The online exhibition The Measure of Nature: Alex Colville’s Centennial Coins examines one of the most widely-circulated art projects in Canadian history: six centennial coins that Toronto-born, Maritime-based artist Alex Colville (1920–2013) designed in 1965 and 1966 for the Royal Canadian Mint in celebration of Canada’s one hundredth anniversary of Confederation. Regarded as our country’s pre-eminent realist painter, Colville submitted his winning proposal as part of a competition held by the Minister of Finance in 1964. Colville never considered famous Canadians or man-made monuments for his designs. From the beginning, he chose to concentrate on animals and plants. This online exhibition explores Colville’s process of developing indelible centennial coin designs that embody the essence of Canadian history and identity. Amplifying the optimism and pride in our cultural heritage that surrounded our nation’s grand centennial celebrations—which included the historic Expo 67—Colville’s centennial coins have remained enduring artistic objects and symbols of Canada.
This online exhibition has been made possible through a partnership with the Beaverbrook Art Gallery and Billie magazine. The Measure of Nature: Alex Colville’s Centennial Coins is curated by Ray Cronin, an author and curator who lives in Nova Scotia. His books Alex Colville: Life & Work and Mary Pratt Life & Work were published by the Art Canada Institute in 2017 and 2020, and he is also the author of Our Maud: The Life, Art and Legacy of Maud Lewis (Art Gallery of Nova Scotia), and five numbers of the Gaspereau Field Guides to Canadian Artists. His forthcoming book with the ACI, Maud Lewis: Life & Work, will be published in September 2021. Cronin has contributed essays to over sixty books and catalogues on Canadian artists, and regularly writes for Canadian and American art magazines.