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Thomas "Kemp" Kieffer
Thomas Kemp Kieffer (Jamaican-born Canadian, 1921-1999) noted wilderness & landscape artist, and printmaker. Kemp Kieffer’s intimate views of nature are the product of nearly 50 years of exploring and painting from north of Lake Superior, Algonquin Park and many wilderness regions in central, southern and eastern Ontario, Canada. Kemp was born in Jamaica in 1921, and lived there until about the age of seven before his family moved to England in 1928, where he received his early education. During WWII, from 1940-47, he served in the Royal Air Force and Royal Artillery divisions. After the war, he briefly returned to Jamaica for two years to work. In 1949, he moved to Canada and attended the Ontario College of Art for four years where he studied fine art.

Beginning in 1953, he worked full time in sales and business for the commercial arts in Canada. Activities included many important national juried exhibitions, solo & group shows, as well as seminars, evening art instruction in lithography, serigraphs and portraiture. He raised four children and had to accept selling art rather than painting it, in order to support his family. During those years, most of his free time was devoted to painting and activities related to the fine arts of Canada. His situation at home made it necessary for him to complete his artwork in the field. He would carry all his gear and 48” canvases out into the wilderness and complete the paintings amid all the distractions of nature including the heat, cold, insects and wind. This is what has given his work such depth and spontaneity.


Michipicoten Bay, Lake Superior


His love for the subject is evident in the richness of his palette—the spectrum of hues and values close to nature. His style is distinct and individual, and is not, although representational, merely a duplication of realism, but a visual interpretation of nature. His introduction to the Canadian wilderness matured a desire to capture on canvas its many moods and images with a single-minded enthusiasm and energy.

At first Kemp worked in various mediums but soon discovered a method of using oil in a faster and more expressive way. His process utilized a solid white ground carefully prepared on canvas with an application of oil washes and glazes. He drew into the wet oil paint with a sable brush giving his work a graphic quality. His paintings were always signed with just his middle and last name, ‘Kemp Kieffer’.

Kemp exhibited in numerous solo, group and juried exhibitions throughout Canada, as well as in the United States, and won several awards for his work. From 1978-89, he juried for many public galleries and community exhibitions, and also gave several critiques and demonstrations to artist groups. He was a life member of the Ontario Society of Artists and also served as president from 1975-83. In addition, he served as Chairman on the Cansave Art Committee (1960-70), board member on the Visual Arts of Ontario (1976-80), as well as a member of the Arts and Letters Club (1976-80), and as a board member of the Art Gallery of Northumberland (1989-90). After 1980, he worked as a corporate consultant. Kemp died on November 12, 1999 at the age of 77 in Cobourg, Ontario, leaving behind an important legacy of artwork that captured the Canadian wilderness in its purest and most beautiful form.


Smoke Lake, Algonquin Park


“The works encompass attitudes and relationships that might be found in and compared to works by contemporary masters of naturalistic landscape, fine quality illustrations and (in a historical context) by German painters of the Romantic period. This comparison speaks more to the feeling of the work than its actual style or execution. These oil paintings combine many successful elements working with color, form and composition.

The absolute rich density of these works provides the viewer with the quality of complete envelopment by nature and the specific conditions and place of the paintings. Kemp’s palette is extremely rich and provides the eye with a spectrum of hues and values stunningly close to nature.

What impresses me the most about these paintings is that Kemp, like Andrew Wyeth, has developed techniques and a style that is individually characterizable and not merely formulistic duplication of “realism.” The viewer is struck by the sensual and sensory metaphors that he has created. The fields and flowers are densely “fragrant” to the eye which is enhanced by the rich impasto-like layering effect of the oil medium.

Contrast of value and hue stresses the depth of the visual field in these naturescapes, bringing a special clarity and prominence to the details of these canvases. It is readily apparent that he is engaged with his subject and focused in its stylistic expression, two qualities necessary for successful marketing.

The work reveals a level of professional awareness, as the meshing of subject and style appears seamless and closely considered. He has a strongly developed eye responsive to color, shape and compositional considerations that produces works of aesthetic merit and technical professionalism”
–Gallery critique by A.R.T.S. Resource, San Francisco, CA.


Near Grafton, Ontario


Artist Statement:

“During my first 10 years of art development in various mediums, visiting many galleries and reading numerous art books and publications, I came to the conclusion that art expression is a personal development and should reflect the personality and character of its creator.

My most admired artists are from the French impressionist movement and members of the ‘Group of Seven’, the latter producing art that to me represented the character and moods of the Canadian Wilderness with more success than most of the images produced by other nationally or internationally known artists.

