More than sixty years after his first solo exhibit in 1951, Canadian artist Duncan de Kergommeaux displayed a series of charcoal and graphite on mylar drawings called “Winter Days,” completed following a visit to Lake Chapala in 2006.
Duncan de Kergommeaux was born in Premier, in northern British Columbia, on 15 July 1927. His career as an artist began in 1951 at the Banff School of Fine Arts in Alberta, and in Victoria, British Columbia, under the Czech artist Jan Zach. In 1953 de Kergommeaux completed a mural for the Victoria Times in Victoria, B.C.
He then moved to Ottawa, Ontario. During his seventeen years there, he taught art, painted, and founded the Blue Barn Gallery. He also continued to study art. From 1955-57 de Kergommeaux took summer classes at the Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Then, in 1958 he used a Canada Council Grant to to travel in Mexico and study at the Instituto Allende in San Miguel de Allende. Among the paintings from that trip auctioned in recent years are several seascapes and the gouache abstract titled “Cathedral interior, Mexico.”
From 1970 to 1993, de Kergommeaux was professor of Visual Arts at the University of Western Ontario, in London, Ontario. While on the faculty there de Kergommeaux took three full-year study leaves in New York City (1980-81), Paris and New York City (1984-85) and Paris (1989-90).
In his long artistic career, which has spanned more than five decades, de Kergommeaux has held more than 50 solo exhibitions across Canada, and his work has been included in dozens of group shows, including the Third and Sixth Biennials of Canadian art at the National Gallery of Canada. During 1967-68 the National Gallery circulated his work and that of George de Niverville in a two-person exhibit that traveled across Canada. One of his paintings hangs in the dining room of the Prime Minister’s Residence at 24 Sussex Drive, and several others hang in Rideau Hall (the official residence of the Governor General of Canada). Three years after his retirement from academia in 1993, a permanent study collection of his works was established at Carleton University Art Gallery, Ottawa.
In 2006, de Kergommereaux spent some weeks in San Juan Cosalá on Lake Chapala, where he completed a body of work depicting the lake. These works were included in a solo show titled “New Horizons” at the Wallack Galleries in Ottawa, Ontario, the following year. A reviewer for the Ottawa Citizen wrote that his [Lake Chapala] work:
shares the artist’s fascination with capturing the same view at different times. This series of Lake Chapala and the village of San Juan Cosala that hugs its shoreline is dark and brooding, with grays and black predominating, although in some, the darkness is slightly relieved by hints of violet, blue, green, pink and red.”
In a refreshingly forthright statement to the reviewer, the 80-year-old de Kergommereaux stated that “”I think that many artists spend far too much time talking about their paintings. I honestly do. They explain them to death.”
Several chapters of Foreign Footprints in Ajijic: Decades of Change in a Mexican Village focus on the history of the art community at Lake Chapala.
- Connie Higginson-Murray. 2007. “New vistas at gallery. Artist’s first solo exhibit in Ottawa in 20 years.” The Ottawa Citizen, 28 November 2007.
- Wallach Galleries. 2007. “Duncan de Kergommeaux: New Horizons.”
Comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios are welcomed. Please use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts, or email us.
Tony Burton’s books include “Lake Chapala: A Postcard History” (2022), “Foreign Footprints in Ajijic” (2022), “If Walls Could Talk: Chapala’s historic buildings and their former occupants” (2020), (available in translation as “Si Las Paredes Hablaran”), “Mexican Kaleidoscope” (2016), and “Lake Chapala Through the Ages” (2008).
So impressed by the breadth of styles and depth of talent of Lake Chapala artists.
Yes, it is totally astonishing how many talented visual artists have found inspiration at Lake Chapala.