Ken Danby was one of only a few contemporary artists to create paintings that successfully transitioned from artwork to cultural icon. While the popularity of his work and his contributions to the arts made him famous in Canada, it was his timeless images that earned him international recognition as one of the world’s foremost realist artists of his time.
Danby’s career as an artist spanned five decades. His best known paintings are in egg tempera, a difficult and challenging medium which he used extensively during the 1960s and 1970s. Danby increasingly began using oil and acrylic duing the late 1980s, mediums which allowed him to paint much larger pieces, like the formidable 8 foot-wide “Stampede” – one of his last paintings. Throughout his entire career Danby regularly painted in watercolour, a medium which he often used to explore specific aspects or nuances of subject matter captured in his larger paintings.
Danby was also a highly skilled printmaker, creating 19 black and white lithographs and 32 colour serigraphs throughout his career, commonly in editions of 100. For his lithographs, he would draw an image with a wax-based pencil on slightly textured paper – showcasing his skills as an expert draughtsman. This was transferred to an aluminum plate and printed under his supervision. For his serigraphs, Danby would create a separate drawing on a nylon screen for each individual colour, and then apply pigment to paper in a progressive, multi-layered fashion. The process was incredibly laborious and time-intensive, but his serigraphs approached the complexity and detail of his egg tempera paintings.
Ken Danby's work has been the subject of several books, including “Ken Danby”, published by Clarke Irwin; “Danby: Images of Sport” published by MacMillan of Canada; “Ken Danby: The New Decade” published by Stoddart; and, most recently, “Ken Danby: Beyond the Crease” published by Goose Lane.
A short film, “Ken Danby: Reflections”, created by Ken’s eldest son, Sean, for the 2016-2017 Art Gallery of Hamilton retrospective.
Ken Danby speaking at the 2005 “Idea City” conference in Toronto.