I have developed over many years of working on location with wilderness around me, an oil technique that gives me complete freedom to use the oil without creating rigid boundaries of design or colour, and not having to wait long periods of time for drying to complete all dimensions of the image. My technique flows naturally while I concentrate on the development of composition, textures and subject.

I work without interruption or break periods with absolute concentration until the work is completed or at a stage when it can be finished in my studio later without changing the spontaneous mood of the work. My work has developed gradually over many years. I am not interested in following market trends. Every painting I do gives me fresh challenges in depicting the various elements of colour, textures and mood.”
–Kemp Kieffer

Smoke Lake, Algonquin Park


Chronology:

1921- December 9, born, to parents Thomas Dann Kieffer and Amy Lucille Saidamore, Portland Parish, Jamaica, West Indies.

1927- January 18, Kemp’s younger sister Grace Lucille was born, St. Mary, Jamaica, West Indies.

1928-39- Resided in England and received his primary education there.

1940-47- Kemp served in the Royal Air Force and Royal Artillery.

1947-49- Worked in Jamaica.

1949-52- Moved to Canada, and studied basic and fine art at the Ontario College of Art, Ontario, Canada.

1953-87- Worked full time in sales and business for the commercial arts. During those years, most of his free time was devoted to painting and activities related to the fine arts of Canada. Activities included many important national juried exhibitions, solo & group shows, seminars, evening art instruction in lithography, serigraphs and portraiture.

1960-1970- Was the Chairman on the Cansave Art Committee.

1972- Exhibited, solo show, Ontario Science Center, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Exhibited, group show, Lillian Morrison Gallery, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

1973- Exhibited, solo show, The Third Gallery, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

1974- Exhibited, group show, O.S.A. Gallery, Niagara on the Lake, Ontario, Canada. Exhibited, juried group show, Ontario Society of Artists, O’Keefe Centre (now the Sony Centre), Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

1975- Exhibited, solo show, Lillian Morrison Gallery, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Exhibited, solo show, Arts and Letters Club, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Exhibited, juried group show, Ontario Society of Artists, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

1975-1983- Was the president of the Ontario Society of Artists, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

1976- Exhibited, solo show, First Canadian Place, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Exhibited, group show, Manuge Gallery, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Exhibited, juried group show, Ontario Society of Artists, First Canadian Place, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Exhibited, group show, North York Arts Council, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Exhibited, group show, Scarborough Civic Centre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

1976-1980- Was a board member on the Visual Arts of Ontario, and was a member of the Arts and Letters Club.

1977- Exhibited, juried group show, Ontario Society of Artists, Royal Bank Plaza, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Exhibited, two person show, “On the Subject of Earth”, with Kemp Kieffer (Pres. O.S.A.) and Ken Mamchure, Ukrainian Canadian Art Foundation, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

1977-78- Exhibited, solo show, McDowell Gallery, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

1978- Exhibited, group show, York Fine Art, Aurora, Ontario, Canada. Exhibited, group show, Shayne Gallery, Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Exhibited, juried group show, Ontario Society of Artists, art Gallery of Cobourg, Ontario, Canada.

1978-89- Kemp juried for public galleries and community exhibitions, and also gave many critiques and demonstrations to artist groups.

1979- Exhibited, solo show, McDowell Gallery, Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Exhibited, group show, Arts and Letters Club, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Exhibited, group show, Watson Gallery, Naples, Florida. Exhibited, group show, York Fine Art, Aurora, Ontario, Canada. Exhibited, juried group show, Ontario Society of Artists, Centennial Public Gallery, Oakville, Ontario, Canada.

1980- Exhibited, group show, Museum of American Art, Elkhart, Indiana. Exhibited, juried group show, Ontario Society of Artists, Burlington Public Gallery, Ontario, Canada.

From 1980 on- Was a corporate consultant.

1981- Exhibited, juried group show, Ontario Society of Artists, McDowell Gallery, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

1980-81- Exhibited, solo show, McDowell Gallery, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

1982- Exhibited, group show, Stratford Public Library, Stratford, Ontario, Canada.

1982-84- Exhibited, solo show, Merton Gallery, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

1984- Exhibited, group show, Merton Gallery, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

1985- Exhibited, solo show, Contemporary Fine Art, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

1987-88- Exhibited, solo show, Private Showing, Peterborough, Ontario, Canada.

1988- Exhibited, solo show, Gallery Frame, Pembroke, Ontario, Canada. Exhibited, solo show, Thom Gallery, King City, Ontario, Canada. Exhibited, solo show, Barber House Gallery, Guelph, Ontario, Canada.

1989- Exhibited, group show, Buckingham Fine Art, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

1989-90- Exhibited, solo show, Gallery Scrimshaw, Oakville, Ontario, Canada. Was a board member of the Art Gallery of Northumberland.

