1936 - 2014 RCA
Tucked away in an internet café, with the hum and sizzle of a Spanish city outside, Robert Genn sat down to write his first letter to artists. This would become the first of many letters read by thousands twice a week, from 1997 until his death in 2014, which are now archived here. Robert Genn emphasized the artist's existence as one of perpetual studenthood, dedicated to lifelong learning, joy, frustration, and curiosity. His work was mainly grounded in the world around him, taking inspiration from the glorious and awe-inspiring Canadian west coast. He attended art schools in British Columbia and Los Angeles, where he developed his renderings of Canadian landscapes before going on to become a professional artist shortly thereafter. He worked briefly in advertising, but found his call to painting too great to ignore.
As a child, Genn had already established himself as an artist. By three years old, he was completing sketches of things he observed. Robert Genn developed into a painter in his teenage years and went on to paint alongside his university studies. A professor had encouraged him to apply to the Art Centre School in Los Angeles, where Genn studied Industrial Design. While he did not complete the course, he returned to Canada with a greater artistic fervor than that which he had left with. Genn had an innate curiosity for the world around him and how it functioned, and these observations are found in every canvas in his oeuvre. In each painting, he endeavored to explore deeper truths about his subject matter rather than solely focusing on its material reality.
When it came to painting, Robert Genn never slowed down. The artist continued to paint later in life, even as he took up teaching. Genn would take students in a helicopter around British Columbia to inspire aerial landscape scenes. A session he taught at the Hollyhock Centre for lifelong learning in British Columbia saw Genn meet people from all walks of life, this time on land.
Travel was immensely important to Genn, as evidenced in his paintings depicting locations from his trips. While vacationing in Pont Aven, Brittany, Robert realized he had painted the same location Gaughin had depicted centuries before while living there with Van Gogh. Moreover, they had both added a young girl to the composition. Robert Genn's revelation prompted a new hobby for the artist: retracing the steps of other artistic giants that had come before him. Recently, Bill Mayberry and Randolph Parker completed a similar endeavor tracing the steps of W.J Phillips, which you can read about here.
Robert Genn would paint en plein air or in his studio in British Columbia. He was inspired by the Canadian landscape painters Tom Thomson and Emily Carr (among others) and their influence is clear in his paintings. His work hopes to intrigue the viewer, providing "enough to indicate the nature of what we're looking at." He is a master of light, often effortlessly balancing the deep shadows that bounce off elements in his paintings with light coming from gentle skies. His landscapes were varied, from nautical to pastoral, though most featured the forests and mountain ranges of Canada.