Canney, Michael (1923-99)

Michael Canney was born in Falmouth in 1923. He received training from W. Lyons-Wilson and Leonard Fuller. In St Ives in the early 1940s he saw Alfred Wallis at work and met Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson and Naum Gabo. He served in Italy during the war, and received encouragement from Giorgio de Chirico in Florence. He completed his art training at Goldsmith’s College between 1947 and 1951 and his work started to become abstract in nature. He moved back to Cornwall to take up the post of curator of Newlyn Art Gallery in 1956 and helped to organise a visit by Mark Rothko in 1958. His work showed the abstract expressionist influence of friend and fellow Cornishman Peter Lanyon during this period. In the 1960s he turned to hard-edged, geometric abstraction and system painting. After two years in the USA at Santa Barbara, UCLA, in 1966 he became a lecturer at the Royal West of England College of Art in Bristol, alongside Paul Feiler. On retirement, he moved to Tuscany in 1983 for eight years, working mainly in alkyd oil, and after a year in France finally returned to Devizes, Wiltshire in 1993. Ill health prevented him from painting further after 1995 and he died in 1999. The Fine Art Society held a retrospective exhibition of his work in 2007. Public collections include Plymouth Art Gallery and Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society.

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