1993- Exhibited, solo show, Museum of Nature, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Exhibited, solo show, Royal Agricultural Fair, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

1994- Exhibited, group show, Humbertson Edwards, West Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

1995- Exhibited, solo show, National Exhibition Centre, Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada.

1996- Exhibited, two person show, Kemp Kieffer with Karyn Percival, Art of the Matter Gallery, Aurora, Ontario, Canada.

1999- November 12, died at the age of 77, Cobourg, Ontario, Canada.

Awards: Ontario College of Art, Bursary, 1951; Price Fine Arts, Montreal, 1972; Royal Bank, Purchase Award, Toronto, 1975; Ontario Society of Artists, OSA Award, Toronto, 1982; and LOEB Award of Excellence, for his painting “North Shore, Lake Superior” (Which hangs in Rideau Hall, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada), 1992.

Memberships/Affiliations: 1960-70, was the Chairman on the Cansave Art Committee; 1974-1999, Life Member of the Ontario Society of Artists (President from 1975-83), Toronto, Ontario, Canada; 1976-80, was a board member on the Visual Arts of Ontario; 1976-80, was a member of the Arts and Letters Club; 1989-90, was a board member of the Art Gallery of Northumberland; From 1980 on, worked as a corporate consultant.

Selected Corporate Collections: Citibank; Proctor & Gamble; Prudential Insurance; Quaker Oats; Datsun; Dupont; General Foods; Xerox; Marriott Hotel – Toronto; Mazda Canada; Molson Breweries; Merrill Lynch Canada Inc.; Gulf Oil; Sun Oil of Canada; Texaco Canada; Royal Bank of Canada; Swiss Bank Corp.; Tokai Bank Canada; Manufacturers Life; Anco Chemicals; A.G. Investments; Auto Mart Magazine; Baker Lovick Advertising; Bell Canada; Canadian General Electric; Canada Permanent Trust; Canarim Investment Group; Cassels Brock & Blackwell; Co-steel Inc.; Commercial Union Assurance; Canadiana Fund; Canadian Tire Corp.; Cyanamid Canada Inc.; Discount Corp. of New York; Day Wilson Campbell; D.R.G. Packaging; Dominion Foundries & Steel Corp; Getty Mines; Gordon Securities; Harlequin; Hiram Walker; Hudson Bay Mining; Imasco; Lenbrook Industries Ltd.; Marathon Realty; Mcleod Young Weir; Norex; Ontario Registered Nurses Association; Peat Marwick Thorne; Phoenix of Canada; Planned Investments; Rideau Hall; Robt. Simpson Co.; Royal Insurance; Savin Canada Inc.; Standard Brands; Standard Life Insurance; Shoppers Drug Mart; Stapells & Sewell; Toronto Western Hospital; Ukrainian Canadian Art Foundation; Wm. Neilson; Yamaichi International Ltd.; York Trillium Development; and York County Hospital.

Publications: Globe and Mail, Toronto, Kay Kristwiser, June 1972; The Village, Toronto, 1977; Arts West, Calgary, 1979; Domtar Fine Papers, Calendar, 1982; Agenda, Montreal, December, 1982; The Art Post, December to February, Toronto, 1985-86; Wildflower, Summer & Winter, 1988, and Summer, 1989; Oakville Beaver, April, 1989, and October, 1990; and Burlington Post, October, 1990.

Video: “Wilderness Heritage”, a 6:54 minute documentary on video tape, 1992; “Catching the Moment”, an 11 minute 16mm documentary, copied on video tape and sold to schools, TV companies, corporate and private collectors, and featured the artist starting and completing a painting in the wilderness with an oil technique specially developed for completing large canvasses on location.

Radio & TV: Interviews on national and community TV and radio stations.

For additional information on this artist or for other possible images, please visit the AskArt link

(Rewritten in parts & compiled chronologically by Mark Strong of Meibohm Fine Arts, Inc., East Aurora, NY, 07/2012, meibohmfinearts.com, from sources: A special thank you to Betsy Kieffer (Kemp’s second wife), for supplying biographical information, images, quotes etc.; familysearch.org, Jamaica Civil Birth Registration, digital folders 4642526 & 4642596; ontariosocietyofartists.org, History Page of the O.S.A. and its Members Deceased; canartscene.com, Karyn Percival exhibition history; ontariosocietyofartists.org, Member Profiles, Ken Mamchure; archive.org, “Canadian Art Libraries Newsletter, Necrology, Kieffer, Thomas Kemp”, Vol. 23.4, December, 1999; ourontario.ca, Cobourg and District Images, Cobourg Daily Star newspaper death notices; daryl.chin.gc.ca, “Artists in Canada: Kieffer, Thomas Kemp”.)
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