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Art General

Painting Place

The Life and Work of David B. Milne

by (author) David P. Silcox

University of Toronto Press
Initial publish date
Mar 2021
General, General, Artists, Architects, Photographers
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Nov 1996
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2021
    List Price
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Oct 1996
    List Price

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This lavishly illustrated study tells the remarkable story of the work of one of Canada's great artists. David B. Milne (1882–1953) left rural Ontario for New York City in 1903. After training at the Art Students' League, he emerged as an exceptional modernist, one of the "American extremists" whose work was well-represented at the famous 1913 Armory Show and won a major prize at the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition. Milne's studio at 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue was a regular forum for artists to debate art and aesthetics.


In 1916 Milne moved to Boston Corners, in upstate New York, devoting his whole time to painting. As he wandered over the years to the deserted battlefields of France and Belgium, to the Adirondacks, then back to Canada – Temagami, Palgrave, Muskoka, Toronto, Uxbridge, and Baptiste Lake – his work continued to evolve and change. Critics and other artists hailed him as one of the most original, intelligent, and innovative artists in Canada. His work is in the British Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, and public galleries in Canada.


Silcox's biography, based on many years of research for the Milne Catalogue Raisonné, has been described as "a near-perfect dialectic between biography and aesthetic analysis."It stands both as a definitive study of Milne and as a model for future biographies of Canadian artists.


This gorgeous book, in a large format with 190 images in colour and 240 black-and-white illustrations throughout, will astonish and delight all those interested in art history, and in the life of a unique individual.

About the author

David P. Silcox, former managing director of Sotheby's Canada, is an art historian, a cultural administrator, and a senior fellow at Massey College.

David P. Silcox's profile page

Editorial Reviews

'Refreshingly reveals a fundamental artistic truth: an artists' quarter ultimately is the artist's quarter. It can be in Palgrave, Ont., where Milne lived for a time, as surely as it can be in the more glamorous locales of Paris or New York.'

Ottawa Citizen

'Lucid, thought-provoking and a rewarding read.'

The Vancouver Sun

'It is learned and it wears its learning lightly. It is fascinating because it opens up the world view of a challenging artist who was well-read in literature and well-versed in art, yet who created an unmistakably unique body of excellent work. ... Painting Place is a magnificent contribution.'

Queen's Quarterly

'The measure of this volume's value to both the general public and the critical evaluation of Milne's work is found in the exhaustive chronological narratives of the artist's biography and the evolution of his style and technique.'

Books in Canada

'Without question the most significant art book of 1996 is David Silcox's Painting Place. ... [It] pays homage to the artist many consider the greatest this country has spawned.'

Toronto Star

'The thick hardcover homage alternates between informed art criticism and a biographical narrative that braids together testimonial, personal letters and convincing speculation about this rabidly focused recluse. All this is punctuated by exceptional colour reproductions.'


'This book, like Milne's art, will stand the test of time.'

Victoria Times-Colonist

'I started reading this biography and could not put it down. Silcox quotes liberally from the artist's, and Patsy Milne's (his wife), writings. What emerges from the page is not just the story of a man and his work but also the story of the dreams and the ambitions of all those who loved and respected him. The jealousy, pettiness, and mistreatment by collectors and other artists is brought to light.'

The Kingston Whig-Standard

'Painting Place fills in a huge gap in Canadian art history.'

Quill and Quire

'The book is a splendid thing - handsomely designed, generously scaled, attractively printed and replete with 175 finely wrought colour illustrations and 225 black-and-white ones, which are positioned, miraculously, right where you want them when you are working your way through the text.'

Globe and Mail

'This handsome biography has abundant reproductions, beautifully laid out. It requires intense looking as well as reading. Ample margins let the watercolors and oils declare their own life. Silcox has performed the feat of delighting the eye and engaging the intellect. "A poem should be like a painting," says Horace. So should a biography. And so this is.'

The Financial Post

'Good descriptions of stylistic development and telling references to past and future works are supported with more than 400 illustrations.'

Toronto Star

'But Milne's art, intimate, yet grand, is there - more than ever now with the help of Silcox - for those with eyes to see. Truly great pictures, like Flooded Shaft of 1929, with its fluctuating shapes, stand as a testament to Milne's prominent place - somewhere between Matisse, Bonnard, and Klee - in the art firmament. Silcox's big book makes a strong case for Milne. Yet for more than a few art lovers, the truth has been out for a while; Milne was - and is - Canada's greatest artist.'

Montreal Gazette

Other titles by David P. Silcox