Marja-Leena Rathje
Home ::: Robert Young

Robert Young


Robert Young: Sampler - Enhanced multiple plate intaglio, linocut, woodcut.
Printed for Artist's for Kids

We had the great pleasure of having Robert Young, one of BC's most respected senior artists, visit as a guest speaker in the Art Institute, Printmaking at Capilano University yesterday. He spoke first about his early years with dry humour, occasionally making various literary references to reveal the yearning, a desire "to run away" as he kept saying, which eventually led him to become an artist. He proudly wore his 40-year-old ink-stained printmaker's apron and displayed his custom-made set of engraving tools and a few prints, one of them shown above. A slide presentation of his works followed. Very stunning and inspiring. Most of these works can be viewed at the site of the Atelier Gallery** in Vancouver, which represents him.


I can't begin to find the right words to summarize Young's life and work but thankfully, others have written about his work eloquently. For Artist's for Kids, Robin Laurence wrote in part:

Although Robert Young is best known as a painter, his early art training was in printmaking, and it is a discipline he revisits periodically. In 1962, after completing a bachelor's degree in art history at the University of British Columbia, Young left his native Vancouver, taking himself off to England, to the City and Guilds of London School of Art, where he studied etching, engraving and drypoint. He returned to Vancouver in 1964, studied graphic arts at the Vancouver School of Art, then set off again for London in 1966. It was during this second sojourn there, lasting a full decade (he returned permanently to Vancouver in 1976), that he began to paint, finding inspiration in a number of sources, including art history, photography, and the mass media.


Known for his intricate drawing, painting and printmaking, his work has a strong intellectual appeal and an impeccable sense of craft. For more than 45 years he has pursued a bold personal image synthesizing the environment with his strong philosophical and spiritual beliefs. He also shared his love of art and art history with students at U.B.C. for 16 years as Associate Professor in the faculty of Fine Arts.

In an excellent article in the Straight, Christopher Brayshaw wrote:

Between these extremes of illusionism and blunt facticity lies the work of Vancouver artist Robert Young, whose inventive paintings, drawings, and mixed-media collages defy easy categorization. Though he taught for years at UBC, Young is the antithesis of an academic artist, and is now, at almost 70, in the happy position of not really having any followers.

This is something that Young spoke about, the desire to not follow current movements or schools, or the call of curators or critics, but to follow his own path.


UPDATE Feb.28th, 2013: **The Atelier Gallery link no longer works and has been removed. This long time gallery has closed. Meanwhile, some of Robert Young's work may be viewed at the Winchester Galleries.

Marja-Leena | 11/10/2007 | 8 comments
themes: Art Institute (Printmaking), Other artists


I am fascinated by tools, especially hand- or custom-made ones.

And your description reminds me of Alice Massaro, here in Thunder Bay. I had the privilege of interviewing her for an article on her and her art some years ago. Find it here:

Peter - interesting article about another printmaker! I identify with a lot of what she says. Printmaking has been my primary medium for almost 25 years now. But I do admire artists who work successfully in many media, like Robert Young has done.

Lovely work. I browsed through his catalog at the gallery - really quite wonderful. Lucky you to be able to go hear him speak!

Leslee, I'm glad you enjoyed them. It's nice to know someone looks at the links sometimes. We were very fortunate that he was willing to come and share his wisdom with us.

'in the happy position of not really having any followers' that's food for thought isn't it?
Both the work, the man and his tools look very sympathetic.

Lucy - oh, yes, he's really quite nice and as a former teacher, quite giving of his wisdom. That quote really reflects on his unique style of work which has no imitators.

I like enormously the delicacy of his flower studies. The unfinished ones are intriguing - a glimpse at technique. They put me in mind so much of Charles Rennie Mackintosh working in the same genre.

Anna, how clever of you to see the similarity with Mackintosh' flowers studies. I suspect the many years that Young spent in the UK left certain influences.