Art in Focus: "Canadian Classic: Frosted Morning" by Robert Sinclair

This story is about "Canadian Classic: Frosted Morning" by Robert Sinclair, a painting from the University of Alberta Museums Art Collection.

In Canadian Classic: Frosted Morning, a painting from the University of Alberta Museums Art Collection, artist Robert Sinclair presents a winter road scene. From Sinclair’s vantage point, we see an empty road and the banks of snow on each side seem alive with movement. This sense of motion paired with the road that continues beyond the painting, bestows a sense of life and continuation. Sinclair delivers a stylized winter roadside scene, overlapping his imagery with childhood memories of growing up in Saskatchewan. For him it was as if he was 'travelling in a boat' when he was driving through the countryside and that this scene was a memory of the 'oceans of wheat blowing in the breeze.'1 

In his work Sinclair strives to bring attention to landscape themes and writes that, “I am engaged in the painting of a perception. The perception of the extraordinary in the ordinary.”2 Canadian Classic: Frosted Morning delivers a notion of what Canada looks like from his perspective, similar to how the Group of Seven and many other Canadian landscape artists have captured nature and landscapes since the early 20th century. Although the early 20th century landscapes of Canada are often idealized, showing both the resourcefulness and imposing power of wilderness through the presences of trees, waters, and lands, Sinclair’s winter scene is calm and serene, yet filled with fluidity of lines and suggested motions. Sinclair’s unique style of depicting ocean waves continues in other works of art in the University of Alberta Museums Art Collection such as Sea of Roads

Sinclair continued painting during his teaching years and the Canadian Classic: Frosted Morning was completed in 1987, when Sinclair finished a three-month stay at Leighton Studios at the Banff Centre for the Arts.3 In addition to these large-scale paintings, Sinclair also established himself as a celebrated Canadian artist through his watercolour series titled, The Road Series. The completion of this series came with the artist's desire to explore the possibility of creating paintings without drawings or preliminary sketches. This attempt flourished in his later works. 

Sinclair studied fine arts at the University of Manitoba (BFA) and received an MA and MFA from the State University of Iowa. He taught at University of Alberta Department of Arts and Design from 1965 to 1997.  He is a member of both the Royal Canadian Academy of the Arts and Canadian Society of Painters in Watercolour. 

1 University of Alberta Museums Search Site, “Sea of Roads,” accessed 19 November 2021.

2 Robert Sinclair, Artist Website: accessed 19 November 2021.

3 University of Alberta Museums Mimsy Database, “Robert Sinclair” accessed 19 November 2021.


This web story is part of the University of Alberta Museums Art Collection Spotlight Series, a collection of web stories aimed to share works of art from the University of Alberta Museums Art Collection with the world. Posted monthly, these stories connect works of art in the Collection to important matters on our campus and in our world.