The Way It Is


The long-awaited biography of one of Canada’s most intriguing and beguiling artists.

Do artists really thrive in big cities, or do they just learn to imitate New York? Is it a contradiction for an artist to be fiercely local and profoundly identified with international art movements? If the brilliant colourist and regionalist pioneer Greg Curnoe stood for any one thing, it was making trouble. An intriguing rebel throughout his life, he challenged ideas about what art should be, and pushed it in radical new directions — including away from Toronto, a city he rejected while succeeding masterfully in its galleries.

His untimely death in 1992 cut short a career of constant reinvention. This first biography of Curnoe recaptures in vivid detail the public and personal life of an iconoclast who was called a “walking autobiography,” as his work seemed to document his endless struggle against many of the core tenets of the art of his time. An anti-establishment firebrand and a fierce opponent of American dominance in Canadian culture, Curnoe, in his conceptual practice, constructed a stunning body of work that remains a hallmark in late-twentieth-century Canadian art.


The originality of his work, his prolific output and his astonishingly effective use of colour are examined, and a portrait emerges, in a well-researched and beautifully illustrated book, of a gifted renegade who left his mark on the Canadian art scene.

London Free Press

James King’s perceptive book leads the reader through Curnoe’s career, from his early interest in Dadaism to his family life, many successes, clashes with critics, and political activism.

Quill & Quire

An essential piece in the puzzle of one of the most innovative and engaging artists of the late 20th century.

Border Crossings

About the Author

James King

Posted by Kendra on December 6, 2014
James King photo

James King

James King is the author of six novels and ten biographies, including books on David Milne, William Blake, Margaret Laurence, Jack McClelland, Farley Mowat, and Lawren Harris. His biography of Herbert Read, The Last Modern, was nominated for the Governor General’s Literary Award. A fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, James lives in Hamilton, Ontario.