Brush with Life, A

A Brush with Life by John Koerner

A Brush With Life

by John Koerner


  • Autumn 2005
  • ISBN 978-1-55380-032-3 (1-55380-032-X)
  • 8-1/2″ x 10″ Hardcover, 134 pages
  • Canadian Art, Autobiography, West Coast

In his autobiography, John Koerner explores the underpinnings of his long life as a painter in a lavishly illustrated art book with full-page colour prints of his paintings and many black and white photos and drawings. Koerner describes his early life in Czechoslovakia, his art and philosophy studies at the Sorbonne, and his life as a student in the Latin Quarter of Paris in the 1930s.

He tells of the influences of Bonnard, Matisse, Sartre, A.J. Ayer and Bo Yin Ra on his artistic and spiritual development. He discusses the patronage given to West Coast native art by his uncle Walter Koerner, and he illuminates his developing ideas about art through his friendships with other Canadian artists such as Lawren Harris, Bill Reid, Alistair Bell, Harry Adaskin and Toni Onley. He examines the role of important colleagues at the Vancouver School of Art and the University of British Columbia: Bruno and Molly Bobak, Gordon Smith, Joe Plaskett, Jack Shadbolt and Bert Binning.

Koerner also comments on many of his paintings, explaining his aspirations and what lies below the surface. At age ninety-two, Koerner is one of the last of the generation that developed modernism in Canadian art. A Brush with Life will prove a valuable source book for art historians and curators, and of course for the many collectors of Koerner’s art. David Watmough, the well-known Canadian fiction writer, has written an introduction.

“The power of his work is the integration of spirit and landscape.”
— Jane Rule


A Brush with Life delights the eye and will appeal to anyone interested in Canadian–or Pacific Rim–art.”
Canadian Literature