Artwork by Louis de Niverville,  Neither Rhyme Nor Reason

Louis de Niverville
Neither Rhyme Nor Reason

mixed media on paper
signed and dated 1978 lower right
18.75 x 20 ins ( 47.6 x 50.8 cms ) ( sight )

Auction Estimate: $600.00$400.00 - $600.00

Price Realized $443.00
Sale date: March 20th 2019

Circle Arts International, Toronto
Private Collection, Toronto

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Louis de Niverville
(1933 - 2019) R.C.A.

Louis de Niverville was born in Andover, England, where his father was serving in the Canadian Air Force. His father later became Air Vice Marshall in WWII. His parents returned to Canada when Louis was 6 months old. His childhood was spent in Montreal and Ottawa. Over time there were 13 children in the family and Louis was fifth from last. Images of family and siblings were an important subject throughout his career.

When Louis was six years old he was hospitalized for about five years (1939-1944) to be treated for spinal tuberculosis. He learned to use his imagination to cope with the lonely, dreary hospital environment by cutting out comic strip characters from the Sunday newspaper. He considered these cutout figures to be his friends and he told himself stories about their adventures. At this time he was also drawing. He attributed much of the fantasy of his later work to using his imagination during these years in hospital.

Louis was a self-taught artist, but older brother George did have formal art education and was an accomplished artist. He influenced Louis early paintings. The early drawings by Louis were influenced by the Saul Steinberg book All in Line (1945). While in high school in Ottawa, Louis began making posters for the Ottawa Little Theatre Company, for which he designed and painted a stage set. His drawings came to the attention of prominent art director Paul Arthur. Paul encouraged Louis to go to Toronto and show his work to Dave Mackay at CBC graphics department who immediately offered him a job. In 1957 Louis moved to Toronto and for the next 6 years worked at CBC. By 1958 he was one of the best know graphic artists in Canada. (Reference: Canadian Art 65, August 1958, Robert Fulford.)

During his 64 year career he worked in many mediums including animated films, book illustration, print making, painting and collage. He began painting in oils in 1958 and at an exhibition in 1961 Joseph Hirshhorn purchased 24 paintings and drawings now in the Hirshhorn Gallery in Washington, D.C. In 1963 a commission for three murals at Pearson International Airport, Toronto, allowed him to resign from CBC and pursue painting full time. He explored many aspects of life in images, sometimes playful, sometimes dark. His imagery included people, animals, cities, landscape, gardens, and still life. Favourite themes were family, time and memory. In 1969 Louis learned airbrush technique which allowed him to create mysterious, dreamlike, somewhat surreal paintings. In 1967 he began developing his unique form of painted collage which, after 1981, became his primary means of expression.

Louis was commissioned to create several large public murals including: one for Expo 67 (20 x 60 feet); the Toronto Spadina Subway Station (9 x 25 feet); a Cineplex Odeon Theatre lobby (16 x 22 feet); and Sick Kids Hospital, Toronto (5 by 280 feet). There were also several private commissions. He could work in any size and relished the challenge of large work.

He participated in numerous solo and group exhibitions. He had two museum retrospectives curated by the Robert McLaughlin Gallery in Oshawa. The first in 1978 travelled to 13 Canadian museums including the Art Gallery of Ontario and Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. The second, in 1997, featured his collages and visited galleries in Edmonton and Vancouver. A third retrospective was hosted by the Ingram Gallery in Toronto in 2007.

The work of Louis de Niverville is in many public art collections including The National Gallery of Canada, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Art Gallery of Hamilton, the Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Sweeney Gallery in Riverside, California, the Dennos Museum Centre in Traverse City Michigan, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Musee d’Art Contemporain de Montreal, the McMaster Museum of Art in Hamilton, and Hirshhorn Gallery, Washington, D.C.

His career developed in several cities including Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver, Victoria, West Vancouver and, finally, Oakville, Ontario where he died on February 11, 2019. His partner for 37 years, beginning in 1981, was Thomas Miller who also served as his studio assistant and executor for the Estate of the artist.

We extend our thanks to Thomas Miller, who prepared this biography. References include the catalogue for the 1978 Retrospective at the Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa, and the Wikipedia entry for the artist.