Illingworth Holey Kerr was born at Lumsden, Saskatchewan, a small prairie town where he took an interest in drawing the local animals at an early age. In 1923, Kerr moved to Toronto in order to attended Central Technical School and the Ontario College of Art, where his teachers included Arthur Lismer, Frederick Varley and J.E.H. MacDonald. After graduation, Kerr returned home to Saskatchewan and realized just how much Western Canada was a part of him. Back in Lumsden, Kerr continued to paint in a studio he rented above the local pool hall, and maintained a trapline at the same time. In 1936, Kerr travelled to London, England to attend the Westminster School of art. While in England he spent time at the London Zoo drawing the animals there. He was also re-acquainted with Mary Spice whom he had previously met in Regina, Saskatchewan. They married in 1938 and settled in Montreal where Kerr worked with other artists to represent Canada at the 1939 World’s Fair. The pair then moved to the West Coast and Kerr taught at the Vancouver School of Art from 1945 to 1947. In 1947 he became director of the art department of the Provincial Institute of Technology in Calgary, a position he would hold for 20 years. In 1959, Kerr received a Canada Council Senior Fellowship to travel to the United States and Great Britain in order to visit schools that offered industrial design. Kerr and his wife travelled to Minneapolis, New York, and Boston, as well as Munich, Venice, Florence, Rome, Barcelona and Madrid. In retirement, the Kerrs traveled to St. Lucia, Arizona, Maui, Barbados, Jamaica and Mazatlan. During these trips, the Kerrs visited zoos and avidly painted the exotic birds and animals kept there. These were later turned into paintings and linocuts. In 1975 a large-scale retrospective exhibition of his art was presented at the Alberta College of Art Gallery – this gallery was renamed the Illingworth Kerr Gallery in September 1990, to commemorate the artist. The retrospective travelled to Regina and Saskatoon. Kerr was named to the Order of Canada in 1983. In 1985 a major retrospective exhibition, "Harvest of the Spirit," travelled to 9 major public galleries. Illingworth Kerr died on January 6, 1989, he was 85 years old.
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