For more than forty years, George McLean has lived in a stone farmhouse on 100 acres of land in Grey County, Ontario. On his daily walks, he looks for a moment, a gesture that will inspire him — perhaps a small woodland creature appearing, then quickly disappearing, or a muskrat sliding into a pond. He is fascinated by the ephemeral moment and seeks to convey the essential truth of that moment through his art. This initial inspiration is the first step in an arduous process that can take a full year to yield a single painting.
McLean’s densely layered depictions of the forest interior emerge directly from his intense interest in the wildlife inhabiting the land near his home. As McLean says, “Within walking distance of this house, I have made a lifetime of paintings. And I could make another lifetime of paintings and one after that, because, on any walk, even if you walk the same path every day, it changes.” Now in his seventies, his passion for the creatures and habitat that surround him is as intense as it ever was, as is his desire to share this passion with others through his art.
Adam Duncan Harris, Curator of Art at the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, traces the varied influences on McLean, from the work of early twentieth-century wildlife painters such as Carl Rungius and Bruno Liljefors to Andrew Wyeth, with whom McLean feels a profound kinship. Harris posits that landscape and wildlife artists working in the realist tradition, from Paul Kane to the Group of Seven to contemporary artists like McLean and Andrew Wyeth, reflect a shared sense of what it means to be North American and that their art both resonates with contemporary audiences and connects with past traditions.
Illustrated with 92 full-colour reproductions, George McLean: The Living Landscape showcases McLean’s work from 1965 to 2010 through a selection of his work from public and private collections.
“With subtlety and grace, George McLean captures singular moments in the lives of animals. Each work is built upon a foundation of artistic skill, consummate design sensibility, and an abiding appreciation for wildlife and natural habitat. Not one to shy away from the reality of life in the animal world, McLean often depicts his subjects at the peak of physical exertion, in mid-chase, life and death hanging in the balance… McLean’s vibrant, complex paintings reveal the forces of nature, small and mighty, that shape the existence of the creatures with whom we share this planet.”