and most prestigious honours.
The Order of Canada
The Order of Canada recognizes people who have made a difference to our country. From local citizens to national and international personalities, all Canadians are eligible for the Order of Canada, our country's highest honour for lifetime achievement.
The following statement about Ken Danby is from the official Governor General's announcement:
"He is one of our nation's foremost realist painters. His images, which depict familiar and cherished Canadian themes, have earned him an international following. His work is displayed in major public collections such as those of the National Gallery of Canada, The Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Montreal Museum of Fine Art, as well as in numerous private and corporate collections. A strong advocate for the arts in education, he has championed this cause in many of his volunteer positions, including board member for national arts organizations and guest speaker."
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