A lifetime of art, education and philanthropy: Abstract artist, alum and former Concordia professor George Russell, who recently passed away, received belated recognition while supporting the Arthritis Society
"George Russell, MA (art ed.) 70, died at his home in Laval, Que., on May 8, 2016. He was 83. Shortly before his passing, Russell spoke to Concordia’s Advancement & Alumni Relations News about his career and support for the Arthritis Society.
A simple strawberry started George Russell, MA (art ed.) 70, down a path not well-trodden in his hometown of Leroy, Sask.
“When I was in grade 3, we made our own report cards,” recalled the 83-year-old artist. “We made a picture on the cover and the teacher wrote the marks inside. I chose to draw a strawberry, and it turned out well. That was my beginning as an artist.”
As one of Quebec’s most venerated abstract artists and a major benefactor of the Arthritis Society, in the past year Russell received some long-overdue recognition for a life devoted to creativity, art education and support of a worthy cause.
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Posted on June 21, 2016, Concordia E-news
George E. Russell was at work in his studio when he received a game-changing phone call. “The ID said Arthritis Society, and I considered not picking up,” he admits. “I explained that I was working on a watercolour and had to finish a certain area before the paint dried.” Upon discovering that Russell was an artist, the caller, Quebec Arthritis Society director of development Elizabeth Kennell, asked if he would donate a work. Russell, now 82 and a retired high-school teacher, invited Kennell to his Laval home to survey his watercolours, acrylic-on-Masonite pieces and sculpture-painting hybrids.
Kennell was astonished by what she saw and even more staggered when Russell offered to donate the entire collection of more than 400 works. She called Yolande Racine, former contemporary-art curator at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, for a second opinion. Racine concurred that Russell was not just a generous donor but also an undiscovered serious talent.
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Canadian Art Magazine
Winter 2016 Edition
"An accomplished artist, George Russell has created a composition code oscillating between the expression of reality and illusion,
between the figurative and the abstract. For decades, he has followed a unique creative process that has guided his genuinely authentic path.
There is consistency amid George’s prolific body of work, produced throughout an extensive, exciting career." Read more from Yolande...
Former Curator of Contemporary Art, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
"[...] iconic figures of Fernand Leduc, Guido Molinari and Marcel Barbeau, and internationally, Morris Louis and Josef Albers. [...] George Russell is a contemporary of these important figures and of course we all come to our fields with ancestors. We take a little bit from this and we add to it. He looks to his mentors, his peers; and with each work he has a twist, that is absolutely recognizable as that of George Russell, artist. [...] this is the finest artist I have never heard of in my market place!
George sacrificed what could have been a career of perhaps tremendous affluence. It would have been an honour for me to have gotten together with him perhaps 40 years ago. We could have had some fun. He instead dedicated his artistic career to teaching, to the benefit of decades of students, a very noble contribution, foregoing the potential for public recognition and great financial reward. I cannot help but say that it is that same spirit of generosity that we are seeing here today. [...] These are opportunities for each and every one of you to purchase an absolutely wonderful original work of art, by artist George Russell, a man with tremendous ability and integrity, and do so at the same time as making a 100% contribution to The Arthritis Society."
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Alan Klinkhoff, of the Galerie Alan Klinkhoff
, at There is Art
hritis! exhibition, April 16, 2015, Jesuit Hall, Loyola College, Concordia