Ross King

Presented on October 3, 2017, by Doloris Duval

Prize-winning novelist Ross King was born in Estevan, Saskatchewan in 1962. After completing a Ph.D. at York University, he went on to do postdoctoral work at University College in London, England.

King’s career as an author of creative non-fiction began while he was researching the Renaissance artist, Filippo Brunelleschi. Amidst a wealth of information, King found that the true story behind the Dome of the Cathedral del Fiore was as interesting as any proposed fictionalized account and he published Brunelleschi’s Dome. This genre of creating factually accurate narratives seemed to be a good fit with King’s passion for research.

He went on to publish Michelangelo and The Pope’s Ceiling and Leonardo and The Last Supper, in which he provides an intriguing look into the back stories of these great works and the artists who created them. King received Governor General Awards for each of these works.

His focus then returned to his Canadian roots and he directed his energies toward the exploration of Canadian Art. The extensive Notes and Personal Acknowledgements section in this work reveals the effort and energy he directed toward the research and compilation of Defiant Spirits: The Modernist Revolution of the Group of Seven. Here he produced an account of the symbiotic relationships that existed between members of the group, the times they worked in, and the journey they took to express a truly “Canadian twang” within their work.

King’s last book Mad Enchantment and the Painting of the Water Lilies won him the 2017 RBC Taylor Prize. Here he captures the unexpected personality behind the serene paintings that were considered the “anti-depressant” of a society.

John Barber of the Globe and Mail seems to have captured the phenomenon of Ross King in his comments, saying  that “no Canadian writer before him has so thoroughly mastered the business of selling high toned, non-fiction to mass audiences and made it seem so easy; with an ascent that seems to have been as smooth as his prose.”