John Neville has been described as a folk artist, a master printmaker, a professional storyteller, and an “original” Canadian artist. He was brought up in the tiny village of Hall’s Harbor, Nova Scotia, in a distinctive home built by his grandfather in the late 1880s. Neville’s painting is more than simply fascinating art. It is a thoughtful and realistic record of a fast vanishing way of life, that of the fishermen, a life lived by both his father and his grandfather.
Born in 1952, Neville grew up where physical work was taken for granted and folk memory was celebrated by stories about people’s loves, hates, rivalries, hopes, and, most of all, their complex relationship to the sea and its creatures.
During the early 1970s, Neville left Hall’s Harbor to attend the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax. He put aside the drawings of his childhood to study photography and printing. Neville gravitated to the art of printmaking, concentrating on the intaglio process of engraving. After graduating in 1976 from the Centre de Gravure Contemporain in Geneva ,Switzerland, Neville returned to Canada, where his art evolved and matured to the point where he won several national awards. Stateside, Neville has enjoyed solo exhibitions in New York City and at the South Street Seaport Museum.
Today, John Neville splits his time between his native Canada and the midcoast Maine river village of Damariscotta.
John Neville (b. 1952) paints nostalgic portrals of bygone days which chronicle the folklore and daily lives of the local fishermen and their women from his childhood village. This popular Canadian artist, who splits his time between Nova Scotia and Maine, is a painter, printmaker, and story teller, who has engaged collectors throughout his long career with his exceptional etchings, and more recently the bold pallete and modern compositions of his impressive oil paintings.
A native of Nova Scotia, Neville was born in Halls Harbour, on the Bay of Fundy, to a family of boat builders and fishermen where hard work was taken for granted. He grew up fishing with his father, building boats, and listening to the tales of men and women in the local villages. There were stories about bootlegging, bad luck, record catches, rivalries, and drunken husbands—all of which became the basis for his rich pictoral language.
At a young age, Neville began drawing boats and other subjects on the backs of advertisement broadsheets given to him by his grandfather, the village postmaster. In 1972, Neville left Halls Harbor to attend the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax where he studied photography and printmaking. After graduating with a BFA in 1976 from the Centre Gravure de Contemporaine in Geneva, Switzerland, he returned to Halls Harbour to set up a printmaking studio. Using the stories from his childhood, Neville engraved his images on copper plates, then hand inked and pulled them in the traditional manner using the intalglio process. Neville uses the technique’s many personalities to offset strong, architectural lines with tinted grounds of color, and though his subject matter is nostalgic, his clean graphic representations are clearly contemporary.