Claire Connolly, Assistant Manager Arts on King and Queen, describes Keith's work as 'Ontario, rugged landscape at it’s best'.
Keith Cornell was raised in the small town of
Uxbridge, Ontario. His father died during the war when Keith was very young,
leaving his mother to raise him alongside his two brothers. Growing up in this quaint
little town tucked beside farmland and beautiful forests, Keith would begin his
life work painting everything around him.
He recounts time and again a solid memory he
has a very young boy. The Canadian artist David Milne had set up his easel to
paint a scene in Keith’s neighbourhood, and the boy watched with fascination as
the artist worked plein air. The affect of this experience is timeless. Keith
did not pick up the brush and start painting right away, but that time was
Late Afternoon Go Home Bay
During his high school years, Keith met his
future wife, Karen.For his
sixteenth birthday, she gave him a lovely box set of paints. Although he
remembers there was no particular rhyme or reason for this gift – one wonders
if she didn’t already see the artist in Keith. Remembering fondly his memory as
a young child, Keith took the paints and set up in the exact location where
David Milne had painted so many years before, recreating the same scene. The
Keith studied at the Ontario College of Art
and graduated from York University’s Fine Art Department. He went on to teach
art for the next 34 years including 20 years as the Head of the
Art Department at Woburn Collegiate in Scarborough. Retirement led to a full
time career dedicating himself to his paintings. He jokes, ‘that is when I
really started to go to work’.
Keith’s work consists of all original works
of art, which began on location by exploring the many different Ontario
landscapes. During his travels, when he spots a place of interest that has
inspired him, he stops and begins right away by sketching and then painting.
His work is very in the moment and by immersing himself in the landscape around
him, this artist uses the paint to communicate his feelings about the beauty of
the place at that exact point in time.
His work depicts Ontario in its vast and
scenic collections of farmland, forests, rivers, and lakes. His style may
change as he responds to the subject before him, and still the exceptional
quality is always present. His work has been described as warm, emotional and
classic, yet with a modern edge. Keith recalls a large collection he painted of
the Madawaska Valley that went on display at Arts on Queen in Toronto. The
curator called to say that a collector was purchasing all twenty-two pieces as
a surprise for his wife who was from the area. A tipping point in Keith’s
career, his pieces were touching people.
Keith speaks of delivering a message to the
viewer as he captures the nostalgic in the Ontario landscapes. While I look at his
work, I am reminded of times as a child when my family would drive into the
country to visit my grandmother. As we left the city, we noticed the wide-open
spaces, the large quietness and the splendor in nature’s colours. If there is a
message to be delivered it may be by way of an invitation; it may be that
Ontario truly is ‘Yours to Discover’.