Robert Genn, RCA, 1936-2014

Pont Aven | Robert Genn

Pont Aven | Robert Genn

Pont Aven Warm, Brittany, 1985
Acrylic on canvas
Size: 11 x 14 inches
Price: SOLD

Details: Painted during a visit to Pont Aven, France, a village made famous by Paul Gauguin.
Signed lower right
Framed measurements: approximately 19 X 22 inches
Provenance: Private Collection, Ontario; Hambleton Galleries.
Condition: Excellent.

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November, Spuzzum | Robert Genn

November, Spuzzum | Robert Genn

Oil on Board
Size: 8 x 10 inches
Price: SOLD

Details: Oil painting on board. Signed Lower Right. West End Gallery, Edmonton, label on verso.
Framed measurements: 17.5 X 19.5 inches.
Provenance: Private Collection, West End Gallery.

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Light and Foul Ground | Robert Genn

Light and Foul Ground | Robert Genn

Light and "Foul Ground"
Oil on Canvas
Size: 12 x 16 inches
Price: SOLD

Details: Oil painting on canvas. Signed Lower Right. Titled "Light and 'Foul Ground'" and signed on verso. Gallery label on verso: Dauphin Gallery, Thornhill.
Painting is framed.
Provenance: Private Collection, Dauphin Gallery

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Robert Genn had a life-long love affair with painting,
capturing Canada’s landscapes in all their beauty



Robert Genn was born in Victoria, B.C., in 1936 and showed an interest in art as a toddler. Later, he attended Victoria College and the University of British Columbia, and the Art Centre School in Los Angeles.

The story of Robert Genn’s life and development as an artist is best told in his own book, In Praise of Painting, published in 1981 when he was just 42. Although the book only traces his artistic journey to just over the mid point of his life, it describes the passions, influences, and ideas that he would carry forward until his death in 2014 at age 78.

In the forward to In Praise of Painting, he describes his enjoyment in being a painter in a few short sentences: “Painting is a life-long commitment and growing love affair,” he writes. Later he adds: “I feel a profound sense of good luck to be living my life as a painter.”

Always Wanted to be Painter

Being a painter is all Robert Genn ever wanted. He drew as a child, and was fascinated by birds and the outdoors as a teen. His first paid painting job, was painting the names and number on boats.

In 1958, he was accepted into the Industrial Design Department of the Los Angeles Arts Center School, rising to the challenge of learning how to draw and understand colour.

After 2 1/2 years, Robert Genn had had enough of the school, so returned to British Columbia.

Filled with an entrepreneurial spirit, Robert Genn bought supplies to set up a studio to paint, while also doing advertising art to make a living.

In Praise of Painting

Robert Genn took his paintings to leading art galleries to try to sell them. After being rejected by several galleries, he left his works at another, which did sell them. Once he was able to make $75 a month from selling his paintings, he quite his advertising work and never looked back.

In Praise of Painting, Robert Genn describes meeting Lawren Harris walking in the Vancouver area, falling into conversation and gaining tips on how to paint skies more effectively.

Around 1964, Robert Genn was invited to travel to the B.C. coast First Nations villages, in the Kwakiutl area: Alert Bay, Fort Rupert, Guildford Island and others. This sparked Robert Genn’s ongoing fascination with West Coast native people, their culture and their symbols.

Robert’s Genn’s paintings of West Coast First Nations villages, many showing totem poles, remain some of his most popular and sought-after artworks.

In 1964, Robert Genn married and he and his wife, Carole, flew to Europe, travelling for 18 months, mostly by driving around in a used Volkswagon van, which they adapted into a home and art studio.

Group of Seven Influence

Late in 1965, the couple returned by ship to Canada, landing in Halifax with the VW van. The couple then drove across the country with the mission to make it back to Victoria by Christmas. Along the way, Robert Genn stopped at Algonquin Park, visited Canoe Lake where Tom Thomson drowned, and painted one 8 by 10 sketch.

Robert Genn was influenced heavily by Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven, something he describes in In Praise of Painting.

“I  have always felt that the small works of Tom Thomson, J.E.H. MacDonald and (Frederick) Varley in particular expressed the intrinsic feeling of the Canadian landscape and perspective,” he wrote.

“I decided to take my European experience and superimpose it on my feelings about the Group of Seven and other Canadian masters, in an attempt to evolve a new, personal understanding of the Canadian landscape.”

Besides the Canadian landscape, Robert Genn travelled widely with his wife Carole and his family, painting in the United States, Europe, Mexico and Japan.

Robert Genn was a prolific painter with a strong work ethic, driven to paint wherever he went, always looking to improve his technique and learn new things, visit new places, find new subject matter.

Well-Known Landscape Painter

Over the last several decades, Robert Genn established himself as one of Canada’s best known landscape artists, with a distinctive style, precise brush strokes, and expert capturing of light.

In 2014, Robert Genn lost his battle with cancer; he leaves behind wife Carole and three children: David, James and Sara (who is also an artist).

Robert Genn’s paintings – the majority done in acrylic, but also some oils and watercolours – are held in public and private collections around the globe, especially here in Canada.

Sources:  A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, volumes 1-8 by Colin S. MacDonald, and volume 9 (online only), by Anne Newlands and Judith Parker. National Gallery of Canada, Artists in Canada database.

In Praise of Painting, 1981, by Robert Genn, Merritt Publishing Company Ltd., Toronto.

Robert Genn official website:

Suggested reading:

Love Letters to Art, by Robert Genn, 2007.

The Painter’s Keys, by Robert Genn, 1997.