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Keith Harder (b. 1955, Saskatchewan) grew up in Three Hills, Alberta where he was first introduced to acrylic and oil painting in the high school art program taught by his father. From then, painting became the central feature of his education through two undergraduate degrees, and in 1989, a Master of Visual Arts from the University of Alberta. Upon graduation, Harder began a 36 year career as Professor of Studio Art at the Augustana Campus of the U of A; at the same time he maintained a productive studio practice of his own. Now retired from teaching, Harder focusses on painting and continues to explore his long standing interest in aviation.
Early in his formative development he was mentored at the University of Calgary by the realist painter John Hall. The formal side of his painting practice was influenced later by abstract painters, Doug Haynes and Phil Darrah at the University of Alberta. Studying other paintings by artists such as Rackstraw Downes, John Salt, and Antonio Lopez Garcia also contributed to Harder’s methods and thought. Eventually he was inspired by Canadian artist Jack Chambers to investigate the numinous quality of the external visual experience and, similarly, chose a descriptive approach as a painting methodology for his investigations.
In the early years of his practice, a faithfulness to observation dominated his approach. By paying close attention to describing appearances he hoped to reveal moments of import. Initially photographic sources were used but later direct observation was included in certain projects. The descriptive methodology was applied to a variety of subjects and genres, including landscape, still life, and portraiture. Later in his career, narrative features and elements of interpretation and invention have been added into this body of work.