Internationally acclaimed Canadian landscape artist Robert Genn has died.
The South Surrey painter, known best for his evocations of the West Coast and the Rocky Mountains, passed away on Tuesday morning at the age of 78 at his home overlooking the Serpentine Fen.
Genn is survived by his wife, Carol, and their children, Sara, David and James, plus their families and extended family.
His passing was confirmed Thursday by his local representatives, White Rock Gallery.
Genn had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in October of last year, and, in spite of waning energy, had continued painting almost to the end.
Genn’s twice-weekly inspirational online letters to artists – showing his keen interest in all realms of the arts – had also continued, with the help of Sara, who over the past six months had augmented his input with entries she wrote herself, along with reprints of earlier pieces.
The last letter – which reached most of his thousands of subscribers around the world on the morning he died – was a tribute to the 19th and early 20th century Canadian settler/writer Stephan Stephansson (“Iceland’s poet of the Rocky Mountains”), a piece originally published in 2003.
Born in Victoria, Genn trained at the University of Victoria, UBC and the Art Center School in Los Angeles, and was a senior academician with the Federation of Canadian Artists.
His painting took him all over the U.S. and Canada, including the Rocky Mountains and the West Coast Trail, to Portugal and Spain and through the desolate beauty of the Mackenzie River in the Northwest Territories.
Well-known locally as a bon vivant and artistic mentor, Genn was also proud of his children’s achievements in the arts – Sara as a painter and singer/songwriter, David as a musician and producer, and James as a filmmaker.
Frequently accompanied by his faithful Airedale, Dorothy (who passed just two weeks ahead of her master), the ever-restless Genn liked nothing better than hiking or boating to a far-flung location, and painting plein air, committing to canvas the essence of what he saw, in masterful bold lines, shapes and colours.
He also enjoyed tinkering with vintage cars (including, at one time or other, an MG, a 1926 Austin and a 1937 Bentley) and his prized 1921 motorboat Miss Reveller, recently refurbished, and rumoured to have had a colourful past in the rum-running days.
In a last interview with the Peace Arch News, published on April 17, Genn characteristically quipped that he had grown tired since his diagnosis of cheering up people who came to his studio with “a long face.”
Typically, he was still concerned with exhorting others – particularly young people – to pursue their creative dreams no matter what their challenges, to work hard to improve their skills, and to grow both as an artist and a human being.
“The biggest thing is the appreciation of the magnificent universe we have around us,” he said.
“Being a painter, particularly, is beyond belief as a way of honouring that. Painting – particularly painting on location – is almost like a prayer. It’s defined who I am and what I am.”