Combat Gallery Sunday: The martial art of Alex Colville

David Alexander Colville was born 24 Aug 1920 in Toronto. A young man when WWII erupted in 1939, he enlisted in the Canadian Army in 1942 upon graduation from Mount Allison University. Serving in Northwestern Europe with the 3rd Canadian Division, he was made an official war artist in 1944, He landed in Southern France, saw action in Nijmegen during Market Garden (where his unit relieved the 82nd Airborne) and continued into Germany, where he saw first hand the horror of the Bergen Belsen concentration camp.AlexCovillewarartistyoung

His works for the military were gritty and showed the hand of a man familiar with the subject matter as he was actively submerged in it.

Infantry, near Nijmegen (Canadian War Museum No. 12172), a 40" x 48" canvas depicting soldiers of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division trudging along a Dutch polder, is a well-known image which hangs in the museum. Fifteen separate sketches can be associated with this work.*3 One, for example, is of the leading figure minus his head and left hand (CWM 12145). The hand appears in a separate study (CWM 82370). The preliminary drawings also show us that Colville worked with two concepts of the finished work. One features the figures moving towards the viewer, and the other, away. The only completed watercolour painting is of the latter (CWM 12170) and suggests that the final familiar composition was not the one the artist initially chose to develop.

Infantry, near Nijmegen (Canadian War Museum No. 12172), a 40″ x 48″ canvas depicting soldiers of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division trudging along a Dutch polder, is a well-known image which hangs in the museum.

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After the war, he went back to Mount Allison and taught art for nearly twenty years before turning to painting full time. His works are very distinctive.

Man on Verandah 1953, painted while on staff at Mount Allison

Man on Verandah 1953, painted while on staff at Mount Allison. Image by http://alexcolville.ca/

Pacific, 1967. This scene with a beautifully detailed Browning Hi Power 9mm (Coleville would have carried a similar one in Europe in 1944) inspired one of the definitive scenes in the 1995 film Heat with actor Robert De Niro.

Pacific, 1967. This scene with a beautifully detailed Browning Hi Power 9mm (Coleville would have carried a similar one in Europe in 1944) inspired one of the definitive scenes in the 1995 film Heat with actor Robert De Niro. Photo by http://alexcolville.ca/

De Niro's HK USP is just behind him off camera on the table, Photo by IMFDB

De Niro’s HK USP is just behind him off camera on the table, Photo by IMFDB

In the Woods, 1976 acrylic polymer. A very nice and accurate study of how cold it must be to shoot a SIG P210 classic pistol in the Canadian woods in winter.

In the Woods, 1976 acrylic polymer. A very nice and accurate study of how cold it must be to shoot a SIG P210 classic pistol in the Canadian woods in winter. The second glove is in the shooter’s mouth. Took me a minute to realize that too.

He also produced the images on the Canadian 1867-1967 centennial commemorative coin set for the government and many of his paintings were reproduced as postage stamps.

He also produced the images on the Canadian 1867-1967 centennial commemorative coin set for the government and many of his paintings were reproduced as postage stamps.

In 1982, Alex Colville donated his remaining wartime drawings and sketches to the Canadian War Museum to join those that had already become part of the War Art Collection. These were works that he had not been required to hand over to Canadian War Records officials. The Museum now holds 371 works on paper by this artist.

Colville died 16 July 2013 at age 92, and we are lesser for it.

The official website for Colville is here

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About laststandonzombieisland

Let me introduce myself. I am a bit of a conflict junkie. I am fascinated by war and warfare, assassination, personal protection and weaponry ranging from spud guns and flame throwers to thermonuclear bombs and Soviet-trained Ebola monkeys. In short, if it’s violent or a tool to create violence it is kind of my thing. I have written a few thousand articles on the dry encyclopedia side for such websites as Guns.com, University of Guns, Outdoor Hub, Tac-44, History Times, Big Game Hunter, Glock Forum, Firearms Talk.com, and Combat Forums; as well as for print publications like England Expects, and Strike First Strike Fast. Several magazines such as Sea Classics, Military Historian and Collector, Mississippi Sportsman and Warship International have carried my pieces. Additionally I am on staff as a naval consultant and writer for Eye Spy Intelligence Magazine. Currently I am working on several book projects including an alternative history novel about the US-German War of 1916, and a biography of Southern gadfly and soldier of fortune Bennett Doty. My first novel, about the coming zombie apocalypse was released in 2012 by Necro Publications and can be found at Amazon.com as was the prequel, Chimera-44. I am currently working on book two of that series: "Pirates of the Zombie Coast." In my day job I am a contractor for the U.S. federal government in what could best be described as the ‘Force Protection’ field. In this I am an NRA-certified firearms, and less-than-lethal combat instructor.

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